The first concept of coloring an illustration reportedly dates back to 1612 when map illustrations were published with a poem by Michael Drayton and readers were encouraged to color them in. Despite the technological advances we’ve made since then, coloring remains a popular activity for both kids and adults today.
In addition to the fact that coloring sparks creativity and can relieve stress, it also offers a number of educational benefits for kids, including improving their motor skills, handwriting, and eye-hand coordination. But why not add to the educational benefits by introducing another level of learning?
The New York Academy of Medicine offers free printable coloring pages provided by international museums and libraries that reveal a world of cultural illustrations and concepts to kids. We’ve chosen a few samples from their varied collections, with the links for downloading, but you’ll find many more options at their Color Our Collections website. And these illustrations are so sophisticated and interesting, you may want to pick up the markers and color them with your kids!
From classic book illustrations and historic drawings of Shakespeare’s plays, to botanical art, now your kids can learn a bit of culture while they color!
“The Nursery Alice” from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by John Tenniel
This image is from The British Museum’s collection of twenty coloring pages from John Tenniel’s illustrations in Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Mary Crabtree, 2018 graphite
From the School of Botanical Art & Illustration at Denver Botanic Gardens
Rootabaga Stories, illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham, 1923
From the James Madison University Libraries
King Lear, engraved by Thomas Starling from a R. Smirke painting
From the Folger Shakespeare Library
“A Synopsis of the Birds of Australia” (1837), illustrated by Elizabeth Gould, digitized by: Museums Victoria
Time Pieces Coloring Book, illustration by Jack Parnell
“Deplantis” Woodcut by Pietro Andrea Gregorio Mattioli, 1586