Monday, November 29, 2010

Museum Surprises (or how to get your child to turn off his Nintendo)

7 Year Old Inspired by Durer

Thanksgiving weekend is often one big overload; too much driving, too much food. This year I decided to break up our annual upstate NY Food n’ Family fest with a day trip. As a child my parents often took me to Williamstown Massachusetts and I wanted to take my kids to see it. The drive, I remembered, was always beautiful, hilly, full of steep inclines. There were terrifying moments with Dad, in the driver’s seat, making hairpin turns at 75mph while pointing out the window to show me the sights.

We'd usually go to the Sterling Clark Institute. I told my sons about this huge museum packed with French Impressionists.  Mostly Renoirs. I didn’t like Renoir as a child and I’m still not a huge fan. But I was always enthralled by the huge painting of Nymphs and Satyr by Bougereau and a naive wood carving by Gauguin that hung over a doorway.
Neither of these pieces was there anymore. Even the Renoirs were on tour. And the museum itself, while impressive for a small collection, was pretty…well…small. But what they do they do well. And they currently are running a fantastic Albrecht Durer exhibit. His skill was amazing, his imagination mindboggling, his fantastical woodcuts and engravings were ground breaking at the time. But for a seven year old I wondered how a day in the museum would compare with a day full of TV and Wii games.

I’ll tell you how it compared. My boy fell in love with the artwork. There was a Durer Drawing Day underway when we arrived. He and I were handed pads of papers, portable drawing boards, some supplies, and the opportunity to sit for a lesson with a “real artists.” We concluded that WE were “real artists” and skipped the lessons. We headed in to see the drawings.  My son came face to face with some amazing pieces, some fantastic symbolism. Three-headed spewing dragons.  Angels battling demons. Odd looking roaming animals. What more could a kid want?

He didn’t want to copy Durer's artwork. He wanted to be inspired.  People sat all over the floor, drawing in corners, on benches, against the walls. I saw many children that were clearly gifted and spent hours on one piece. My boy’s drawings were quick and constant. He plowed through the drawing pad. He refused to leave. I dragged him to see other artwork but he was too moved by the Durers. He came back and drew his own demons. Angels. Gravestones. Skeletons floating into the sky. We went back to my mother’s house later and he dragged out the paints. He painted more.
I bought him a book of Durer’s woodcuts. “My first art book” he said proudly. It was a good Thanksgiving weekend. My boy is inspired and I’m truly thankful. 


  1. Aw, Paula, I got a little teary! Such a mom!

    I've never even heard of this museum! Crazy! And for a young boy, Durer beats Renoir any day of the week. How lucky!

    And I'm resisting getting a wii something fierce. I'm afraid the grandparents (husband's parents) are going to get it for us this Christmas because it's on sale at costco and, well, everyone wants one, right? I'm guessing about the costco thing, but that's generally what they do. Gah. :)

    Laters and yay for museums! And for boys interested in art!

  2. Thanks Penelope. It was a truly joyful day for me. My younger son blew me away. So excited by the trip, by the artwork. Very satisfying for an art-lovin' mom.
    My older son stayed back at my mom's house and spent the day reading and going to lunch with his grandmother. I was sad that he was so disinterested in the museum trip, but I know he's a very different kind of kid with his own important fantastic interests. And I was happy that he cared so much about his grandmother that he didn't want her to be home alone.
    As for the Wii, it does have it's good points. My biggest objection is that, outside of the sports games, many of the other games are somewhat violent. Even SpongeBob games involve blasting. But it is one of the few things both of my boys can play together without strangling each other. Lots of luck with that!

  3. Renoir? Durer? Excellent intros! Albeit vastly apart in style- I like your post!
    Th farther away from electronic entertainment the better. Hands on !

  4. Thanks JSB.
    I'm in agreement about the electronic entertainment.
    I like getting the kids thinking, using their imagination. I hate that they are limited by what they see on the screen. My goal this year is a museum a month with the boys.
    That said, 7 year old boy is home sick and I confess I'm looking forward to snuggling and watching the original Willy Wonka with him.

  5. By God, you're brainwashing that child with your demonic art-lovin' ways, Paula!

    I'm calling Nintendo. They want your boys back.

  6. Oh, please, don't I wish. They are still in Nintendo's evil clutches. I just have visitation rights.

  7. How awesome! Looks like a trip to the Clark is in our future. I had their brochure in my hand on Friday! Thanks for sharing such wonderful memories with us. You are a great mom!

  8. Love those drawings! My boys like electronics, but they also love to draw, read, and play outside. Aahhh...a balanced life! Your boys both have passions: for one it is art, and for the other, marine biology!! You ARE a great mom.

  9. Aw, shucks, guys! I'm blushing. I'm just selfishly dragging them around to museums! But I'd like to think I'm helping them be a little more well rounded. Now how to get a little more marine biology in their lives....hmmm....

  10. I came here via Rock in My Pocket. I'm so glad I did: Durer and children drawing like life depended on it.

  11. Ahhhh...Rock in My Pocket. One of the best blogs around. Also happens to be my sister-in-law so I'm lucky enough to experience her wit and twisted wisdom in person!
    Thanks, Blythe. I'm a blogger newbie so I appreciate the kind words.
    I'm afraid my upcoming posts may fall a bit short but that's the way blogs go...Look forward to reading yours.