Narrative of an Art Museum Visit

The following narrative from 2004 recounts the experience I had with three of my kids at our local art museum. I included this account in my end-of-the-year assessment for our Ohio homeschool portfolio requirement. I originally wrote it, however, for myself. This is the kind of writing that you can do as a mother to help you stay in touch with all the ways your children are learning. It helps you to see that they are making connections and are expressing those relationships. When we write those comments down, we don't forget them as easily.

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One thing I love about Cincinnati is that the art museum isn't that far away. We went to it for the afternoon. We've been many, many times. I noticed that especially yesterday. As we walked in the door, Liam exclaimed, "I love that Chihuly chandelier." Jacob added, "I could look at it every day."

We made our way into the Greek and Egyptian displays and Caitrin noticed that they had rearranged them. She went on to point out which of the vases she liked best compared to last time. Liam wanted to stop and look at each of the hieroglyphs again.

We moved on and went into an exhibit that was put up by Proctor and Gamble - all Cincinnati art. I honestly didn't recognize the exhibit but the kids did. They started reminiscing about the pieces they had loved the last time we'd been there. We marveled at the quality of the artwork.

Later we found an entire exhibit devoted to Frank Duveneck (Cincinnati native) and were thrilled to see all his paintings together. That was new.

We made our way upstairs to see the Monets that are on loan from Paris and were blown away by the size and colors. Caitrin immediately told me the story of why this particular "Bridge at Giverny" was so hard to see close-up - "because Monet lost his eyesight as he got older and he would make paintings that were less and less realistic as a result." She pointed out how much the bridge showed up if we were at the back of the room compared to up close when we could see each swirl of the brush.

Liam reminded me of the Linnea in Monet's Garden book we had read and Jacob remembered the movie.

We were amazed that the "Cathedral at Rouen" was so dull close up and so vibrant at a distance. You could see the source of light behind it and it glowed from across the room.

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We walked into the modern art exhibit and all agreed again that we don't like modern art, except that I really like Mark Rothko. Rothko asserts that he isn't interested in form, line or color but in creating emotions. He says that he knows he communicates because when people look at his work, many report that they cry. Jacob, who couldn't remember who Rothko was when I spoke of him last week, was eager to see our Cincinnati Rothko. He didn't cry. He didn't understand why anyone would. I didn't cry either, but I did feel this weird surge in my chest.

Liam wanted to see a real Van Gogh so I took them to the only one in the museum. He remembered it then and commented, "that guy must really have liked paint. I like his blue." Caitrin added, "He uses globs of it. It's nice to see the real painting so we can see the globs up close." We wished for a Van Gogh exhibit to come to Cincinnati.

Our favorite rooms were closed for renovation. We were sad. So we went to other rooms we frequent less and noticed all the Italians. Jacob asked, "Will some of these painters be in Italy when we go next summer?" We discussed the benefits of great art being dispersed throughout the world rather than collected all in one town. We talked about why the Italian artwork was so much more dramatic than the British in the room next door. We shuddered in front of a boyish, rosy-cheeked David holding the recently severed head of a bloody Goliath.

We ended up in front of a painting that showed a woman deranged with a pale face, flowers dripping down her white gown, restrained by a man in a renaissance costume. They stood before a queen in anguish and a king with his face in his hands. Jacob called out, "Mom, this is from Hamlet! That's Ophelia." And it was. I hadn't even picked that up in the time it took Jacob to identify it. The man was Laertes, Ophelia's brother. Apparently this artist had wanted to make a series of Shakespeare paintings to display together in England, but the project failed and the pieces he painted have been bought by a variety of art connoisseurs. This painting is the first to have been purchased for the Cincinnati Art Museum and its purchase preceded the museum's construction by about five years. We wished we had seen others.

It was a great afternoon. And it was fun to see that repeated visits yielded so much in my kids.