A Threefold Hybridity. Picturebook art fantasies as life writing


  • Ingrid van der Heyden Tilburg University
  • Helma van Lierop Tilburg University



Picturebooks, art fantasies, multimodality, dual audience


Picturebook art fantasies about the life and work of famous artists are usually studied from an art education perspective, but they are also interesting from the point of view of life writing, because of their hybridity on three levels: the combination of fact and fiction, the synergy between text and images and their attractiveness for both child and adult readers. In this article two picturebooks are examined on this threefold hybridity, one about Wassily Kandinsky and one about Piet Mondrian. Both books are part of a series of picturebooks, initiated by the Municipal Museum in The Hague and Dutch children’s book publisher Leopold. It is argued that the postmodern experimentation with the form which is characteristic of life narratives for adults, can also be observed in children’s literature. The biographies of Kandinsky and Mondrian make use of novelistic techniques and the interplay between words and images to tell about the life and work of these two visual artists. The many allusions in text and images to the art and the poetics of the two painters show that these picturebooks are a challenging form of life writing for both adults and children.



Author Biographies

Ingrid van der Heyden, Tilburg University

Ingrid van der Heijden studied Kunst- en Cultuurwetenschappen at Tilburg University and graduated with a Master’s degree in Children’s and Young Adult Literature. She wrote her thesis on the picturebook project, which is the subject of the present article, and analyzed the allusions in the books from an art-educational perspective.

Helma van Lierop, Tilburg University

Helma van Lierop-Debrauwer was professor of children’s literature at Leiden University between 1998 and 2013. She is professor of children’s literature (since 2001) at Tilburg University, where she also coordinates a Master’s Programme on Children’s and Young Adult literature. Her main research interests are the adolescent novel, dual audience authors, adaptation and life writing. In 2005 she published a book in Dutch about the adolescent novel (Over grenzen. De adolescentenroman in het literatuuronderwijs). Together with Rita Ghesquiere and Vanessa Joosen she edited a new history on Dutch children’s literature which will be published in 2014. She also published academic articles in English and German about Dutch children’s and adolescent literature.