21 Picture Books About Art

I am passionate about art, and I believe that if our kids can tell Dora from Diego they can tell Picasso from Matisse. So even if like me you are in a small town without easy access to masterpieces you can share it with your children through books. These picture books about art are a great way to expose your kids to famous works of art , the lives of artists and even to a little geography all without having to leave your house.  If you want to channel these famous artists and make some of your own versions of their masterpieces check out 15 Fine Art Projects For Kids.

Touch the Art: Brush Mona Lisa’s Hair by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo is the inspiration for this post and my son’s new found love of Renaissance Art. The book is a board book with touch and feel aspects to it. The text is cute but not a story, each page asks the reader to do something with the touch and feel item . The real gem is bringing the art to young eyes. The book includes wonderful masterpieces : Girl with A Pearl Earring , Birth of Venus, The Arnolfini Portrait and more!

Babar’s Museum of Art by Laurent de Brunhoff is one of my favorite art books for kids. My son has recently decided he hates it because he doesn’t want to see the elephant versions of the art. All the art in the museum are masterpieces that you will recognize redone with elephants. He slams the page in the way only toddlers with a definite sense of justice can and says ” No elephant paintings Mama, real ones!” Trust me though this book is awesome and he loved it a few months ago. The story is about how Queen Celeste wants to change the abandoned railway station into a museum to house all their collected art . The museum itself looks just like the Musee D’Orsay in Paris and the story also explains art for children.

Georgia’s Bones by Jen Bryant won’t expose your child to much of the artists work but it will give your child a sense of who she was and what inspired her. The book focuses on how Georgia saw the world, the shapes and colors and views around her. It paints the artists as a quiet, thoughtful girl and a clam and pensive woman. It also takes readers to such different parts of the United States where Georgia found similar inspiration from such different environments.  You may want to grab a map and find all the locations with your child after reading this.

Learn the Alphabet with NorthWest Coast Native Art by Ryan Cranmer (and others) was an amazing gas station find. Yes I said gas station. I ran in for some diet coke and came out with an alphabet book ! This book is amazing, bright beautiful and even though I bought it for my daughter since it’s bright colors and sturdy pages are perfect for a baby, my almost 4 year old son adores it. What I love is when he reads it to her . The Native art is gorgeous and if you are unfamiliar with North West coast art you are in for a treat.

 Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan is a great book not only about Jackson Pollock but also about how an artist goes through the artistic process, their influences and what their life is like. This book is perfect for older children but my son loved looking at pictures and Jackson Pollock’s dog! I would suggested this for anyone with budding artists!

Celebrity Cat

Celebrity Cat: With Paintings from Art Galleries Around the World by Meredith Hooper is a unique look at some of the greatest masterpieces through the eyes of cats. It’s Cat visiting night at the museum and the cats are quick to notice that there aren’t many of their kind in these wonderful paintings. So one cat takes it upon herself to add them in . I love this book because not only does it expose the young readers to some fantastic paintings like The Mona Lisa, and Van Gogh’s Chair, it also has a wonderful message. See after the cats are included even though the world of cats love these new paintings soon they discover that they don’t need to be in those paintings they need to make their own! Creative and cute story that integrates the art seamlessly!

ABC Pop! (Picture Puffin Books) by Rachel Isaadora is a fun alphabet book that uses images from pop art to illustrate each letter. My daughter is absolutely loving alphabet books right now and this one was a hit by the letter C. She loved the bright fun pictures and guessing what part of the pictures the letter was representing. Very cute book with a art theme.

Museum TripMuseum Trip by Barbara Lehman is fantastic. This wordless book has a clear strong message – that if exposed children can loose themselves in art, it opens a new world with new adventures before unseen! The story opens with a little boy on a school field trip to a museum, he looses his group , and soon finds himself in the art. After completing many mazes he is given a medal before he rejoins his group. My favorite part is as he is getting on the bus with his class he is wearing his medal and so is the museum curator. Love it!

I've painted Everything

Hugo and Miles In I’ve Painted Everything by Scott Magoon is going on my Christmas list. I have renewed this book for months from my local library. I finally have to return this book and I just don’t want to! The book is all about Hugo a painter who has painter’s block. He goes to Paris with his best friend Miles for inspiration, and among the sites, the masterpieces and thanks to the Eiffel tower he finds it! I love this book and my son just eats it up. He wants to go to Paris to the “Moosay Dor-see” to see Van Gogh and climb the Eiffel tower thanks to Hugo!

Katie Meets The Impressionist

Katie Meets The Impressionists by James Mayhew is a art fairytale! Katie goes to the museum with her grandmother and before she knows it she is in the paintings and the world of the painters and their families. Katie goes from painting to painting gathering flowers for her grandma and exploring a world on the other side of the canvas. What I enjoy about this book is that it brings the paintings to life for readers and it shares the back story in a way that children can connect to and imagine the possibilities when they go to museums! Of all these books this one held my son’s attention the least. I like to think it’s because he’s not a fan of impressionism, but I think it was simply a little long for his not quite 3 year old attention span. Maybe if Renoir had painted garbage trucks… seriously though this is a fabulous book and worth a read!

In the Garden with Van Gogh by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober is a little board book filled with easy rhymes and great art. The book doesn’t really have a story so much as a theme but it works. My son enjoyed it and asked to read it again after we were done. I like that books likes all these bring art into little hands for them to explore.

Can You Find It?: Search and Discover More Than 150 Details in 19 Works of Art by The Metropolitan Museum of art is what Where’s Waldo would be if he grew up and got a degree in art history. Using paintings from their collection each page asks readers to find a series of things. It’s tough. The items are only listed and some don’t really look like what they are supposed to be. Luckily there is an answer key . This is a great book for plane rides, road trips and waiting for dinner at a restaurant with a school age kid. You can start and stop and it’s complex enough that the next day you might just forget and be able to start all over again.  As a preschooler my son wasn’t ready for this book it frustrated him terribly . If it does just shelve it until they are ready.

Museum ABC by the Metropolitan Museum Of Art is a book that was first loved at our house because of the “C is for Cat” page , an early interest of my sons. I loved it because for each letter there are 4 usually very cropped pieces of paintings, showing only that part that fits the subject of each letter. In my nerdy love of identifying paintings I play a game with myself trying to figure out which are which as my son is identifying the letter, and finding the subject matter in each. The book is so beautiful, it’s hard to do it justice in a simple review. A wonderful concept and a great intro to art books for even the tiniest patrons.

Museum 123 by The Metropolitan Museum Of Art is another simple but beautiful counting book.  What I love about this book is that the number is not on the same page as the onbjects/images the child is being asked to count. Instead a simple question of how many is followed by a painting with the objects, and the next page has a large number. My son loved counting then flipping the page exclaiming ” I knew it , I said that number I was right!” My only complaint is that it only went to 10!

Oooh! Picasso by Mil Niepold and Jeanyves Verdu is a book that looks at Picasso’s sculptures from different perspective for consecutive pages before revealing the full piece of art. I love Picasso but this book did nothing to excite me and I couldn’t even get my kids to flip through it with me. I don’t think it’s a bad book it just didn’t appeal to us.

Artful Reading by Bib Raczka is a perfect combination of promoting an appreciation of art and a love of reading. The concept is simple with each page showcasing a painting of someone reading . What I love so much is that while the text suggests what type of reading the painting is showing it’s still up for the reader to go deeper into each and decide what they are seeing. Both times my son and I rad this book we discussed what the people were reading and which we liked the best. I love books like this.

Here’s Looking at Me: How Artists See Themselves by Bob Raczka is devoted to self portraits and the story behind each one in this fascinating book. This is a book for children older than my son who is 4 but I still showed him every painting ( all self portraits) and read highlights of the text which I found fascinating and can’t wait to share it with my kids when they are a little older. I read a lot of art history books for fun and I learned a few things reading this.  I can’t think of a better book to couple with a lesson about self portraits for kids 6-12.

No One Saw by Bob Raczka is a more general book  focusing on familiar subjects of different artists. What I think is so genius about this book is that it focuses kids’ attention on the subjects of the paintings and is a natural introduction into a conversation asking children what they would paint better than anyone else.

Seen Art? by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith is one of those books that makes me squeal with delight. The story is funny, and clever and the art included is diverse and some is probably new to most readers. The story is about a little guy who is looking for his friend Art and people keep misunderstanding him and directing him to the MOMA where he is shown art as well as the debate of “But is it art?” plays on as he passes well recognized masterpieces and provocative modern art alike . I was turning the pages too fast for my son I was so excited to see what was next while he wanted to look at the art. I loved the page where he comes to a Monet , you see the little guy from behind and he is very small and despite not seeing his face you can imagine his face frozen with wonder. the book is fantastic and I love the levels of meaning and the sheer amount of art packed into this book. Well Done!

Squeaking of Art

SQUEAKING OF ART, The Mice Go to the Museum by Monica Wellington is a fun book to read before and even more fun to read after a visit to a museum. This book follows a group of mice that all explore the museum, and the art on it’s walls. Each page is a different theme and the text is a dialogue between the mice and their Cat guide about the art displayed. The art itself are the author illustrator’s versions of art you will probably recognize. There are multiple paintings on each page and if you are like me and like to quiz yourself on your ability to name the painting and artist this book is for you. There is a guide at the end of the book for every page. I think I like this book even more than my son for that reason. My son likes it because he can recognize some paintings, but thy are redone in bright vibrant colors and have a more cartoon look, which I think appeals to my son even more than the originals. When we “read” this book we often skip the text and simple look and explore the art. No matter how you read it this is a fine addition to any library for those who love fine art.

teaching art appreciation

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! by Johan Winter is a book not only about Pablo Picasso but also about creativity, courage and originality. The books gives the reader a little look into Picasso’s early life but really it’s about his evolution from realism to cubism and the resistance he got from just about everyone. I love how it painted Picasso as a brave individual who took the leap from doing what everyone loved to doing what he needed to do as an artist. It’s about being true to yourself and not selling out. It also really hammers home the ideas that people even adults can grow and change.  One of my favorite things to as little kids is what they want to be when they grow up and really so often kids think when you are grown up it’s done, your choices were made and you just live with them after that. This helps explain that being a grown up doesn’t mean all your choices have already been chosen .

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  1. Tasmanian says

    We found two of the Can You Find It books on BetterWorld books really cheaply. Four-year-old likes the pictures; six-year-old can follow the text and play the finding game. There’s also an Australian Museum ABC that someone gave us as a gift.

  2. Molly says

    Another one you should check out is “Art Dog”– a dog who is a security guard at an art museum and a graffiti artists (who nabs some art thieves) at night. Although your son may object to the dog-ifiication of the art pieces (a la Babar). But my 3.5-year-olds currently love this one.

  3. Leah W says

    The “How Artists See…, Jr.” series is great as well! It’s mainly a picture book of well-known paintings centered around a theme (dogs, babies, etc…) http://www.amazon.com/How-Artists-See-Jr-Boxed/dp/0789210509
    My little one loved seeing so many different styles of babies! She loves looking at babies and modern books seem to have such simple and fat drawings – seeing realistic, cubist, impressionist really got her interested and she stared much longer at the art than she ever has looked at an illustration in a book.

    Also, you have the In the Garden with Van Gogh book listed – but there is a whole series of these, Dancing with Degas, Dreaming with Rousseau, a Magical Day with Matisse.
    What I find most helpful about these (and different from most other “real” art picture books) is that the entire board book is devoted to one artist.
    If we want them to be able to differentiate between artists, these books give them a feel for the artist, a chance to get to know a range of one artists’ style. I feel it gives young children a relationship with the artist beyond just one work of art which is unique among the picture books for the younger ages. I highly recommend this series – Mini Masters by Julie Merberg & Suzanne Bober.

  4. says

    Hi, I found this through Zina on Let’s Lasson the Moon. This is a great post! I have two boys, my older one (7) has loved art ever since he could pick up a crayon. Some books that we really have enjoyed as well that aren’t mentioned here are:

    When Pigasso Met Mootisse (I even wrote the author, Nina Laden about how much we loved her book, and she was kind enough to write back). This is a tongue in cheek book, but does teach about the different styles of Picasso and Matisse.

    Art and Max by David Weisner. This is a cute book about two friends, and the creative process.

    Henri, Egg Artiste by Marcus Pfister. This is a really cute book about an easter bunny who is tired of just painting eggs solid colors, so he starts experimenting. Every egg is influenced by a famous painting, and it talks about the different processes used and the artists at the end.

    I love art, and I think it should be encouraged all around! 🙂 Thank you again for the great post and book list!

  5. Margaret Magarey says

    Because you favorited my tweet re the free reading opportunities for kids I visited your site. In my brief visit it appears that you are using the ” free reading ” tag to sell books. Perhaps my comment does you a disservice, as it was a brief visit looking at your 26 art books, but I don’t like the idea of businesses wanting money trying to appear to be benevolent.

    • Allison McDonald says

      I think you are confused. I looked at your Twitter and saw that Red Apple Reading favorited your tweet. I didn’t. I don’t use any underhanded or sneaky tactics period.


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