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Dan's Angel: A Detective's Guide to the Language of Painting Paperback – Illustrated, 1 May 2003
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Taking a lively, original approach, Alexander Sturgis's narrative explores the message of 12 masterpieces. Teamed with the equally original illustrations of Lauren Child, this makes a highly enjoyable introduction to a fascinating subject. When young Dan finds himself locked inside a museum after closing hours, he discovers a world of art he'd never dreamed possible. An angel steps out of a painting and takes him on an exploratory tour of the great masterpieces - explaining the symbolism of each painting. For the first time, Dan begins to understand the messages of paintings and the stories behind them. It's not long before he too is speaking their language.Fra Angelico: Annunciation, (Cortona) Rembrandt: Belshazzar's Feast, (National Gallery) Piero di Cosimo: Perseus and Andromeda, (Uffizi) Follower of Campin: Madonna and Child with Saints, (National Gallery of Art, Washington) Claude: The Judgement of Paris, (National Gallery of Art, Washington) Tawaraya Sotatsu: Thunder and Wind Gods (Kenninji, Kyoto National Museum, Japan) Goya: The Marquesa de Pontejos, (National Gallery of Art, Washington) Chardin: Soap Bubbles, (National Gallery of Art, Washington) Botticelli: Venus and Mars, (National Gallery) Van Gogh: Sunflowers, (National Gallery) Pablo Picasso: Weeping Woman, (Tate Modern) Jackson Pollock: Number 1 (Lavender Mist) (National Gallery of Art, Washington)
About the Author
Alexander Sturgis is an education officer at the National Gallery, London. He is also The Great Xar, a magician performing at the National Gallery and on television. His television appearances include The Big Breakfast, The Word and Tricks & Tracks, as well as introducing paintings to children on the BBC's programme Hartbeat. He lives in London.
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Kids who have spent endless hours poring over LOOK-ALIKES and I SPY books will join with budding artists and art critics in delighting over DAN'S ANGEL, a picture book for older kids which offers a fun first look at symbolism in art. Written by the Exhibition and Program Curator of the National Gallery in London, it is illustrated by Lauren Child who is well known around here after winning the 2003 California Young Reader Medal in the Primary Category for I WILL NEVER EVER EAT A TOMATO.
Dan is a skateboard kid who happens upon an art museum and is checking it out when the unexpected occurs:
"The walls were covered with paintings full of strange and beautiful things. Some seemed to tell stories, but he couldn't work out what the stories were.
" 'You can't read paintings like you can read books,' he sighed.
" 'You can read this one,' a voice said. It seemed to come from a painting of an angel talking to a woman."
That angel speaking to Dan is Gabriel and the painting is Fra Angelico's The Annunciation. Gabriel splits the painting and leads Dan on a tour of some well-known works to explain how artists tell stories using symbolic images. From Belshazzar's Feast and Botticelli's Venus and Mars to Picasso and Pollack, we see examples of artists deliberately utilizing such symbols as colors and animals, bubbles and flowers.
Alas, the tour ends because the museum guard is once again after the oft-missing angel, and Gabe heads back to where he belongs--in the painting. There is a good dose of visual humor--such as Gabriel on Dan's skateboard--and Lauren Child uses her own symbolic images within Dan's story.
This book will also serve as a great stepping stone to later important lessons of symbolism in literature.