PPBF Looks at Vincent’s Colors

PPBF Looks at Vincent’s Colors, a picture book created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, using only the words and pictures of Vincent Van Gogh.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for an evening of painting at a local shop. The painting the students and I came to copy was the well-known Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Admittedly, not an easy painting to tackle. But with the instructor giving us the order in which to add each element, along with her permission to use Vincent’s painting as a jump off point from which we could freely interpret to our heart’s desire, the task wasn’t nearly as daunting.

A framed print of the famous painting rested on a large easel. We each took many turns, viewing the print up close to help with our interpretations. At the end of the evening, we each had a painting we were pleased with. Pleased with until I came home, looked in my art book at the original, and noticed the instructor’s poster had faded in her window display and overall, her reproduction appeared strangely contrasty. I still had a fabulous evening, painting my version of Starry Night by an artist whose work I have long admired.


Now, on to my Perfect Picture Book Friday review of Vincent’s Colors.

Words and pictures by Vincent van Gogh.

This book was created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Published by – Chronicle Books – 2005

Suitable for – 3-7

Topic – An art book for young children to acquaint them with Vincent van Gogh’s art.

Opening –  (These are the first four pages to show how the book is set up to rhyme.)

A yellow sky with yellow sun,

a jug in squares of blue and white,

a reddish cap and orange bricks,

twelve flowers that are light on light.

Synopsis from Amazon – Vincent van Gogh is one of the world’s most famous artists. Throughout his life, he wrote to his younger brother, Theo, about his colorful, dynamic paintings. This book pairs the artist’s paintings with his own words.

Van Gogh’s descriptions, arranged as a simple rhyme, introduce young readers to all the colors of the rainbow and beyond. The descriptive words combine with spectacular reproductions of many of the artist’s most beloved and important works to create a perfect art book for young and old alike.

Why I like this book – Instead of showing each painting in its entirety, a close up section was selected to better illustrate Vincent van Gogh’s impasto style of painting.

(Definition: impasto is a thick application of paint (usually oil) that makes no attempt to look smooth. Instead, impasto is unabashedly proud to be textured, and exists to show off brush and palette knife marks.)

A simple description, taken from Vincent’s letters to his brother, Theo, accompanies each painting, and the paintings are organized so the descriptions form a rhyming pattern, children will enjoy hearing.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – website.

Learn more about Vincent van Gogh – here.

To find other perfect picture books please visit Susanna Hill’s Blog.

Over twenty Starry Night Art Project for kids here.

drywall plaster sunflowers

Vincent van Gogh-inspired art project from http://www.playideas.com

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll share it.

20 thoughts on “PPBF Looks at Vincent’s Colors

  1. Thanks, Gabi! I like my version, too, but after seeing what Starry Night REALLY looks like, I’d like to paint it again. My husband hinted he’d like it for his birthday. Actually, he didn’t hint in words, he went to the art supply store and bought me a large canvas. It’s going to be fun! I hope if you look at this book, you’ll enjoy it.


    • The text in this book is extremely sparse. Each painting is accompanied by a very brief description. So, not much of a biography, more of a rich sampling of a gifted artist’s work to introduce young children to his style of painting. However, at the end of the book, each painting is shown in small scale in its entirety along with the size and location of where it can be seen. Still, for anyone hoping to study his painting method, the closeup views are great for showing his brush techniques.


  2. Leslie…wonderful review and great choice. I especially was interested because I’ve been reading as many Van Gogh pbs as I can…one of my MC’s had a similar personality and I’ve been trying to see how other writers captured that in words.
    Isn’t it amazing that Van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive…that’s what I read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Vivian, if you’re interested in learning more about Vincent van Gogh, I recently watched a tremendous video on youtube that was made this year by the BBC. I studied Van Gogh’s work when I was an art major in college, but so much more has been discovered about him over the years. I was absolutely stunned and amazed by this documentary. I know the title implies the video’s focus is on the mystery of this great artist’s ear, but this isn’t the case. The video covers a great deal of Vincent’s life, including his relationship with his brother, Theo, and other artists of the time. It’s definitely worth watching if you want to learn more about him. The Mystery of Van Gogh’s Ear – BBC Documentary 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJh15VAeMKk

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely choice for a Perfect Picture Book – with his many harvest & sunflower scenes, I think of Van Gogh as a late summer artist. I hadn’t realized that this book features not just his paintings but also his words. Perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful book – and thanks for sharing your version of starry night. I love the texture in Vincent’s paintings. Makes me want to pick up a brush and start painting, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Vincent’s Colors by Vincent van Gogh — Book Recommendation | By Word of Beth

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