Pop-Ups: A New Way to Study Art History

Posted on: August 31, 2017

Written by Fiona Wirth

This past summer, I began working in Carrier Library for Special Collections and Preservation. Over the summer my fellow student workers and I have worked on many projects such as the Blackley Collection, both archiving and preserving collections for future use by library patrons. Most recently, fellow student Jen LeMay and I have been organizing the recently acquired Carol Barton Pop-Up and Movable Book Collection. This collection is amazing for the diversity in subject matter and intricate artistry of the book themselves. There are over 700 titles in this collection, which were amassed by Carol Barton, and international book artist and curator whose work can be found in renowned locations such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Ms. Barton was also JMU’s first Wampler visiting professor of Fine Art in 1992.

As an Art History major, the books that interested me the most related to many popular artists and their artwork. Frequently art history is only encountered through cumbersome textbooks or large museums, making art seem unapproachable or too complex. However, art pop-ups like the ones found in the Carol Barton Collection are fun and interesting, whether or not you’re an art history novice or enthusiast. I can easily see these books used in classroom situations to raise artistic interest in children and as an effective teaching tool.

The first art history pop-up came across was A Sunday on La Grande Jatte Tunnel Book. Tunnel books are forms of pop-ups that utilize layered images to produce images in 3-D perspective. By opening up the front flap and looking through a slot, Georges Pierre Seurat’s masterpiece A Sunday on La Grande Jatte–1884 can be viewed in a unique way!

Next up was A Walk in Monet’s Garden by Francesca Crespi. This pop-up is more of a game than a book, though it does include an educational booklet on the significance of Monet and his garden. The user has the chance to explore Monet’s garden and appreciate its magic that so enraptured the Impressionist artist. There is even included a miniature Clause Monet painting his Water Lillies!
The following book is one of my favorites because I love the Renaissance! Waiting for Filippo by Michael Bender details the history of the architect and artisan Filippo Brunelleschi. This book brings to life Brunelleschi’s many projects and explains the importance of his contributions to the Renaissance. Waiting for Filippo is definitely more of a children’s story book than an analytical study, and this makes it perfect for a classroom aid or simply a fun educational tool for your home!

The most comprehensive art book I encountered was The Art Pack by Christopher and Helen Frayling and Ron Van Der Meer. This pop-up focuses on the general history of art, from Medieval to Abstract Expressionism. The book even includes props to explain some of the more technical elements of art, such as color, perspective, light, composition or form. The most useful aspect I found was a timeline of artistic periods and the artists who are most representative of that era. The Art Pack could be useful for anyone who expresses an interest in art, and is more practical for a general study of art history.

The final pop-up art book I’ve chosen to review is Frank Lloyd Wright In Pop-Up by Iain Thomas. This book includes six pop-ups of Wright’s many architectural achievements, along with sketches and photographs of his design process. Some of the projects included are Fallingwater, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. The way Iain Thomas presents Frank Lloyd Wright’s ingenious planning in this pop-up fosters enthusiasm for architecture and design.
This blog post hardly covers all of the art history related pop-ups available in the Carol Barton Collection. As both educational tools and works of art themselves, these pop-ups have proved to be incredibly interesting to discover for me. I hope that these five books have sparked an interest within you to explore the collection for yourself in the future!

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