Jean-Michel Basquiat – Radiant Child



Radiant child by Javaka Steptoe, a book about artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, was awarded the Caldecott Medal as the most distinguished picture book for children earlier this year.

The book takes you through Jean-Michel’s childhood and all of his inspiration and ideas about how he wants to be an artist. He’s influenced by books, art museums and at times his mother.

We thoroughly enjoyed the story which becomes emotional at times. The illustrations were very well put together and keep the reader interested. I especially enjoyed the back biography page which has many more facts about him.

This book is the 2017 Caldecott Medal winner.



For teens and young adults, there’s a documentary called “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child”, which is extremely revealing and explains much more about his life. It’s excellent and worth watching for those who want to learn more about him. The documentary was directed by Tamra Davis, a friend of Jean-Michel. It’s loaded with insider interviews including Jean-Michel and gives the viewer scads of pictures of him, video of Jean-Michel working, and his art. There are also interviews with people who interacted with Jean-Michel during his career. The documentary features interviews with Julian Schnabel, Larry Gagosian, Bruno Bischofberger, Tony Shafrazi. Fab 5 Freddy, Glenn O’Brien, Maripol, Kai Eric, Nicholas Taylor, Fred Hoffman, Michael Holman, Diego Cortez, Annina Nosei, Suzanne Mallouk, and Rene Ricard, among many more. It also includes an uncut interview with the filmmaker Tamra Davis.

We enjoyed seeing Jean-Michel in his life, interacting with others, and creating art in this documentary. The director did an amazing job honoring and endorsing her friend Jean-Michel. If I were to rate the documentary between 1-5 stars, I’d give it:


You can read more about Jean-Michel below…

Jean-Michel Basquiat, also known as SAMO was an artist born in Brooklyn, New York in 1960. From a very young age Jean-Michel had an interest in art and said he was going to be famous. His mother Matilde took him to art museums in Manhattan which inspired him and helped him develop a love for art. He then started drawing pictures and spent all of his time creating art.

At the age of eight, Jean-Michel was involved in a car accident while playing in the street. He suffered a broken arm and some other injuries which caused him to have his spleen removed. To help him understand what was happening with his body, his mother brought home a copy of Gray’s Anatomy for him to read. This inspired him even more and became a huge influence into his young career.

Jean-Michel was a very intelligent child and was speaking French, Spanish, and English at a young age. He was also a strong athlete and competed in track events. Life changed  for him at the age of 13 when his mother became mentally ill and was admitted into a mental institution. Jean-Michel became scared and wondered when his mother would come home. By age 15, he ran away from home. Although he was returned to his father, he eventually dropped out of school which made his father angry and he was told to leave home. Jean-Michel began living with his friends in Brooklyn and made money by creating post cards and shirts.

Around the age of 16 he started spray-painting graffiti on buildings in Manhattan. He would sign his work with the name SAMO. It was a mystery and everyone wanted to know who SAMO was. He joined into a band  by the name of Gray with some other friends and the band started playing at numerous clubs. It was around this time that Jean-Michel was at a restaurant with his friends and saw Andy Warhol. He gave him some samples of his art and Warhol was fascinated by them. Eventually, they became very close and collaborated together.

Jean-Michel’s career picked up after an art show at the Annina Nosei gallery. He worked in a basement below the gallery for some time creating multiple works of art on canvas and his first show was a huge success. Basquiat’s art known as Neo-Expressionism contained symbols, words, animals, and stick figures which made it unique.

Jean-Michel’s career soared. He started selling paintings to the public, some higher that $50,000.  Unfortunately, by the mid-1980s, he excessively started using drugs. He began isolating himself from the world. He had a heroin addiction and tried to get sober. Sadly, he couldn’t overcome it and he died of a drug overdose on August 12, 1988, in New York City at the age of 27 years old.

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960 – 1988) had a brief but brilliant career. You can still see Jean-Michel’s art in museums today.

Here are a few of Jean-Michel Basquiat works

Untitled, 1981
Dustheads, 1982
Untitled, 1981
Part Wolf
Leeches, 1983

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