Benny Andrews (1930 – 2006) is considered to be one of the best African-American artists of the twentieth century. He also illustrated over twenty children’s books. The author of this picture book was able to incorporate his own work into her story of his life.
Andrews was one of ten children of Georgia sharecroppers. Benson reports that Andrews began to draw when he was three years old, and never stopped. He didn’t want to continue to work in the fields when he grew up, so he walked three miles each way to high school, and then went to a college for black students. After serving in the Air Force, he used the tuition benefit to go to art school in Chicago.
When he finished his schooling, Andrews moved to New York City and became a working artist. He painted the people of Harlem, and continued to make pictures of his childhood in Georgia.
Andrews was a “figural painter,” meaning that his primary subject was the human figure. He employed both oil and mixed-media collage in the expressionist style, by which he depicted the world from a subjective rather than strictly realistic perspective. Recurrent themes included American identity, migration and the challenges and dignity of black life.
Andrews also became active in protesting for equal representation in museums for artists of color. He later began to teach in order to share his love of art, and to encourage people to use visual expression to tell their stories.
Evaluation: The writing in this book is a bit prosaic, but the pictures are worth the price of admission.
Published by Clarion Books, a imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2015