Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring

Creston. Feb. 2020. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781939547651.
Gr 1-4–Laura Wheeler Waring (1887–1948) combined colors to create the exact shades of brown that depicted the skin tones of the loved ones she painted. Artistic representation during the time period Waring came of age was far from inclusive. Portraits of African Americans and artwork created by black artists were not welcomed into museums. Waring pursued her passion and was eventually commissioned to paint important African American people for a traveling exhibit that displayed her art in the Smithsonian and other museums. This biography succeeds by keeping its focus on Waring’s artistic journey. When discussing her portrait of singer Marian Anderson, Churnin forms an emotional link between these two women and spotlights the potential for their work to break barriers. The straightforward narrative allows young readers to connect with Waring as a person, recognize her dedication to her craft, and appreciate her accomplishments. The recurring theme of brown as a complex and beautiful color is an effective metaphor for the celebration of African American people and culture central to Waring’s work. Marshall’s painted illustrations are an artistic tribute rendered in the style of Waring’s paintings.
VERDICT A meticulously crafted account of a trailblazing artist. Recommended for general purchase, particularly for libraries looking to include more biographies of black women artists.

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