Why Art Teachers Need to Know the World’s Greatest Artists

When looking for an excellent book to introduce students to an artist, look no more! Mike Venezia is the author and illustrator of the famous children’s book and video series, Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists. Venezia has written 48 books, planning to complete the series with several books to come.

Mike Venezia creatively and humorously writes about each artist: he makes learning art history fun, interesting and memorable. Inside each book there are reproductions and funny cartoons accompanied by humorous and informative narratives that describe the artist’s life, as illustrated here: “Vincent van Gogh was one of the most tragic artists that ever lived. Nothing seemed to go right for him and he wasn’t very happy. He never even smiled in his self-portraits.” Venezia does an excellent job writing in a kid friendly and fun way that has students asking for more.

Why do I love the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artist series?

  1. The books are fun and easy to read. I find myself reading them to refresh my art history knowledge. They’re roughly 20-30 pages and taking approximately ten to fifteen minutes to read aloud in the classroom. When I taught elementary, I used these books to introduce the children to a new artist. They would sit on the carpet, listening intently to the story. I currently teach middle school and I read them to my 6th grade students using my Elmo document camera, or reading aloud.
  2. Students love the books. My students get so excited when I tell them that I’m going to read a Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists book to them. They enjoy learning about new artists and the comical way Venezia presents the material adds to the allure. If you allow students to free read when they’re done working on their art projects, make sure you add some of Venezia’s books to your collection.
  3. They are excellent resources for students and teachers. Students are able to use the books as resources for art history projects. The 5th graders do book reports using the artist series as resources, while the 6th graders use them to create interactive whiteboard art history presentations.
  4.  They’re inexpensive. Each book retails for $6.95. You can also find used copies on Amazon for $3.50 including shipping. Who doesn’t want to recycle books?
  5. There are a variety of artists available in the series. Here is the list of artists currently available in the artists series: Sandro Botticelli, Pieter Bruegel, Alexander Calder, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Leonardo Da Vinci, Salvador Dali, Edgar Degas, Eugene Delacroix, El Greco, Paul Gauguin, Giotto di Bondone, Francisco Goya, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Frida Kahlo, Paul Klee, Dorthea Lange, Jacob Lawrence, Roy Lichtenstein, Roy Magritte, Henri Matisse, Michaelangelo, Monet, Grandma Moses, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Horace Pippin, Camille Pissarro, Jackson Pollock, Raphael Sanzio, Rembrandt, Fredric Remington, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Faith Ringgold, Diego Rivera, Norman Rockwell, Henri Rousseau, Georges Suerat, Titian, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Velázquez, Johannes Vermeer, Andy Warhol, James McNeill Whistler, and Grant Wood.
  6. The series is also available on VHS and DVD. If your students like the books, they will love the videos. The Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series is also available on VHS and DVD. Currently there are eight videos available for purchase, with several more in production. Here is a list of the artists available for purchase on video: Degas, Cassatt, Warhol, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Monet. If you would like to purchase a DVD or VHS, you can purchase at through Dick Blick, Sax or online at the “Getting to Know” website. The VHS are on sale for $14.95 while supplies last and the DVD retails for $29.95.

Check out the YouTube video for the introduction song for each video.

How adorable and catchy is that? My elementary students loved listening to this song!

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow where we’ll have a special giveaway!!   Pssttt…This is not a sponsored post- I just happen to like these books!

Have you ever read a Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artist book?

What do you think about the series?

Cassidy Reinken

This article was written by former AOE writer and life-long learner, Cassidy Reinken.


  • Leah

    I love these books too.  Many moons ago when I first started teaching, there were only about 12 books.  I bought them all with my money instead of school funds so that I could keep them and take them anywhere I went.  I am just starting my first full time job after 6 years as a SAHM, so I am excited to see there are so many more.  Looks like I’ll be trolling Amazon today!!

    • Don’t forget to come back tomorrow- we’ll be giving some away :0

  • Congratulations on your first full time job outside the home! Amazon is the best- good luck shopping. Definitely stop back tomorrow.

  • Yrbrownarted

    These books are terrific and are written well.  My middle school students have varying reading skills and I find that this series is a good mid-point for literacy in the art class.

    • I agree- when I started teaching middle school I didn’t use them at all the first year.  I thought they were too “elementary” for my students.  Boy was I wrong!

  • Yrbrownarted

    I wish I owned my own set.  I have to go to two libraries every year to bring in about twelve of the titles.

    • I’m glad to see your library has some of them available for check out!  Check back tomorrow and hopefully you can win your own copy!

  • EJ

    I really like these too. BUT, please be careful before you pull one out or give out to a student.  A LOT of them have images that would be inappropriate for elementary school. I got into trouble with this when a student who was finished his project pulled out the book on Matisse and found a couple paintings that a third grader shouldn’t be seeing.  Very embarassing on my part… Just make sure you proofread them all before you make them available for students!

    • Great tip, EJ! I always cut off the Van Gogh video at the end, before he talks about killing himself…. Probably not a topic you want get into.

  • I agree with EJ! Love the series but you have to proof read /view before showing these to your class! Jessica, I have the Van Gogh video also and I always stop it just before he tells them he shot himself. I pause it, talk about something in the video they need to know and then fast forward past that part to the ending(mine is a VHS – shows how long I’ve had it ! )

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