Samantha is my nine-year old granddaughter and the first of my grandchildren. She has a talent for drawing and is already able to draw with proportion and perspective. She has a good eye and can copy what she sees. I admire this ability and try to imagine what it would be like to have that kind of eye-to-hand connection.
I took her to the National Gallery of Art one afternoon recently. It was just the two of us. Since her mother has been careful to teach her about modesty, we had a little conversation about the human body being the subject of art as a thing of beauty. I told her that in art the human body, with or without clothing, is often the subject of paintings and sculpture. We walked into the gallery and immediately she stood a little taller, became a young student, and had many comments about the art she saw.
“Grandma, I can imagine the story of this painting. Here is the. . . .and here is the. . .” She was so enthralled with the colors and shapes of a piece of modern art.
Later, a different artist did not impress her much. It was an abstract seascape, but looked a bit like a young child’s work. Samantha said, “Grandma, how did this get in the art gallery?” We laughed together.
I loved showing her the paintings that I had fallen in love with when I was nine. Fragonard, Renoir, Degas, and Monet were among my most favorite painters. I liked to imagine that I was in the big garden swing of Fragonard, or the girl in the garden with the watering can. It all seemed so wonderful and magical. Samantha paused and took them in, but she didn’t react with the things I imagined. She seemed especially interested in the Dutch painters and their techniques that made fabric look like you could touch it or flowers so real, you might catch their scent.
The final room we went in was the sculpture of Rodin. I had forgotten his beautiful study of horses. Samantha also spent a long time studying each piece and asked a lot of questions about how the work was done. I shared what little I knew and wished I knew more. It was a wonderful two hours, followed by hot chocolate at a nearby restaurant. It made me happy to be the grandmother I want to be for a few hours.