The cheeky children’s book Art Rebel: Napoleon was a pain in the butt – culture

The rebellious spirit of the children’s book may also appeal to adults, as the obstacles in art are easy to overcome. Photo: Art Rebel / Illustrations Jay Daniel Wright

Art is complicated, right? A completely irreverent children’s book breaks the taboo: art can also be fun. How it’s possible?

You’re not really talking about art. “Oh”, “Wääähhh” and, above all, “Wüürggh” are not in the classic museum dictionary. It can make you chill when you drink coffee from a fur mug and choke on your hair – “Wüürggh… Is a ball of hair.” These are the rebels of art who faced the visual arts in the book “Art Rebel.” Strictly speaking, it’s the cat Leo and the little girl Mouse together conquer the world of exhibitions and want to teach children from the age of 7 one thing above all: what adults say and write about art is “just nonsense!”

The art of nudity is the art of nudity

It’s bold – and it makes this fresh and brazen book a little sensation in the art world. Last year, British art historian Ben Street published Art Rebel in English, and now a German translation has come out to help kids learn that art doesn’t have to be something only adults understand. Leo the cat is convinced that for thousands of years art has been written in such a way that it “sounds mysterious and complicated.” She and the little mouse want to change that and provide easy access to genres and styles, to abstractions, still life or ” nude art ”.

You just have to look right

Whether it’s Michelangelo’s “David” or Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”, or portraits or contemporary art, basically this journey through art is about seeing – rather than being discouraged by terms and ismas. Because the so-called automatism, the surrealists’ method, is ultimately just “a very serious word for adults to scribble.” Instead, the lover Leo tells the story of a dream in the comic – and provides a template for a surreal painting scenario. Leo puts it in his own way: Surrealists are adults who have never learned to “be really decent and boring”.

The illustrations could be better

It is a pity that Jay Daniel Wright’s illustrations turned out to be somewhat loveless and were schematically developed by a computer. Creative handwriting would be a much better match for this cheeky art book. The translation into German is also a bit clunky – possibly also due to cost pressures in the bookstore industry. In terms of content, however, it is an important book, whose rebellious spirit can also appeal to adults, because it is easy to overcome obstacles in art. Napoleon, portrayed by Jacques-Louis David as a brave ruler on horseback, must endure mocking remarks. He was a “slippery nuisance,” so the painter’s son had to sit as a model in an old uniform.

Don’t sit on a giant cheese grater

Especially the chapter on portrait painting says a lot about the self-portrayal and the vanity of the nobility who liked to be portrayed as more beautiful and impressive than she was. The painters willingly did them any favors for good money. In “Art Rebel” you can not only learn about important works of art history, but also exercise your eyesight. By the way, it stimulates the imagination, finally you can ask yourself what the music actually looks like.



Finally, Ben Street presents some contemporary works that support his thesis: art can be fun. Tom Friedman created a giant pizza sculpture, and Mona Hatoum constructed the bench – an oversized cheese grater that, if you sat on it, would destroy the underside of your pants in no time.

Ben Street and Jay Daniel Wright (illustrations): Art Rebel. EA Seemann Verlag Leipzig, 80 pages, 18 euros

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