"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The National Gallery

I took the kids to the National Gallery in Washington DC on Saturday. Thanks to my wonderfully creative sister-in-law who reminded me that this book existed and loaned me her copy, we had a pretty fun time.

The book, (from the same illustrator as the Fancy Nancy books), tells a story with only pictures, no words. There's a fun map in front of the balloon's route around DC. The back of the book lists all of the real artwork with credits, as well as telling you about famous Americans that are drawn into many of the scenes. The basic premise of the story is a grandma (or possibly older mom) taking her two grandkids (or possibly children) to the National Gallery, but the girl has a balloon, and you can't take a balloon into the National Gallery. They end up tying the balloon to a photographers George Washington cardboard cut-out outside and they enter the museum.

While they are seeing the famous artwork, the balloon has become free and is having an adventure of its own around famous DC landmarks. The artwork depicted in the book is real artwork owned by the National Gallery (it's not always all on display, we saw artwork that my sister-in-law had marked as not on display, and she saw paintings that weren't on display when we visited). Along with the real artwork are drawings of the balloons crazy adventures that are very similar to the artwork the grandkids are seeing in the gallery. For instance:

My kids were wimpy about reenacting the exact pose.
And my camera took a terrible picture with the lighting in here.

The National Gallery is HUGE! There were a lot of sections that we hurried through. But there were also sections that my kids really enjoyed. Baby X loved the displays of horse armor and kept blowing raspberries (his horse noise). He also liked any paintings involving dogs or babies. Thank goodness for the periods of art history where women were depicted with their babies, or when drawing the Madonna with baby was hugely popular.

When we first entered the museum, I asked the woman at the information desk for anything they had special for kids. She handed me a glossy sheet of paper with about 20 one inch square pictures of artwork in the museum that kids tend to like (a statue of a girl ballerina, a painting of a fluffy white dog, a portrait of George Washington, etc.) to use as a sort of I Spy game. This, mixed with the book and the artwork from it we were trying to find, really helped keep the kids interested. Someone also suggested going to the gift shop first and letting each kid pick out a postcard of a piece of artwork (75 cents) and then they try to find it while you tour the museum. I didn't happen upon the gift shop until the end, so I let them each pick a postcard of their favorite artwork. Princess Sparkley picked a postcard of the girl ballerina statue. Buddy picked a postcard of Washington DC on the fourth of July with fireworks (not exactly the artwork postcard I was going for) and I chose Wayne Thiebaud's famous "Cakes" painting.*

I'm not going to lie to you and say it was all wonderful and the kids were great art enthusiasts. Taking a 7 year old, a 5 1/2 year old, and especially a 21 month old to an art gallery by myself was not easy. About halfway through the main floor Baby X was losing it. We took a break, went out on the front steps and ate snacks for about 20 minutes. We were yelled at by five museum guards:
1. Buddy pushing Baby X in the stroller sort of wildly in an exhibit room while I tried to help PS take a picture of a painting she wanted to photograph.
2. In the modern art part of the museum Buddy was trying to get really close to a painting (because modern art is excitingly crazy) and a guard had to tell us to stay 12 inches back... he was actually really nice about it.
3. Buddy absentmindedly running his hand along a table in the middle of an exhibit room. Apparently this table was on exhibit... it was just the first art of that type we'd come across.
4. Buddy absentmindedly running his hand along a large, weird statue in a foyer/stairway area that was also, apparently artwork. This guard was nice and friendly about it as well.
5. In the modern art building there are trees with little circle benches around them in the foyer. Buddy was walking around speedily on one of these little walls... no where near any artwork, but the guard didn't want him to fall.

Buddy and Princess Sparkley on the steps of the National Gallery
Princess Sparkley is in light blue, just left of center.

Baby X (freed from his stroller), PS and Buddy on the steps of the National Gallery

Between the National Gallery and the East building that houses the modern art museum, is this courtyard with glass pyramids. The pyramids, it turns out, are skylights that look down into the cafe. We then went down to the concourse between the two museums and saw the pyramids as skylights. Riding the flat escalator walkway between the two museums, underground, may have been the highlight of the trip for Buddy.

In the modern art museum.

*I'm planning a complete kitchen design around his cake paintings now.


Erin said...

I read that book before I went to DC. It is really cute. It took me a couple of times to figure out the parallel poses with the art. I am impressed your kids did so well at the museum. I was glad to only have Mimi to deal with when I was there.

Erin said...

Oh, and I love the cake/kitchen idea. That would be really cool.

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