________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 12 . . . . February 15, 2002

cover A First Book of Canadian Art.

Richard Rhodes.
Toronto, ON: Owl Books/Greey de Pencier Books, 2001.
72 pp., cloth, $24.95.
ISBN 1-894379-21-7.

Subject Heading:
Art, Canadian-Juvenile literature.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.

Review by Ann Abel.

**** /4


There is a start to everything. Artists begin with blank paper, or canvas, or videotape, and then go to work. It is the same with this book. It tells the story of Canadian art from the beginning, with drawings on rock, carved faces on an antler, and ritual masks. The story unfolds as Europeans arrive on the scene. They made art with what was close at hand too, first for their church, then for themselves. As the country's forests turn into farms, and towns grow, we see portraits of the people who lived here and paintings that tell their history. Throughout, the landscape has given Canada its identity, and our artists the continuing theme of its discovery and description. But the story doesn't stop there. The world has come closer. People migrate, information flows, art belongs to a global culture. Looking at this book, remember: in its time, each work of art was a brand new part of a brand new world.

A First Book of Canadian Art, a beautiful volume with eye-catching full colour illustrations on the cover and on every page, is authored by Richard Rhodes, editor of Canadian Art, the largest art magazine in the country. This vivid, brief history begins with the earliest art of our indigenous peoples and takes the reader through the centuries to contemporary art forms in our information age.

     The authoritative text is organized in a historical manner with double page spreads devoted either to individual artists (Paul Kane, Michael Carr), to an era or movement (Canadian impressionism, cold war realism), or to a theme (woman's view, colour coast to coast). A good glossary of art terms is provided which would help students who might otherwise find the language of the book rather sophisticated.

     As one would expect in a volume of under 70 pages, the book provides essentially a concise portrait of more than 30 artists from several centuries. There are brief descriptions of these artists and their work as well as some anecdotal stories. This approach makes the book excellent for forming a context for Canadian art rather than for researching in-depth information. Therefore, it would be popular with students looking for an overview rather than those working in more detail on a particular artist or era. It is not intended for the art elitist but rather functions to inspire readers to enquire further and to broaden their artistic horizons. A First Book of Canadian Art is not only a delight to browse through but is at the same time a useful reference tool.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Abel is a former teacher of high school English and French and currently is teacher-librarian at Peterborough Collegiate in Peterborough, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364