By Susan Toepfer
Updated April 08, 1991 12:00 PM



Here’s a sneaky way for adults to get the art education they’ve always wanted: Tune in with the kids to this extraordinary series of videotapes (each about 25 minutes long).

Mona Lisa to Dada puts a wacky spin on a museum visit as an appealing group of children listen to pluperfect instructor Jackie Copeland discuss Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael (identified as “the guys Splinter named the Turtles after” by Kate, 8). From the 1503 Mona Lisa (“I think she went to my school,” says Kate. “I saw her picture there.”) to a 1919 Marcel Duchamps beard-and-mustache variation, Copeland projects a contagious enthusiasm. Both Kate and Nick, 4, race to get materials for a suggested project.

Going from Dada to the even daffier, Pop Art tackles the oddball work of Andy Warhol. “That’s stupid,” says critic Kate, checking a canvas. “What’s beautiful about a Coke bottle?” But by the end of the lecture, which touches on Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Claes Oldenburg, she has raided the kitchen for a cocoa box to reproduce. “You can experiment with art.” urges Copeland. “You can make anything you want.”

Marc Chagall suffers from a switch in instructors. Sylvia Tenser offers a garbled survey of Chagall’s kid-friendly paintings, and awkward camera work lends a claustrophobic air. “Doesn’t this give you a happy feeling?” asks Sylvia. “I guess,” says Kate suspiciously. (Educational Video, $69 each; 800-388-4384)


FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Introduction to Art

To get a more satisfying look at the exuberant Russian artist, pick up Howard Greenfield’s biography Marc Chagall.

Greenfield shows sensitivity to young Chagall’s feelings—his joy at first being called an artist, for instance—and blends in relevant history. “These are great,” says Kate of the 44 illustrations—and quickly makes the Fiddler on the Roof connection.

The subject of Mary Cassatt faced many barriers. “I would almost rather see you dead.” her father told her when she said she wanted to paint. Yet the Philadelphia artist ranks with the finest Impressionists. Author Susan E. Meyer’s political style juxtaposes Cassatt’s family life with her famous mother-child pictures—and the result is engaging. There are 46 illustrations. (Abrams, $17.95 each)