October 2011

A horse of a different color

By Eric Carle
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German artist Franz Marc painted Blue Horse in 1911—a heavy-bodied horse, oddly blue, yet beautiful. Marc loved bright colors, even when applied to unexpected subjects. Though he died in World War I, Marc lived on through his art, which was labeled “degenerate” by the Nazis. Blue horse? Must be the work of a diseased mind.

Eric Carle grew up in Nazi Germany, where creating or displaying modern art was forbidden, but he had a brave teacher who risked showing him the art. And now, so many years later, Carle offers a picture book in homage to Franz Marc.

“I am an artist and I paint,” the book begins. What follows, in Carle’s signature painted tissue-paper collages, are a blue horse, a red crocodile, a yellow cow and a whole parade of multicolored animals. The final words—“I am a good artist”—might sound to an adult reader like an artist’s defiance of censors, but it’s a common sentiment in children when allowed to paint freely.

Young artists will love this beautiful book, and will cheerfully go about creating their own joyful paintings, not caring at all for anyone else’s rules about what color a horse should be. After all, why can’t a donkey be polka-dotted?

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