The Who Was series has over 210 biographies about all sorts of people. It can be fun to pick a certain group of people, such as authors, musicians, or entertainers, and read about a variety of them. It allows you to see how that particular field developed and changed over the years. And it allows you to compare and contrast the different people.
Below is a list of 12 books about artists in the Who Was series. They take you from the Renaissance in the late 1400s to the Pop Art of Andy Warhol in the 1900s. Many of the artists are painters, but the list also includes an architect, a ballet dancer, and a fashion designer.
The Who Was biographies are great for 8-12 year olds. Each book has about ten chapters and most children this age can usually finish them in a week. When we do them as a family read aloud, they usually take three days.
These books are great for creating unit studies or just for reading on their own. Unit studies are a fun way to incorporate learning about different people and topics in your homeschool. You could study one artist a month for an entire school year. In addition to reading the book, over the course of the month you can watch videos about that person and attempt to create art similar to their work. Three of the books below even have FREE unit studies already created for you!
For eight of the other artists, there are child appropriate videos to accompany the books. And you can grab the FREE printable notetaking bookmarks at the end of the post to use with those books.
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The List of Who Was…Books About Artists
Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519
Da Vinci is such a fun artist to study because he was an inventor as well! We love him so much that we created a whole unit study about da Vinci! Not only does it include his Who Was book, but it also includes the Magic Tree House Monday with a Mad Genius book in case you have younger learners in your family.!
Learn about one of da Vinci’s Renaissance contemporaries, Michelangelo. It would be great to compare and contrast them in a Venn diagram if you choose to read both biographies. Watch this video biography of Michelangelo and then tape paper under a table and attempt to paint on it by sitting underneath the table. This can give you an idea of what it was like for Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.
Claude Monet, 1840-1926
You can move on to the Impressionist era with this biography of Claude Monet and the FREE Unit Study to accompany it! He was one of the most famous painters of all time, but initially his work was not well received!
Want to learn even more about Monet? Check out this course from Jus’ Classical…Investigating Claude Monet.
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1867-1959
Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973
Next, learn all about Pablo Picasso and how his art changed over time. He started painting at a young age in the style of realism, but eventually pioneered the style of art known as Cubism. Watch this video for kids to learn more.
Georgia O’Keefe, 1887-1986
Georgia O’Keefe, one of the few women on this list, was an iconic American artist. She broke into the art world at a time when being a professional artist was not an option for women. Learn all about her with her Who Was biography and this short video.
Norman Rockwell, 1894-1978
Salvador Dali, 1904-1989
Frida Kahlo, 1907-1954
The painter Frida Kahlo is known for placing self-portraits of herself in most of her boldly colored paintings. Learn all about how she overcame physical disabilities to become a famous painter in her Who Was biography and this video about her for kids.
Maria Tallchief, 1925-2013
Maria Tallchief is the one dancer on this list. She was the first prima ballerina in the United Sates. Not only will your children learn all about her in her Who Was biography, but they will learn about the art of ballet as well. This video gives an overview of her life, but note that there are murders against members of her tribe and family mentioned at the beginning of the video.
Andy Warhol, 1928-1987
Andy Warhol is known for his Pop Art screen prints of objects and people from popular culture such as soup cans and movie stars. Learn more about him and his “Factory” in his biography and from this short video for kids.
Ralph Lauren, 1939-
Ralph Lauren is the one fashion designer on this list. If you have a child that is into clothes, his biography will introduce them to how clothing is designed and created. (Note: I did not find a short video that I felt was appropriate for kids.)
Which artist study have you done before or which one are you looking forward to studying? Who else would you add? There are so many more!