There are few artists who use color more vibrantly than Van Gogh. His pioneering use of color is probably what makes his work so enduringly attractive to both adults and children, so we found of exploring these masterpieces without traveling around the world!
The one book that we found really reflected Van Gogh’s use of color is a book by The Metropolitan Museum of Art aptly titled Vincent’s Colors. The detailed, beautifully reproduced pictures of his painting in this book are each accompanied by a short quote from Van Gogh about that painting. Although the book is aimed at young children, it is a fascinating study for any art lover to see how Van Gogh himself describes his use of color in specific works. This is also a great book for introducing the concept of impasto because these pictures really show the texture of Van Gogh’s paintings very well.
For younger children, In the Garden with Van Gogh (part of the Mini Masters series) is a delightful board book with simple descriptions of several Van Gogh paintings. As the title suggests, this book mostly focuses on his still life paintings of flowers or landscape paintings of gardens but it is a good introduction.
Children aged 4 and older will benefit from reading the book Van Gogh by Shelley Swanson Sateren, part of her series Masterpieces: Artists and Their Works. This is a good, simple biography of Van Gogh with some simple descriptions of his painting techniques and small pictures of his most famous works.
We love both the book and the app version of Van Gogh and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt. The book is a fictionalized account of Van Gogh’s real life friendship with Joseph Roulin, the postmaster in Arles, France, told through the eyes of Roulin’s son. The app is an interactive version of the book that can be read by a narrator or read on your own and includes an interactive gallery of Van Gogh’s works that he painted while living in Arles. The story really brings Van Gogh’s paintings alive for children and does a good job of explaining how his emotional turmoil might have influenced his work, in a way that is not disturbing to children.
Van Gogh painted a variety of subjects and his works include beautiful examples of portraits, landscapes and still life paintings. Therefore, studying his art provides a great opportunity to talk to young children about these different types of paintings.