Great Artists by Robert Cummings-Book Review

Great Artists:The Lives of 50 Painters Explored Through Their Work by Robert Cumming is an oversized book that introduces you to artists whose lives cover a timespan from the 15th to the 20th centuries. The two page spreads in this book feature a painting by the artist and in typical DK style the author gives interesting facts and historical details. The very visual style of this book makes it ideal for children to view the paintings using the Charlotte Mason style of picture study or for older artists to imitate the artist’s painting style.

If you are interested in a list of the artists that are discussed, click on the link to amazon.com and look up the table of contents. There you will find such famous artists as Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rubens, Goya, Degas, Monet, and Van Gogh listed among the 50 artists.

Here are some things I like about the book.

  • The paintings are clear and large enough to view with your children.
  • There are brief biographies for each artist.
  • There are insets showing brushstrokes and techniques for some of the artwork.
  • The annotation helps highlight features of each of the paintings.
  • Each artist’s page includes a box with his “key works” listed.
  • Each artist’s page has a box with historical details happening at the time the artist was painting.
  • The selection of artists are a good cross-section for a one year sweep through art history.


Things I don’t like about the book.

  • There is too much nudity to view with young children in my opinion.
  • Some of the two page spreads have to be turned sideways to be viewed making it hard to display the book for picture study.

Overall, I really like this book for my middle school age boys. In fact, my son has requested that he be allowed to use it as the basis for his art history next year. So we are going to be using this book along with the Dover Publications’ coloring book Art Masterpieces to Color: 60 Great Paintings from Botticelli to Picasso for his eighth grade art plan.

As always, try your library first to see if they have this book to borrow. I am looking forward to really studying it next year with my son.


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