Gundula's Reviews > The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle
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Feb 01, 15

bookshelves: art-and-artists, childrens-literature, picture-books, book-reviews
Recommended for: children interested in art and artists
Read on March 17, 2012, read count: 1

I have to say that I am a little disappointed with and by this book. I have always loved Eric Carle's artwork, and the illustrations are lovely, evocative, exuberant, pure Eric Carle magic. But I don't really find the narrative all that interesting and engaging (and I also do not see exactly how the text is or can be regarded as an homage to Franz Marc, the illustrations, definitely, but the text, not so much). If Eric Carle had wanted to have both the text and the illustrations appear as an homage to Franz Marc, why did he not simply make his artist figure into Franz Marc? It still would be a rather simple narrative, but it would be a text which actually has some meaning and some connection to Franz Marc, to the artist himself.

I really appreciate the additional information about Eric Carle's childhood in Germany (wonderful and informative, but also thought-provoking). Although this is not mentioned in the author's note itself, the fact that Eric's art teacher, Herr Krauss, secretly showed him expressionist art, and mentioned to him not only that the Nazis had no appreciation for art, but that they were charlatans, was both incredibly brave and extremely risky (the Nazis often relied on rumor and innuendo, and if Eric had either intentionally or even unintentionally mentioned his talk with the art teacher, and the authorities had somehow gotten wind of this, Herr Krauss could easily have faced very, very serious consequences).

The biographical information regarding Franz Marc is basically adequate, but one important and supremely tragic aspect of Franz Marc's life has not been mentioned. Like many European expressionists (both writers and artists), Franz Marc originally welcomed WWI as some sort of futuristic dream, a strong, willful current to clean and beautify a decadent society. And like so many European expressionist authors and artists who had voluntarily enlisted in their respective armies, Franz Marc realised much too late that war was never a positive, but a philosophy, a way of thinking that begat only death and destruction (not only his own death, but the deaths of thousands and thousands, among them many of the brightest and most promising literary and artistic lights of their age). Now I know that a detailed analysis of expressionism and the attitude of the expressionists to WWI would most definitely have been above and beyond the scope of this book (it would simply have been too much information for a picture book, for most non academic literature, in fact). However, I do think the fact that Franz Marc had originally and quite strongly supported the Great War should have at least been mentioned in the author's note, as this is not only an important aspect of Franz Marc's biography, his very being, it also underlines not only the futility of war, but that war can and does have the destructive power to influence and negatively enchant.

I would recommend the text of The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse for younger children (ages two to maybe about five). The author's notes, however, would be more suitable for older children, as younger children would not only likely have trouble understanding, grasping the presented materials, the information might also be somewhat frightening (such as the fact that Franz Marc was killed in WWI, or that during the Nazi era, art and artists not in line with the authorities were often deemed to be degenerate).
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Phillip (new)

Phillip My favorite Carle book is Red Fox Green Fox. I wonder if this is anything like my favorite.

message 2: by Gundula (last edited Mar 16, 2012 04:06AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gundula I don't know if I like this book all that much, still figuring out my review. The art itself is simply wonderful, but the story is rather lacking. But for me, the most lacking part is the author's note on Franz Marc, as it does not state one of the most poignant and tragic aspects of his life, that originally, like many European expressionist artists and poets, he welcomed WWI as some sort of paean of modernism and method of cleansing a "decadent world." Most expressionist artists and writers, especially those who had enlisted, soon realised their mistake, but for many, Franz Marc included, this insight came too late; they had to pay for the error of their ideas with their lives (and that, in my opinion, essential aspect of expressionism, should have been mentioned in the author's note).

message 3: by Phillip (new)

Phillip Thank you, for the response. Now I know not to track it down to have a look.

Lisa Vegan Thanks for that information in your message 2, Gundula. I didn't know that and I find it very interesting and also wish it had been in the book's author's note.

Gundula Lisa wrote: "Thanks for that information in your message 2, Gundula. I didn't know that and I find it very interesting and also wish it had been in the book's author's note."

I only know this because I wrote my PhD dissertation on a german expressionist author, but I agree, it should have been included in the author's note.

message 6: by Alex (new)

Alex Baugh Great review.

Gundula Alex wrote: "Great review."

Thanks!! The inconsistencies in the author's note did bother me a bit.

message 8: by Alex (new)

Alex Baugh I can understand that. I actually have read this and noticed the same thing.

Gundula Alex wrote: "I can understand that. I actually have read this and noticed the same thing."

The support of many European expressionists of WWI (until they realised from and by their own experiences in the trenches what war was/is really like) is a major part of expressionism (on can see, for instance, the poetry change from glorification to condemnation of war as the poets experienced the latter).

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