Art Detective: Spot the Difference!

Kutschbach, Doris. 2014. Art Detective: Spot the Difference! New York: Prestel.

With the help of a cartoon dog named Charlie, readers explore famous paintings in an attempt to convict an art forger,

Hello! My name is Carl, but my friends call me Charlie the Sleuth.  I’m a detective who solves art crimes, and right now I’m working on a very difficult case.  It’s about a shady artist and his forgeries – paintings he offers for sale that aren’t really what they appear to be.   …   Do you think you could help?

And with that, the reader (now an art detective) begins a page-by-page quest to spot the differences between famous paintings and forgeries.  Some are humorous.  In “The Sunday Stroll” by Carl Spitzweg, the portly father in the forgery sports a Pinocchio nose and a baseball cap.  Others are more subtle – the color of a parasol, insects in the tall grass.  In all, nineteen paintings (and their accompanying “forgeries”) are presented, including ones by VanGogh, Gaugin, Rousseau, and Cézanne. Each has 15-25 differences.

What makes this book so wonderful is that it invites a deep exploration of each painting.  Is greater realism produced by the blemish on a Cézanne melon?  Does the addition of a bird in Passarro’s “Place du Théâtre” detract from the hustle and bustle of Parisian citizens? These are not questions that kids will answer, but subconsciously, they may begin to see them. The reader cannot simply flip through the pages.  If he does, the forger will not be found. By noting each mistake, he is compelled also to notice the aesthetic produced by the artist’s choices.

The final pages offer thumbnails of each painting with the differences marked by X’s.  A note is included about each painting, it’s painter, and noting its current location.

Enjoy the search!

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