RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN

A bunch of books that will put you on the right track to understanding art.

Well known cartoonist Harinder Singh drew attention a year ago with a work that showed two children looking at an abstract work in an art gallery. One of them is saying, "Let's run away from here before anyone thinks we have done it!"

Well, if the cartoon kids sound cheeky, they also seem to be confused about art and what it stands for. Now, to help children get acquainted with art and artists, Chennai-based Tulika Publishers have started bringing out books on the subject.

Trendy titles

To begin with is a set of four books on Raja Ravi Varma, Amrita Shergil, M.F. Husain and Anjolie Ela Menon. So, what makes these books important and how can readers relate to them? It is the text by Delhi-based writer Anjali Raghbeer, written in a playful and engaging style, along with cute illustrations by animation artist Soumya Menon. The one on Husain, titled “Barefoot Husain”, for instance, tells the story of a small boy who has gone to see an art show but understands nothing. But there, Husain himself pops up — barefoot — and asks him to look for his shoes, for, he has promised his sister he will wear them at this show. Husain then draws several things, like his famous horses which come alive. They undertake a journey to Husain's early abodes where he grew up, painted, struggled and became a big painter. The story is accompanied by Husain's famous works and talks of his friends and the people who looked after him. Most importantly, it answers most of the questions people repeatedly ask about the painter — his being barefoot, his horses, his Ganesha and his films. The last few pages of the book complement the story and talk about Husain, his repertoire and his symbols and are easily understood.

Similarly, “My name is Amrita — born to be an artist” on Amrita Shergil unravels the mystery behind the artist who died when just 28: her loneliness, her art works and more. The colourful book also has photographs of her, her family album and her best friends. It talks of her love for music, the important influences on her works, her academics, and more. As the name suggests, in the book, Amrita tells her own story in the first person and why she decided to be an artist. The biographies of these renowned artists cost Rs.200 each.