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ABOUT THIS BOOK
[vii] WHAT would we do without our picture-books,
I wonder? Before we knew how to read, before
even we could speak, we had learned to love them.
We shouted with pleasure when we turned the pages
and saw the spotted cow standing in the daisy-
sprinkled meadow, the foolish-looking old sheep with
her gambolling lambs, the wise dog with his friendly
eyes. They were all real friends to us.
Then a little later on, when we began to ask for
stories about the pictures, how we loved them more
and more. There was the little girl in the red cloak
talking to the great grey wolf with the wicked eyes;
the cottage with the bright pink roses climbing
round the lattice-window, out of which jumped a
little maid with golden hair, followed by the great
big bear, the middle-sized bear, and the tiny bear.
Truly those stories were a great joy to us, but we
would never have loved them quite so much if we
had not known their pictured faces as well.
Do you ever wonder how all these pictures came
to be made? They had a beginning, just as everything
else had, but the beginning goes so far back
that we can scarcely trace it.
Children have not always had picture-books to
look at. In the long-ago days such things were not
[viii] known. Thousands of years ago, far away in
Assyria, the Assyrian people learned to make
pictures and to carve them out in stone. In Egypt,
too, the Egyptians traced pictures upon the walls
of their temples and upon the painted mummy-
cases of the dead. Then the Greeks made still
more beautiful statues and pictures in marble, and
called them gods and goddesses, for all this was at
a time when the true God was forgotten.
Afterwards, when Christ had come and the people
had learned that the pictured gods were not real,
they began to think it wicked to make beautiful
pictures or carve marble statues. The few pictures
that were made were stiff and ugly, the figures were
not like real men and women, the animals and trees
were very strange-looking things. And instead of
making the sky blue as it really was, they made it
a chequered pattern of gold. After a time it seemed
as if the art of making pictures was going to die out
Then came the time which is called 'The Renaissance,'
a word which means being born again, or a
new awakening, when men began to draw real
pictures of real things and fill the world with images
Now it is the stories of the men of that time, who
put new life into Art, that I am going to tell you—
men who learned, step by step, to paint the most
beautiful pictures that the world possesses.
In telling these stories I have been helped by an
old book called The Lives of the Painters, by
Giorgio Vasari, who was himself a painter. He
[ix] took great delight in gathering together all the
stories about these artists and writing them down
with loving care, so that he shows us real living
men, and not merely great names by which the
famous pictures are known.
It did not make much difference to us when we
were little children whether our pictures were good
or bad, as long as the colours were bright and we
knew what they meant. But as we grow older and
wiser our eyes grow wiser too, and we learn to know
what is good and what is poor. Only, just as our
tongues must be trained to speak, our hands to
work, and our ears to love good music, so our eyes
must be taught to see what is beautiful, or we may
perhaps pass it carelessly by, and lose a great joy
which might be ours.
So now if you learn something about these great
artists and their wonderful pictures, it will help your
eyes to grow wise. And some day should you visit
sunny Italy, where these men lived and worked,
you will feel that they are quite old friends. Their
pictures will not only be a delight to your eyes, but
will teach your heart something deeper and more
wonderful than any words can explain.