chapter  4
Picturebooks with Allusions to the Fine Arts
Pages 62

A facet of contemporary picturebooks that has particular appeal with a crossover audience is the often highly sophisticated referencing of fi ne art.1 Many picturebook artists obviously share the Danish author-illustrator Sören Jessen’s view that “fi ne art is a great inspiration for illustrations.”2 A large number of illustrators are formally trained in the fi ne arts, so it is natural that they are infl uenced by the artists and artworks they have studied. Many illustrators admit that they initially intended to become artists. The Australian picturebook artist Tohby Riddle went to art school immediately after high school and was moving toward a career as a painter. 2000 Hans Christian Andersen award winner Anthony Browne, who was trained at Leeds College of Art, originally wanted to be a painter, but a need to earn an income took him in a different direction and today he is one of the world’s best-known picturebook artists.3 Many of today’s illustrators borrow the visual grammar of well-known, and even some not so well-known, artists, and some are master recyclers of the canonical works of our artistic heritage. In A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms, Linda Hutcheon argues quite convincingly that parody, in the very broad sense of any revisiting or recontextualizing of previous works of art (what is often referred to by the more neutral term “allusion”), is a characteristic shared by all the arts in the postmodern world, but she does not mention picturebooks.4 Allusions to the fi ne arts and metadiscourse on art are a signifi cant and widespread phenomenon in contemporary picturebooks that appeal to a crossover audience. Indeed, John Stephens claims “citation of high culture art works is endemic in contemporary picturebooks throughout the world.”5 Although some of these citations are textual, the vast majority are visual.