The Interactive art book plus 90+ publicly displayed masterpieces of art which feature in children’s books

posted in: Frank Whitford, Ron van der Meer | 7

Interactive_Art_Book__Cover_150dpiHolidays are on the horizon and we’ll definitely be making the most of the full days to visit a few museums and art galleries. To get our eye in, we’ve recently been really enjoying The Interactive Art Book by Ron van der Meer and Frank Whitford.

As you’ll see if you take a look at this video of the book, it’s a non-fiction pop-up book extraordinaire! With flaps and fold outs, models to make, 3D glasses to wear, transparencies, mosaic pieces to play with AND its own additional activity book included, this has been an exciting, very hands-on read for all of us.

It’s perfect for dipping in and out of, with short paragraphs about different pieces of art illustrating various topics (including “Light and Colour”, “Movement” and “Pattern and Composition”) accompanied by lots and lots of reproductions, primarily of paintings, but also including sculpture, illustration and architecture.

With all its moving and loose pieces, this perhaps isn’t a book for libraries, but I highly recommend it to all families; adults and children alike will learn a lot from this book at the same time as having lots of fun.

Last year I published a list of 60+ Children’s books featuring museum artefacts on public display around the world. Today, as our response to The Interactive Art Book, I bring you its companion piece: 90+ publicly displayed masterpieces of art which feature in children’s books. These are not books about art or artists in general, nor are they nonfiction, but rather story books which feature a specific piece of art (or more) on public display somewhere in the world.

As many books feature multiple pieces of art, it has been impossible to sort my list by location, but if you’re going to be visiting a gallery over the summer do search for it on this page to see if there are any books listed today featuring art from that gallery.


Dogs’ Night by Meredith Hooper is set in London’s National Gallery. It features:

  • Bathers at Asnieres by Georges-Pierre Seurat
  • The Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife, Giovanna Cenami (aka “The Arnolfini Marriage”) by Jan van Eyck
  • Mr. and Mrs. Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough
  • Madame de Pompadour by Francois-Hubert Drouais

  • magicatthemuseumMagic at the Museum by Jane Heinrichs is set in the Courtauld institute of Art, in London. Featured art includes:

  • Austrian or Southern German School. Torchere in the form of a footman. 1730-1750.
  • Édouard Manet’s Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil. 1874.
  • Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. 1881-2. You can listen to talk by none other than Philip Pullman about this painting here, via the Guardian website.
  • Sir Peter Paul Rubens’ The Family of Jan Bruegel the Elder. 1613-15.
  • Paul Cézanne’s Man with a Pipe. 1892-5.
  • Mariotto Albertinelli’s The Creation. 1513-15.
  • Parmigianino’s The Virgin and Child. 1503-40.
  • Claude Monet’s Antibes. 1888.
  • Paul Cézanne’s The Lac d’Annecy. 1896.
  • Edgar Degas’s Two Dancers on the Stage. 1874.
  • Claude Monet’s Vase of Flowers. 1881-2.
  • British School. Minerva Giustiniani – a plaster cast after the 1st century CE marble in the Vatican Museum. 18th century.
  • Claude Monet’s Autumn Effect at Argenteuil. 1873.

  • Heinrich’s book is not available on Amazon, but should you wish to get a copy you can purchase on here or here.

    thegreatwaveThe Great Wave: A Children’s Book inspired by Hokusai written by Veronique Massenot, illustrated by Bruno Pilorget is a beautiful book inspired by the woodblock print known as The Great Wave. Copies of this print are held in several galleries around the world, including The British Museum in London (though it is currently not on display), The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Sackler Gallery in Washington DC.

    jeffersfamilytrailWhilst not a book about a specific piece of art, fans of children’s picture books may particularly enjoy the family trail created by none other than Oliver Jeffers, for the National Portrait Gallery in London. The trail includes many illustrations by Jeffers and can be downloaded from the NPG’s website.

    tellmeapictureA book which doesn’t strictly fit my criteria for today’s list (story books about real pieces of art/art galleries) but which I’d also like to mention is Tell me a Picture by Quentin Blake, “an alphabetical anthology of pictures with stories in mind,” chosen primarily from London’s National Gallery’s collection, including:

  • A Winter Scene with Skates near a Castle by Hendrick Avercamp
  • Don Quixote and Sancho Panza by Honoré-Victorin Daumier
  • Saint Paul on Malta by Adam Elsheimer
  • Exhibition of a Rhinoceros at Venice by Pietro Longhi
  • Torchlight Procession by imitator of Adolphe Monticelli
  • Fantastic Ruins by Saint Augustine and the Child by François de Nomé
  • A Satyr mourning over a Nymph by Piero di Cosimo
  • A Street Show in Paris by Gabriel-Jacques de Saint-Aubin
  • X-ray of Still Life: An Allegory of vanities of Human Life by Harmen Steenwyck
  • A Scene from The Forcibly Bewitched by Francisco de Goya
  • The Building of the Trojan Horse by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo
  • Saint George and the Dragon by Paolo Uccello

  • and also the following pictures in other collections:

  • The Garden Enclosed by David Jones (The Tate)
  • Nameless and Friendless by Emily Mary Osborn (private collection)
  • Serenato in Vano by the Quay Brothers (private collection)
  • Sleeping by Paula Rego (Arts Council Collection, Hayward Gallery)
  • The Double Jockey Act by Jack B. Yeats (National Gallery of Ireland)
  • Night in the Park by Edward Hopper (British Museum and Museum of Modern Art, New York)
  • Clown by Ken Kiff (Marlborough Graphics)

  • There’s an accompanying DVD to go with the book, and you can view an excerpt here.

    balloonYou can’t take a balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman is a wordless picture book including references to the following pieces of art on display in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art:

  • Invitation to the sideshow by Georges Pierre Seurat
  • Perseus with the head of Medusa by Antonio Canova
  • Portrait of a Lady with a Dog by Jean Honore Fragonard
  • Grand Arabesque, Third Time by Degas
  • Grand Arabesque, First Time by Degas
  • Spanish Dance by Degas
  • Avenue of the Allies, Great Britain, 1918 by Childe Hassam
  • Lady at the Tea Table by Mary Cassatt
  • Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock
  • Spanish Fountain by John Singer Sargent
  • Washington crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutre
  • Bridge over a pool of water lilies by Monet

  • artSeen Art? by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith also turns out to feature many pieces of are in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, including:

  • The Starry Night by van Gogh
  • The Red Studio by Matisse
  • Meret Oppenheim’s fur teacup
  • Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” photograph

  • littleballerinaLittle Ballerina: A Children’s Book Inspired by Edgar Degas, written by Hélène Kérillis, illustrated by Lucie Albon is inspired by Edgar Degas’ masterpiece, The Rehearsal of the Ballet on Stage.

    You can see the original piece of art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

    thejourneyThe Journey, written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small features Monet’s Haystacks which is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. An Amish girl, along with two adult companions, visits Chicago and on her final day in the city and is particularly moved by this piece of art which she sees in the Art Institute.

    peaceablekingdomIn The Peaceable Kingdom, written by Ewa Zadrzynska, illustrated by Tomek Olbinski , the sudden appearance of a lion, leopard, and wolf in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden surprises early morning visitors. The wild beasts’ benign demeanour baffles the mayor, reporters, policemen, and professors. Finally, a little boy and his older sister solve the mystery of the animals’ origin – they have escaped from Edward Hicks’s painting of The Peaceable Kingdom, which hangs in the nearby Brooklyn Museum.

    chasingvermeerVermeer’s A Lady Writing and The Geographer are pivotal in Blue Baillet’s novel Chasing Vermeer. The former is on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The Geographer is part of the collection of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut museum in Frankfurt, Germany.

    The Mona Lisa, on view at the Louvre in Paris, has inspired several stories. There’s James Mayhew’s Katie and the Mona Lisa, Who stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp, illustrated by Jill McElmurry, Pat Hutchin’s The Mona Lisa Mystery, Mademoiselle Lisa by Delphine Perret, and even Art Dog by Thacher Hurd, Thacher. Do you know of any others?


    monetWhere is the Frog? by Geraldine Elschner, illustrated by Stephane Girel is based on the series of water lily paintings by Claude Monet, whose permanent home is Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. Similarly, Philippe in Monet’s Garden by Lisa Jobe Carmack is inspired by the same set of paintings.

    journeyoncloudJourney on a Cloud: A Children’s Book Inspired by Chagall by Veronique Massenot, illustrated by Elise Mansot focuses on Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel (The Bride and Groom of the Eiffel Tower), which is on display at Musee National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou.

    willyspicturesAnthony Browne’s Willy’s Pictures includes references to these pieces of art:

  • The Arnolfini Marriage – Jan van Eyck. On display at The National Gallery, London
  • Daphne and Apollo – Antonio Pollaiuolo. On display at at The National Gallery, London
  • The Birth of Venus – Sandro Botticelli. On display at The Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
  • The Creation of Adam – Michaelangelo Buonarroti. Part of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.
  • Mona Lisa – Leonardo da Vinci. On display at The Louvre, France
  • St George & the Dragon – Raphael. On display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
  • The Tower of Babel – Pieter Brueghel the Elder. On display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
  • Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun – Nicolas Poussin. On display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  • The Painter in his Studio – Jan Vermeer. On display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
  • The Straw Mannequin – Francisco Goya. On display at the Museo del Prado, Madrid
  • The Gleaners- Jean François Millet. On display at the Musee D’Orsay, Paris.
  • The Turkish Bath- Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. On display at The Louvre, Paris
  • Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – Georges Seurat. On display at The Art Institute of Chicago.
  • The Herring Net – Winslow Homer. Held by the Art Institute of Chicago, but not currently on display.
  • Early Sunday Morning – Edward Hopper. On display at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
  • Self-portrait with Monkeys – Freda Kahlo. On display at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, New York.
  • Glad Day – William Blake. In the collection of the British Museum, London.
  • Midday – Caspar David Friedrich. On display at the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover.
  • The Dog – Francisco Goya. On display at the Museo del Prado, Madrid
  • Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe – Édouard Manet. On display at the Musee d’Orsay, Paris
  • Paris, a Rainy Day – Gustave Caillebotte. On display at the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers – Vincent van Gogh. On display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, USA
  • The Monkeys – Henri Rousseau. On display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, USA
  • leonardoshorseLeonardo’s Horse is a piece of sculpture on view at the Hippodrome de San Siro in Milan, Italy, with another copy on view in the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to created this sculpture but never completed it. Leonardo’s Horse by Jean Fritz, illustrated by Hudson Talbott tells the tale of how this sculpture did finally get made, centuries after da Vinci’s death..

    abirdinwinterPieter Breugel’s painting The Hunters in Snow provides the basis for A Bird in Winter by Hélène Kérillis, illustrated by Stéphane Girel. Breugel’s painting is in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, in Vienna.

    squeakingSqueaking of Art: The Mice Go to the Museum by Monica Wellington makes reference to over 70 pieces of art on view in various galleries around the world, including:

  • Bedroom at Arles by Vincent van Gogh, on view at Musee d’Orsay
  • The Girl with the Pearl Earing by Jan Vermeer, part of the Mauritshaus collection in the Netherlands but currently on tour in the US.
  • The Black Fish by Georges Braques, on display at Musée National d’Art Moderne, France.
  • Music by Henri Matisse, on display at the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
  • Girl in a Red Dress with Cat and Dog by Ammi Phillips, on display at the Museum of American Folk Art, New York

  • bluehorseMarc Franz’s Blue Horse was the inspiration behind Eric Carle’s fairly recent picture book, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse. Franz’s painting can be seen in the Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich. You can listen to an NPR documentary about Eric Carle’s relationship to this painting here.

    I’m running out of time (and you must be running out of puff if you’re still with me this far down the post!) but here are some other books which I believe feature art on public display in various galleries around the world:

  • Dan’s Angels by Lauren Child and Alexander Sturgis
  • Jack in Search of Art by Arlene Boehm
  • Babar’s Museum of Art by Laurent de Brunhoff
  • Li’l Sis and Uncle Willie by Gwen Everett
  • Mrs. Brown on Exhibit: And Other Museum Poems by Susan Katz
  • Help for Mr. Peale by Barbara Morrow
  • The Joke’s on George by Michael O’Tunnell

  • Any such list like this has to mention E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – essential reading if you’re visiting the Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York.

    picturescapeIf you’re in or going to Canada, the wordless picture book, Picturescape by Eliza Gutierrez shows lots of “masterpieces of 20th-century Canadian art” which are on display in the Vancouver Art Gallery. The book, however, does not list the individual pieces of art.

    If you’re going to Italy Gillian Avery’s The Italian Spring includes a lot about visits to the art galleries of Venice. I haven’t been able to get hold of a copy to check exactly which pieces of art/galleries are mentioned, but if you know, please let me know!

    I would love to see a copy of Jan Pienkowski’s Botticelli’s Bed and Breakfast. This astonishing wordless pop-up book features 54 art masterpieces, though I haven’t been able to find a list of exactly which paintings are included.

    Finally, there are two series which are essential reading for anyone interested in how art is explored in children’s books: James Mayhew’s Katie series, and Catherine and Lawrence Anholt’s Artist series. Both series are amazing and feature many pieces of art on public display. Next year sees the 25th anniversary of the first Katie book, Katie’s Picture Show.

    GOODNESS! This has been a mammoth post! I hope you’ve found something to enjoy in it. Why not contact your local art gallery and ask if they have any paintings on display which were inspired by books, or if they know of any books inspired by paintings in their collection?

    In compiling this list today I’d like to thank members of the Jiscmail CHILDREN-LITERATURE-UK list and the Rutgers Child_Lit list for their suggestions. In particular I’d also like to thank @chaletfan for her information ninja powers, and Jane Heinrichs for helping me with the list of art featured in her book.

    Disclosure: I received a review copy of The Interactive Art Book from the publishers. I was not obliged to review it, nor did I receive any payment for this post.

    7 Responses

    1. Further reading | Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?

      […] I love what Zoe over at “Playing by the book” does with her blog posts – she combines her book reviews with amazing projects on arts, crafts, books, cake … pretty much anything you can think. It’s a constant inspiration (and also a constant joy). Also you need to read this post for an amazing list of artwork in children’s books – “‘The interactive Art book plus 90+ publicly displayed masterpieces of art which feature in children&#…“ […]

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