I don’t often like to admit that I’m wrong, but it turns out my assumption that art galleries and young children don’t mix was completely incorrect. Today I went with Beanie-boy to the Pushkin Fine Arts museum, and was able to enjoy an exhibition about Caravaggio and his followers…and my son enjoyed it too!
We started with one of the permanent exhibits of classical sculptures. Beanie-boy really liked that section, probably because a fair proportion of the statues were holding spears, swords and shields. Taking things at my four-year old’s pace and level seemed to be the key, so we had quite a long conversation about helmets, sharp objects, and how he is too small to be given large knives!
When we got to the paintings he enjoyed talking about those too and I found it was easier than I thought to keep him engaged. We looked for things to identify – like types of musical instruments or fruits and vegetables, and we talked about the details that help you to know what a painting is about – someone with a helmet is a soldier, someone holding a paintbrush is an artist etc.
Some paintings we talked about in detail – his favourite was Matthias Stom’s Healing of Tobit. We discussed who the figures in the painting might be (the angel, the sick man and we guessed the one in the middle was the doctor – although having Googled it turns out to be the older man’s son). We also talked about how clever the artist was to be able to paint the folds in the cloaks and the wrinkles on the old woman’s face.
Some paintings I tried hard to steer us past because they weren’t so easy to talk about. One of the paintings was of the dead body of Christ, and when he asked me why the man was “lying down” and I tried to explain that it was a painting of Jesus just after he had died, my poor little Beanie got a bit tearful. And as for the painting of the woman dragging a decapitated head of a giant through the street, we both agreed it was far too scary and so we hurried on to the next one. It might perhaps be best to stick to landscapes next time!
We only saw a very small section of the gallery – our rumbling tummies decided we should stop for lunch – so having had such a successful trip we’ll definitely come back again to see some more.
The museum is on Ulitsa Volkhonka 12 and their website is at www.arts-museum.ru/visitors/index.php?lang=en I also found this article from pitterpattertravelers.com was a great source of ideas for how to engage children at art galleries.