One of the most famous oil paintings in the world, the Mona Lisa is believed to have been created by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1506. In the book, The Stories of the Mona Lisa, author and illustrator, Piotr Barsony takes readers on a magical, history ride through an imaginary art museum. Along the way, readers ages 8 and up learn about notable art movements including impressionism, minimalism, cubism, expressionism and surrealism.
Barsony weaves a golden tale, documenting art history as it moves from Europe to America, following great painters such as Monet, Picabia, Van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock, and Warhol. Using dialogue between a daughter and her father, we also learn interesting facts about numerous artists. “Van Gogh (1853- 1890) put his troubles and torments onto the canvas,” Barsony writes. He explains of Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973) cubist works, “Picasso painted a profile that looks right at us at the same time. You could say he knew how to turn heads.”
The author and illustrator explained that both Picasso and another painter friend, Georges Braque (1882-1963) were inspired by impressionist Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Picasso’s most well-known piece is Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The Stories of the Mona Lisa is an excellent “go-to” guide for children first learning about art history. Barsony uses entertaining dialogue, to demonstrate how the girl is mystified by some pictures, awed by others, and educated by the many art images while visiting this imaginary art museum.
When discovering the infamous Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) mockery of Mona Lisa with the moustache and letters “L – H-O-O-Q-I,” the girl learns it was created after the 1914 war. French artists had formed the “Dada movement” and any French people who recited those words would hear foul language in response. Duchamp’s intent with the Mona Lisa was to create “the smile of tomorrow.” This artist was known for his “Readymade” art, such as a stool with an attached bike wheel. Again, this book is an entertaining voyage into an imaginary art museum thanks to the genius storytelling and illustrations of Barsony.
Interestingly, the author also makes a simplified explanation regarding the importance of financial backers and art dealers. He writes, “When you bet your fortune on an unknown artist, it’s important that you don’t make a mistake. There is no such thing as a great painting movement without great art dealers.” Barsony takes his time in helping his young daughter understand the art world so that one day, she too, would become an artist. I would buy this book and recommend it for the young art enthusiast!
The Stories of the Mona Lisa – written and illustrated by Piotr Barsony. Sky Pony Press hardcover, also eBook available now, imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, www.skyhorsepublishingcom. $19.95. Ages 8-11.
* We did not receive monetary compensation for this review. Penny received a copy of The Stories of The Mona lisa free of charge from Sky Pony Press to facilitate this review. This will in no way sway our opinion of the product or service. The review is in our own words and is our opinion. Your results and opinions may differ.