Masterpiece Coloring Book

Two Japanese artists interpret the classic works of old masters with childlike but intelligent perspective

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Often irreverent and always original, Zurich-based indecent publishing house Nieves has been publishing offbeat zines and art books since 2001, for a dedicated fan base that’s global and ever-growing. Their latest release, “Masterpiece Coloring Book” is one of their more abstract releases, but it’s entirely captivating. In the 36-page book Nieves regulars Ken Kagami and Masanao Hirayama showcase their raw, unfettered, childlike interpretations of the masters from Leonardo da Vinci to Henri Matisse to Pablo Picasso.


Many of the iconic paintings interpreted are barely recognizable, but still manage to reveal enough of the original for the viewer to be drawn in. Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (shown in the slideshow) is recognizable by the swirling sky and general spatial composition—but little else. Kagami and Hirayama’s works reveal the basic visual elements that help us connect to complex works in a way that’s intelligent and fun. A particularly useful tool for designers and artists who may have hit a wall or are just looking for a jolt in inspiration, the work reminds us to take things back to the basics to open up the complexities.

“The Masterpiece Coloring Book” is available from Nieves for $12. A special exhibition with both Kagami and Hirayama along with book signing and release party is set for 8 April at NADiff in Tokyo. Check out the slideshow for a look at more excerpts from the Japanese artists’ new release.

Images courtesy of Nieves