9 Children's Books Illustrated By The Greatest Artists

While some kids spend all their afternoons watching TV or killing monsters on a mobile device video game for hours, others are encouraged to create. They're given coloring books, taken to art classes, and  encouraged to become regular museum visitors.

“Sun Queen with Baby” Marla Olmstead

Marla Olmstead is a clear example of this. Her artistic career began as a child prodigy, the paintings she made when she was only 6 years old have been sold for up to 20,000 euros. When she was two years old, her father encouraged her to paint, and nowadays her works are revolutionizing the art market. Her paintings are dynamic, mature, and possess a supreme quality that takes us to a visual world of fantasy.

Illustrated books are some of the best gifts one can give to a child, since they will awake their imagination and make them want to discover what's beyond these images of a completely different universe. Many consecrated artists have provided their genius and talent to these types of books. Here are some of the illustrations they have made:

Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (1970) David Hockney

Hockney always dreamt of using printmaking  to illustrate the somber world of the Grimm Brothers. His dream came true in 1970, when a volume of the best and unknown stories from these German storytellers appeared. These stories have nurtured the imagination of millions of readers around the world through fantastic gloomy worlds and amazing fairy tales. In the same way, Hockney's litographs are characterized by their dark and macabre style.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1969) Salvador Dalí

Knowing Dalí's artwork, it's not hard to see why Lewis Carroll's novel was one of his favorite books. In 1969, he captured his personal vision of the surreal world where Alice finds herself after chasing the White Rabbit. Dalí clearly stays away from the child-like images that have illustrated the book for years and adds his unique style to explore Wonderland, the place where reality is altered.

The Little Mermaid (2016) Yayoi Kusama

This acclaimed Japanese artist had some experience illustrating children's books. In 2012 she illustrated an edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and in 2016 she went back to the fantasy world of children's literature with a new edition of The Little Mermaid, the famous tale by Hans Christian Andersen that has captivated children for more than a century. The aquatic world that Kusama presents, far from resembling cute images, provides sinister vision of the story, filled with elements from her own psychedelic style.

About Two Squares (1922) El Lissitzky

Just like Chagall, Lissitzky was an avid enthusiast of Jewish culture, and during his life he was involved in its promotion. Since the beginning of his artistic career, he devoted part of his time to illustrating children's books, especially those aimed at a Jewish audience. However, in post-revolutionary Russia in 1922, he decided to create a story about two squares whose mission is to rebuild the world. These apparently simple geometric abstractions caught the attention of the European artistic circle. The main purpose of this book is for readers to build their own future and reinvent their life choices.


Best in Children’s Books #15, “The Little Red Hen” (1958) Andy Warhol

Probably one of the best graphic artists of all times, Warhol also contributed to the art of children's books. Before becoming a famous artist, he worked as an independent illustrator for the editorial Doubleday. From 1957 to 1958, he created the illustrations for two books belonging to the series Best in Children's Books. Warhol always loved children's literature, and his illustrations are proof of that.


A mayse mit a hon; dos tsigele (1917) Marc Chagall

After WWI, many Jewish children who had been forced to abandon their native countries were deprived of a formal education. After the conflict, many devoted themselves to creating educational material so that children could be homeschooled. Marc Chagall joined this movement with the creation of a book called A Story about a Rooster: The Little Kid. Besides that, he worked at an orphanage in the outskirts of Moscow to participate in the education of Jewish children.


Tar Beach (1991) Faith Ringgold


Thanks to her parents' influence and tastes, Faith Ringgold grew up in Harlem loving art. Tar Beach is a splendorous quilted piece in which she portrays Cassie Louise Lightfood's adventures while exploring New York City. It's a gorgeous mosaic of details in which Ringgold offers a unique and intimate vision of her universe and the city that saw her grow.


Li’l Dan, the Drummer Boy: A Civil War Story (2003) Romare Bearden


This is the story of an orphan who lives with a slave on a cotton plantation in the antebellum South of the United States. When a troop arrives at the place to free the slaves, the little boy leaves with the soldiers to begin a new life of adventures. The African American experience depicted by Romare Bearden is filled with a clever sense of humor and a dose of realism. Traditions, music, and family bonds are key elements of his artistic work.


The Great Migration: An American Story (1993) Jacob Lawrence


With his Migration Series (1940-41), formed by sixty paintings representing the journey of different groups of Afro-Americans from the south to the north of the United States, Jacob Lawrence became a celebrity in the artistic world. These illustrations were so acclaimed that they have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. He defined himself as an expressionist and his style as a dynamic cubism. His work was edited in the form of a children's book with texts written by himself.


Nurture a child's imagination through art, literature, and creation. Everybody has the potential to portray what surrounds their imagination. Offer them the opportunity to spend their time in artistic activities rather than wasting it in idle activities. This is a legacy not only for them but for the world that, now more than ever, needs creative minds to fill the void created by these modern times.


20 minutos

Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards

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