Review of I’m Gonna Paint: Ralph Fasanella, Artist of the People

I’m Gonna Paint: Ralph Fasanella, Artist of the People I’m Gonna Paint: Ralph Fasanella, Artist of the People
by Anne Broyles; illus. by Victoria Tentler-Krylov
Primary, Intermediate  Holiday    48 pp.
10/23    9780823450060    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780823457380    $11.99

In this engaging and child-friendly overview of Fasanella’s (1914–1997) life and evolution as a self-taught, working-class artist, Broyles highlights the man’s “rambunctious,” resilient, and independent nature, even as a child. His hard-working Italian immigrant parents had limited resources and a large family to care for. As a boy, Fasanella accompanied his father as he delivered blocks of ice through the tenements of New York City. He listened to his factory-worker mother as she shared her strong beliefs about unionizing to improve working conditions. He was in and out of a Catholic reform school and worked odd jobs throughout the Great Depression before joining a union and learning to paint in his early thirties. He honed his craft and found his voice in his visual representations of family, baseball, and daily existence. He also documented momentous events (the March on Washington, the Kennedy assassination) and their impact on Americans, saying that “any good painting is a social statement” and that “art and politics can’t be separated.” Tentler-Krylov’s dynamic watercolors bring her subject to life in small vignettes at various stages of the times and also place him in boldly colored, expansive scenes that pay homage to Fasanella’s distinctive style. Well-researched back matter includes a timeline of events that are referenced in Fasanella’s paintings, numerous reprints, and a listing of where to see more of the artist’s work. A perfect companion to Levinson’s The People’s Painter (rev. 7/21), a picture-book biography of Ben Shahn.

From the September/October 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

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