When I became interested in Hundertwasser, I interlibrary loaned the couple books available on him. One of them was this rather well done children’s book, which gets into not only his biography and work, but also the issues that he thought about and what motivated him. There are tangential projects throughout to help kids relate to all sorts of things discussed.
A homeschooling parent of young elementary aged kids could take their time with this book as a read aloud, pausing a lot to get kids to discuss things, and doing the enrichment projects as they went along. Hundertwasser is an interesting, blatantly authentic character, who marched to his own tune; he was a successful late 20th century artist that was refreshingly oblivious to the posturing of the art world. I feel most kids do not get introduced to enough modern art. This artist shows that there is no one right way to do art except the way that feels true to each individual, while caring for others and the gift of the planet. That is a strong, positive message for kids to understand.
Hundertwasser was able to paint realistically just fine (see his painting first below during his teenage years), but was more interested in painting the unseen. He dropped out of art school and was self-taught, traveling a lot. He loved nature and felt we were getting too far away from it. He talked about our three levels of “skin” – our actual skin, the clothes we wear, and the buildings we live in. He not only painted paintings but designed clothes and buildings as well, which he felt should be more unique and more organic. He pointed out that there are no straight lines in nature, and felt straight lines alienated humans, making them less happy. His concern for nature made him an early environmentalist, and he was a strong proponent of composting and recycling.
Myself, I appreciated his effort to articulate the unfolding process of connecting with the divine as he paints. This artist come closer than most to feeling the way I do about this, and I found it very affirming. Also, his art wasn’t separate from everything else he was interested in, and I relate to that too. And obviously I love the vibrancy of his color choices; as readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear.
Below I show pages and paintings and quotes from this book. I give it five stars, even though it wasn’t all articulated the way I would have done it. I was so pleased to see a book for kids tackle some issues and stereotypes, and deal with them in a direct, matter-of-fact manner for young children. I was intrigued enough myself by this book that it has catapulted me into starting a longer adult biography on Hundertwasser to find out more and fill in the gaps.