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Metropolitan Museum of Art – Harmony Art Mom’s Visit

The Met NYC
New York City. Central Park. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Finally, the time had come for this art lover to visit the Met. It was such a treat to be able to share the experience with my husband, Mr. A, and Mr. B. All four of us took the train from our hotel in Newark, New Jersey into Penn Station in New York. We switched to the subway and emerged at the edge of Central Park, near the American Museum of Natural History which we had visited the day before. We planned the trip so we could walk across Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It was a great plan. We really enjoyed getting a taste of the natural spaces in Central Park.

The main event was the museum visit so with our City Passes in hand we gained admission and a map. Wow! We are no stranger to larger art museums (see our De Young Museum San Francisco visit from 2010) but even looking at the museum map made me take a deep breath. I didn’t know where to start so I turned the expedition over to the boys who decided the Egyptian gallery was going to be first.

The Met NYC egyptian
It was fascinating, colorful, amazing, and far more interesting than I could have ever imagined. The scale of this museum surprised me. There was a fully reconstructed temple inside and many obelisks, statues, and columns with hieroglyphs. A study of ancient cultures would come alive using the exhibits in this gallery. Many of the artifacts we had seen in books and on the internet so it was amazing to see them in real life..up close…the real thing.

Tiffany Autumn Window MET
Autumn Landscape Window. Tiffany. 1923-1924.

We made it through the Egyptian Art, the Greek and Roman Art, and then skipped over to the American Wing. My eyes were just darting everywhere and trying to take it all in. All of us were fascinated with the various aspects of this wing of the museum. It wasn’t just paintings and artwork but whole rooms full of furniture set to look as if someone lived there. There were dishes and clothing and then we came to the outer edges and found the Tiffany glass collection. Words do not describe it all.

There are just some things you have to see in person to appreciate. I have always been a huge fan of Tiffany glass but to see the vivid colors and the design of the pieces here at the museum was a treat of a lifetime.

American wing cafe MET
It was time for a rest to try to process it all.

We stopped for a break at the cafe…a little chocolate treat and a big drink of water. We all were a buzz with things we were enjoying. We pulled out the map of the museum and tried to gather our thoughts and make a plan for seeing all the important things since we knew by now we would not see it all.

Arms and Armory MET
Arms and Armor Gallery

The boys decided the Arms and Armor gallery was next on their priority list so we found that on the map and headed that way. It was hard not to be distracted by all the interesting things in between galleries but I did my best. This was the highlight of Mr. A’s visit to the Met. I wasn’t sure how I would like it but it ended up being very interesting….so many pieces of armor from people we have read about in our history books. It gave our history a layer of realness as we looked at Henry the VIII’s armor and saw helmets and swords of all kinds from around the world.

MET arms and armory gallery
We marveled at the artistry of it all. The craftsman who made these pieces were masters at making the functional items beautiful. Helmets, swords…lots of things for the boys to stop and look at and photograph.

Musical Instruments MET
Some how we managed to fit in the Musical Instruments gallery and I was really glad that we did. This was where Mr. A found some of his favorite things in the museum. It didn’t sound very exciting at first but once we entered the gallery I was fascinated with the collection of instruments from around the world. Some of them are works of art and quite beautiful.

Harvesters Pieter Bruegel
The Harvesters. Pieter Bruegel the Elder. 1565.

So now we came to the part of the visit that was on my “must do” list…..to visit the paintings that I longed to see in person and up close. I took many photos of artwork that meant something to me and I could bore you with loads and loads of them but instead I picked a few that we all are familiar with just so you can get a little taste of what this museum offers if you ever get the chance to visit.

Note: We took a lunch break before we started this leg of our visit. The cafe was super yummy and it had quite a variety of delicious foods to try. Tip: Don’t skip the lunch hour. Feed your teens…they will have a much better attitude.

Friedland. Ernest Meissonier.
1807, Friedland. Ernest Meissonier.

Mr. B enjoyed the paintings with historical significance. I caught him several times just standing and gazing. It always felt like such a private moment that I didn’t want to interrupt with lots of talking or questions. I just let him take it all in on his terms. My strategy must have worked because I heard him tell someone that this was his favorite place we went to in New York. Smiles from this Art Mama.

“In the beginning, it’s more important for them to simply know the paintings. In the same way we do with worthy books, we let the artist tell his own story without our interference telling the child what to think about it. We trust a picture to say what the artist wanted via the medium the artist chose. In art, just like in everything else, we eliminate the middleman and let the work speak for itself.”
Charlotte Mason, volume 6. (CM Series in Modern English)

Gray Weather Grand Jatte. Georges Seurat. 1886-1888.
Gray Weather Grand Jatte. Georges Seurat. 1886-1888.

It is impossible to share the colors of the Seurat paintings in photos. I talked about it in our De Young Museum visit and it held true with this visit to the Met. You can’t imagine the genius of the use of color in a Seurat painting until you see it up close with your own eyeballs. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Woman Rocking a Cradle-Augustine Roulin. Vincent Van Gogh.
Woman Rocking a Cradle-Augustine Roulin. Vincent Van Gogh. 1889

Then there was my old friend Vincent Van Gogh. There were so many Van Gogh paintings at the Met that I was overwhelmed. This one though was my favorite. There is just something about it that touched me. Maybe it is the color, the pose, or the flowers….again Van Gogh surprises me with the way his painting seems so whimsical when I know in real life he was a mess. Such a contrast between his heart and his reality.

Mada Primavesi. Gustav Klimt. 1912.
Mada Primavesi. Gustav Klimt. 1912.

This is another painting that surprised me! This is a Gustav Klimt and it just felt like I should own this one and have it on my wall at home. It was so “me”. Again, I think it is the color choice, the background, and the pose.

2 young girls at the piano renoir
Two Young Girls at the Piano. Pierre Auguste Renoir. 1892.

This was the painting that took my breath away. In real life it is strikingly beautiful. I was standing and admiring it and I whispered under my breath something like, “I really like this painting.” I was just talking to myself and then I heard a voice whisper behind me, “I do too.” It was an older gentleman who had been standing and sharing the moment with me. It was a nice connection with a perfect stranger. Art does that though….we all seem to be touched by different things but when you share a love of art or a specific painting, you feel rather human.

“Art is a thing of the spirit, and we need to teach it in ways that affect the spirit. We realize that the ability to appreciate art and interpret it is as universal to all people as intelligence, or imagination, or the ability to form words to communicate. But that ability needs to be educated.”
Charlotte Mason, volume 6. (CM Series in Modern English)

 

figures on the beach renoir
Figures on the Beach. Pierre Auguste Renoir. 1890.

Here is another of the many Renoir paintings they had on display. I have seen this one a hundred times in books and on websites but seeing it in person is a completely different experience.

Renoir’s brushes painted this painting. He stood right where I was standing to create this artwork, capturing a moment in time for me to enjoy over a hundred years later. How awesome is that?

There are so many other things I could share with you but those are some of the highlights of my adventure at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Believe me, I restrained myself from sharing too many of my images but you can be assured that I will be including them in future blog entries and in my Harmony Fine Arts supplemental information.

top of the rock NYC
Top of the Rock, New York City.

We left the Met a full six hours later. This is not something I would recommend with younger children…an hour at most would have been the limit. But, my boys are in their late teens and have an interest in art and history so with two snack breaks and a lunch break in the cafe, we were able to stretch our time out to take in as much as possible.

We had one more attraction on our City Pass to try so we braved the bus from the Met to Rockefeller Center. Here we rode the elevator up to the Top of the Rock. This was a great experience and the weather was perfect for viewing the surrounding areas. We had already been to the Empire State Building but both my boys enjoyed the Top of the Rock more than that.

Top of the Rock Central Park
Here is the landscape looking back towards Central Park. We sat for a long time on the top of the building and just soaked in the view of New York City. None of us is what we would call “city people” but from up here in the sky, the city doesn’t seem so intimidating. There was a beautiful sky, a vast green park, lots of water, and a nice fresh breeze. Not so bad up here on the top of the world.

We were headed back home the next day so we took our subway train to Penn Station, the New Jersey Rail Train back to Newark and then packed up to leave for home.

I am not sure if I will ever get back to the Metropolitan Museum of Art but we made the most of the time we were able to spend there on this trip. From the simple and humble beginnings of picture study in our family, this week by week learning of artists and their works has grown in us the heart of an art lover. Our appreciation and connection with the spirit of the artist is a gift we will cherish our entire life. Making the connections even deeper by visiting the actual paintings at the Met seems to have been a natural progression…these were real people with real lives and they left us their legacy to respect and appreciate.

We had a fantastic adventure to New York but it feels good to be back at home away from the hustle and noise of the city.

You may be interested in reading my post: Tips for a Family Visit to the Art Museum.
You may also be interested in this post:
Homeschool Art Appreciation – Charlotte Mason High School Examples Part One.

Post-Impressionists Exhibit and Charlotte Mason

With eager anticipation, two of my children and I set out on the road to San Francisco last week to view the Post-Impressionist Exhibit at the De Young Museum. The day was gray and the Bay Bridge was enclosed in fog so there was no great view of “The City” but it didn’t dampen our spirits.

We were on our way to see some of Van Gogh’s famous paintings and that was enough to cheer us up.

That was ten days ago and I have purposefully left off writing about my experience because I have been really mulling over the experience I shared with my children that day. It deeply impressed on me the value of introducing art in our homeschooling. What a joy it was to have shared the journey with my own children!

Art is such a big part of our lives and we spend probably spend more than your average family talking about artists and composers. Stepping into a museum like the De Young for us is like attending the World Series or the Super Bowl for sports fans. We don’t often get to visit art museums and I know for myself that being in the presence of so much great art  makes me a little giddy and light-headed.

California Spring Albert Bierstadt
We were early for our exhibit reservations so while we waited we were able to visit the American Art gallery upstairs which was filled with many familiar artists and paintings. It was like visiting old friends as we stepped quietly from room to room. We saw one of my favorite paintings, California Spring by Albert Bierstadt. The colors in this painting in real life, up close are stunningly beautiful. It is like seeing the image in technicolor…..I wanted to pull up a park bench and just sit and look at this one for a long time or better yet, jump on a horse and ride off down into that valley to explore the riverbanks you see there in the distance. Amazing.

Modern American Sculpture
I must admit that not all of the artwork thrilled me but it did make for great discussion with Mr. A as he viewed the more modern pieces of American art. It reminded me of something I read recently about what defines great art. The person said that great art is art that you think about after you leave the gallery. It effects you in some way either positively or negatively. That definition explains why there is so much art that sort of leaves me scratching my head….it does make you think even if you don’t think it is beautiful. I think this concrete slab sculpture sort of fits that category….or maybe it is just a hunk of concrete….it is all perspective I guess.

De Young Cafe
We had time after the American Art gallery to grab a bite in the museum cafe. By this time the fog had burned off and the sun was out so we sat in the outdoor seating area to enjoy our sandwiches and salads. We chatted about our favorite paintings from the morning, what we hoped to see in the Post-Impressionists exhibit, and how great it was to have the opportunity to view so many paintings from the Musee d’Orsay here in San Francisco.

Finally the anticipation was over and we entered the first gallery of the Post-Impressionists exhibit. Since we were not allowed to take photos I have to work from memory but I will share some of the highlights and then a few of my rambling thoughts.

Starry Night Over the Rhone

I have a friend that visited this exhibit some time ago and he fell in love with this painting. I was eager to see it up close and see the brushstrokes and the amazing colors. Funny thing is that when I got up to it…standing where Van Gogh would have stood to paint it with an outstretched brush….it made me sad. I don’t mind that it made me sad but I was a little surprised that it did.

VanGogh_Bedroom_Arles wikipedia
Bedroom in Arles
As Robert Browning said,
“Keep in mind, we’re designed so that we only come to appreciate and love something we’ve passed by a hundred times, only after we see its beauty in a painting.”

I stood in front of this painting and said to myself, “I could paint that.” But after standing and studying it a bit, I realized that I couldn’t paint it…..the colors, the very simplicity of his space…it was beautiful. I wanted to throw open those shuttered windows and see the view. I wanted to sit in the chair and have a chat with Vincent the Painter. It was so alive.

My favorite painting of the whole exhibit is probably this one.
Entrance to the Port at Marseilles Paul Signac

The colors in this one are amazing! The water and reflections are a myriad of colors. The painting is also quite large and is impressive that way too. It shimmered with color and life. It is not pointillism but is divisionism– where the paint is applied in parallel splotches. The paints are not mixed on the canvas but the colors are side by side which when viewed up close is quite striking.

As the afternoon progressed, rounding coming after corner, I would see another artist friend from our studies. They were all there….Renoir, Gauguin, Seurat, Cezanne, and so many others. My children and I each spent time standing in front of some artwork we loved and some we hated. We experienced art and felt some sort of connection. While our bodies physically were in San Francisco, in the De Young Museum, in an art gallery, we were some how connected with each of the painters….time travelers. 

I realize now that I could share dozens of paintings from our day with you but it is not the same as seeing them for yourself.  I encourage you to make some opportunities for you family this year to view art up close. We are looking forward to this summer when there will be another exhibit to visit….Picasso!

De Young Museum and Golden Gate Park
It was a really long day but we stepped outdoors at the end and were revived by the peacefulness of Golden Gate Park. We sat on the bench watching people, listening to the water in the fountain, and again we chatted about our experiences. What did we like? What didn’t we like? What surprised us? It was after all just paint on canvas…how could we be so emotionally attached? We were inspired. I was inspired to keep on doing what I do with Harmony Fine Arts so that some other homeschooling mom can someday have the same sort of experience with her own children in their local art museum. It makes my efforts with Harmony Fine Arts seem valuable and worthwhile.

I was inspired by Charlotte Mason to offer exposure to great artists and their artwork many years ago. The simple process she outlines in Volume Six of her writings really works. If you haven’t taken the plunge yet….I urge you….don’t hesitate. If my Harmony Fine Arts plans can be of a help to you in getting started, please put a year plan on your schedule for next year.

De Young Museum 12 2010
That is one happy Harmony Art Mom who loves sharing this sort of experience with her sweet smiling daughter….now that she is twenty-five years old I am no longer the teacher but the fellow art enthusiast.

“The six reproductions are studied one at a time so that the students learn to not just see a picture, but to look carefully at it, absorbing every detail. After looking at the picture, it’s turned over and the children narrate, telling what they saw, perhaps, ‘a dog driving a flock of sheep along a road all by himself. No, wait, there’s a boy, too. He’s lying at the river, getting a drink. You can tell by the light that it’s morning, so the sheep must be going out to graze in the pasture,’ and so on. The children don’t miss any details–the discarded plow, the crooked birch tree, the beautifully formed clouds that look like it might rain. There’s enough to talk about to keep the children busy for half an hour, and afterwards, the picture will have formed such a memory that the children will recognize it wherever they see it, whether it’s a signed proof, an oil reproduction, or the original itself in a museum.”

Tips for a Family Visit to the Art Museum



I had a request for information on how to plan a trip to an art museum with children. I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this before, it is a great topic. (Thanks Laura.)

There are several things that you can do to prepare for a successful day at the museum.

  • I usually start by going to the museum’s website and looking for a button that will take me to their permanent collections. You can search on Google for the museum’s name, or I like to search on Wikipedia for the museum’s name.
  • My next advice is to scan through the museum’s collection to see if there are any paintings you have already studied or artists that you are familiar with.
  • You could pick an artist that has paintings at the museum to focus on and use resources you have or those from the library to share with your children before the trip. It always helps build enthusiasm if they are looking forward to seeing an artist they have learned about beforehand.
  • You can print out a few of the paintings (postcard size) that you will see and let the children carry them with them as they walk through the museum, using the cards for a sort of “scavenger hunt”. I would suggest three paintings per child would be a good number to start with. It makes it more interesting when they actually have some reason to be at the museum other than just wandering around and not knowing much about the painters.
  • Check the museum’s website for any lesson plans or activities they offer for children that relate to exhibits they have at the museum.
  • You could even print out a map of the museum from most websites and this could help you plan your visit. It always helps to know where the restroom is for those little emergencies.

Another aspect that you need to prepare you children for is the “manners” part of visiting an art museum. There are certainly no hard and fast rules but just common sense and common courtesy. Most people come to the museum to relax and enjoy the artwork so it is best to use your best “library” voices when you are talking in the galleries. In the past, my husband and I tried to hold the children’s hands as we walked along and this not only helped to keep them from running in the museum, it made it easier to point things out or discuss what we were looking at.

The Met

Plan to spend no more than 90 minutes actually looking at paintings. You will not be able to bring snacks into the galleries but most museums have some sort of cafe or outdoor eating area where you can take a break if you notice the children are getting weary. I usually plan to arrive as early as possible in the morning so my children are fresh. Make a trip to the restroom before heading to view the artwork. It is usually warm inside so leave the coats at the coat-check if the museum has one.

Met Egyptian Gallery

Another activity you can do while at the museum is to have a “theme” for the day. You could decide you are going to look for artwork that has hats in it or you could look for artwork that has circles or trees or horses or whatever you decide. This makes it fun for the children to really look at the paintings and then share with you what they see. If your children are older and have studied a little art history, you could challenge them to look for artwork from a certain art period.

Last but not least, plan for a few minutes in the museum gift shop. These little shops are like a treasure chest of art related books and resources. I always let the children pick out a postcard-size reproduction of some painiting we saw during our visit. We use these to follow-up our trip to the museum. A really fun idea is to take the postcard home and then have the child write some comments about the painting on the back of it to remember the experience with.

Here are some additional websites for you to scan for more ideas about visiting art museums:
Making the Most of the Museum Visit
Making a Museum Visit Fun for Toddlers, Teens, and In-Betweens

I really hope that you all attempt an art museum trip this year. Once you try it, you will look forward to your next visit. We visit the Crocker Art Museum every year and we never tire of looking at the paintings. We have our favorites and we always find something new and interesting to look at.

The Met NYC

Edit to add: You may be interested to read about our trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City: Harmony Art Mom’s Visit.

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