The BEST Books that Teach Art History to Kids
Explore the BEST books that teach about Art History to kids to use for art infused lessons in your classroom, to teach art history to your art students, or to use for creating an art history section in your home library. This comprehensive list explores famous artists and artworks throughout art history. It will provide you with ideas and inspiration for creating art lessons and projects that you can pair with these amazing books to help you teach art history in depth in your classroom.
How-To Use Books in an Art Lesson:
Books are a lovely way to engage students in your art lesson while teaching about a concept, artist, or art movement. I love to use books as either a hook for my lesson or as part of the content or background knowledge I teach my students before we create.
Using Books as a Hook:
My preferred way is to bring the kids over to a central location in front of me. Think about a space in your classroom that can be your “carpet” time area, either by actually placing a carpet, using mats that can be stacked, or just having them gather to sit. If not, read and walk around their tables to engage them all, or use a document camera. I do all, but my biggest success is using a corner of my room to read (which, corners are typically dead space anyway.)
Then, like a lot of primary teachers do, read them the picture book or a part of your art history book or an article. After, you can record any thoughts, “something learned”, or wonders on a white board that is there, or on chart paper. This will help the students access deeper, more critical thinking.
After, explain that you will be creating art based on: the picture book, the artist, the movement or time in art history, etc. This way, the kids now have been pre-loaded with background knowledge on the topic and will be a bit more encouraged to create because THEY KNOW.
If you tell kids you’re going to make a Van Gogh inspired artwork, but you’ve only shown them pictures of his work or a Powerpoint slide, they tend to be less excited. Books connect with people differently; it makes it more personal. That being said, before you create, you SHOULD present lots of mediums about the topic to the child. After the story or article you read to them, then you can bring them to their tables and show a Powerpoint or YouTube video to access different learners. Or, if you’re fortunate to have access to technology or bring it to your room, you can have them research related topics on kid-safe websites.
If you haven’t tried using picture books this way, you really should. For example, I always read “Ish” by Peter H. Reynolds at the beginning of they year, and then we all create “Ish” inspired art as a way to get kids comfortable explore art and the creative process. They are SO EXCITED to do it after reading. And yes, I make an Ish Gallery too.
Let’s look at my recommended books!
The Art Book for Children
“A perfect introduction to art for children everywhere, The Art Book for Children brings the clarity and innovation of Phaidon’s bestselling The Art Book to our youngest readers ever. A guide to 30 great artists and their most famous works, designed for both parent and child to enjoy together. The book encourages children to look closely and use their imagination to understand why artists choose to create the work they do and in the way that they do it.”
Children’s Book of Art: An Introduction to the World’s Most Amazing Paintings and Sculptures
“This engaging guide takes children on an international tour of the world’s greatest art, from the first daubs of paint in prehistoric caves to today’s performance art. It includes all of the important art movements, from Renaissance to Rococo, as well as the great painters from all these eras. However, the approach is to look at art as an international exchange of ideas, not a straight history of western art. The book includes art from all countries, from aboriginal art to totem poles.”
The Arts: A Visual Encyclopedia
“The most visual and comprehensive encyclopedia for children that charts the evolution of the world’s greatest cultural achievements in painting, sculpture, photography, music, and dance, supporting the arts in STEAM education.
Kids can trace the development of painting, from prehistoric cave drawings to the Mona Lisa to contemporary art; discover the evolution of sculpture, from the Great Sphinx at Giza to modern day abstract forms; find out about photography, from the early “camera obscura” to digital imagery; read the story of music, from classical and jazz to rock and roll; and put on their dancing shoes for some ballroom, ballet, modern dance, and more. “
Women in Art: 50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World
Illustrated profiles of 50 pioneering female artists–from the 11th century to today–from the author of the New York Times bestseller Women in Science.
A charmingly illustrated and inspiring book, Women in Art highlights the achievements and stories of 50 notable women in the arts–from well-known figures like painters Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe, to lesser-known names like 19th-century African American quilter Harriet Powers and Hopi-Tewa ceramic artist Nampeyo. Covering a wide array of artistic mediums, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about artistic movements throughout history, statistics about women’s representation in museums, and notable works by women. Women in Art celebrates the success of the bold female creators who inspired the world and paved the way for the next generation of artists.
A Child’s Introduction to Art: The World’s Greatest Paintings and Sculptures
“The newest volume in Black Dog’s best-selling, award-winning Child’s Introduction series explores the fascinating world of art and artists and includes do-it-yourself art projects throughout.
In the tradition of Black Dog’s best-selling Child’s Introduction books, which include The Story of the Orchestra and A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky, A Child’s Introduction to Art introduces kids ages 9 through 12 to the art world’s most famous painters, styles, and periods, all brought to life through full-color photographs of 40 masterpieces, as well as charming original illustrations.
The book highlights 40 painters and sculptors, including Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet, Diego Velasquez, Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Mary Cassatt, and Andy Warhol, providing information on their life, inspirations, influences, technique, and a full-color photo of one of their signature works of art. It also includes an overview of various styles and periods (Renaissance, Impressionism, Cubism, etc.), instruction on how to view and appreciate art, and information on the color wheel and other tools artists employ.”
Art and How it Works: An Introduction to Art for Children
This engaging introduction to art appreciation for kids explores art history, themes in art, and art techniques, from cave paintings to modern art.
Art and How It Works takes children on a journey through the history of art, from prehistoric paintings, Impressionism, and abstract art, through to the art of today. This bright and colorful book includes biographies of major artists, such as Fra Angelico and David Hockney, and cuts through the jargon that surrounds the art world to offer a fresh and accessible approach for children.
Young readers will begin to notice and explore shapes, colors, patterns, styles, themes, and techniques. By taking a close look at famous paintings and answering the open-ended question prompts dotted throughout the book, kids will discover a new way to see and appreciate the art all around them.
The Story of Paintings: A History of Art for Children
“From prehistoric cave art to graffiti, this beautiful compendium introduces children to the world of paintings.
Get ready to feast your eyes on an exhibition of fantastic art! Kids can time-travel through the centuries and learn all about 39 paintings, from a galloping horse drawn in the Lascaux Caves during the Stone Age, to Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Velázquez’s Las Meninas, to masterpieces by Dalí, Picasso, Kahlo, and Basquiat. Each spread showcases a different painting, along with a profile of the artist, kid-friendly cartoons, and fun prompts that encourage children to ask questions (like, “What do you think Mona Lisa is smiling about?”) and spot details in each work.”
13 Artists Children Should Know
“This heavily illustrated book featuring the world’s greatest painters is an excellent introduction for young readers to artists and their works.
Whether it’s Leonardo da Vinci’s mysterious Mona Lisa, Vermeer’s vibrant depictions of light, Van Gogh’s mesmerizing brush strokes, or Matisse’s playful cutouts, the art featured here is introduced in a format and style that will appeal to children. The book proceeds chronologically, accompanied by a timeline to offer helpful historical context. Each artist’s entry includes a concise biography, beautiful reproductions of major works, and lively texts that speak directly to young readers. Games, quizzes and other activities help readers learn about the significant contributions of each artist in a way that is both fun and inspiring. Additional information about museums, suggestions for further reading, and online resources will satisfy the most curious minds.”
ABCs of Art (Sabrina Hahn’s Art & Concepts for Kids)
“Learn the alphabet through fine art!
Spark your child’s creativity and curiosity with this delightfully curated alphabet book featuring some of the world’s most iconic paintings.
In this collection, your child will discover artwork by Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, and many others. Help them locate the earring in Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring, teach them different colors while examining Monet’s Water Lilies, and count the pieces of fruit in Cezanne’s The Basket of Apples.“
This Little Artist: An Art History Primer
“Learn all about artists who changed history in this engaging and colorful board book perfect for creators-in-training!
Painting, shaping, making art.
With creative joy, hands, and heart.
Little artists have great big imaginations.
In this follow up to This Little President, This Little Explorer, This Little Trailblazer, and This Little Scientist now even the youngest readers can learn all about great and empowering artists in history! Highlighting ten memorable artists who paved the way, parents and little ones alike will love this creativity primer full of fun, age-appropriate facts and bold illustrations.”
Download Free Art Worksheets for Kids
Click here to download free art worksheets that you can print to allow kids to explore art at home!
Helpful Art Resources for Teachers
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Kathleen McGiveron (Ms Artastic)
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