The other morning I was hovering outside the doorway while my daughter was in her room getting dressed (a certain amount of nagging is required for this process on school days). I heard her say to herself, with a little sigh, "That picture is so much better than mine." I peeked in, and found her looking at a print of Van Gogh's Starry Night. She had appropriated this print previously, and keeps in her book nook.
I reassured her by telling her that Van Gogh's paintings are better than 99.99999% of people's pictures, and that Starry Night in particular is going to be a famous painting for as long as there are people in the world. She did seem to find this comforting, and we moved on to a discussion of how "Gogh" sounds like "go" but is spelled differently. I told her that there was even a song written about Starry Night, and I promised to find it so that she could listen later in the day.
Then she asked: "Does Van Gogh have any other paintings?". When I said yes, she asked if we could get a book of them so that she could see. Because (as regular readers well know) I never pass up the chance to buy books, I found and ordered both a picture book about Van Gogh created by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a little $2 notebook with Starry Night on the cover. [My daughter is obsessed with notebooks, as I was when I was a kid.]
A few thoughts:
- I love that she is starting to appreciate art. I'm guessing that our years of looking at the art of picture books have helped to inform her opinion, but I think it's amazing that it was Van Gogh who first prompted her to make value statements about some art being better than other.
- I did not even consider telling her that her paintings are, or will ever be, as good as Van Gogh's. I can imagine some parents being tempted to do that, in the interest of feeding their children's self esteem, but I think that would be a serious error. For one thing, it would have been a lie. For another thing, she would have known that it was a lie, and it would have undercut her belief in her own judgment. She's just starting to see that there is a difference in the quality of art - I want to embrace that. If she were to ask (which she didn't in this case), I would tell her that her art will get better with time and practice, but that very, very few people reach the level of Van Gogh.
- All of this took place over about two or three minutes, while she was getting dressed for school, thus providing further evidence that kids are little sponges, seeking learning opportunities everywhere and at any time.
Now, I'm off to dig out the other miscellaneous picture books that we have that are about famous artists. I won't force them on her, but I will get them into the candidate stack of breakfast books.