Van Gogh Up Close, a new exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Feb. 1-May 6, features more than 45 paintings by the great artist Vincent Van Gogh. Here's what to expect if you attend — and how to make your trip an educational and exciting outing for your kids.
Getting Up Close
The selected works of Van Gogh Up Close, as described in a Museum announcement, "bring familiar subjects such as landscape elements, still lifes and flowers into the extreme foreground of the composition or focus on them in ways that are entirely unexpected."
You'll experience this viewpoint immediately upon entering the gallery. The opening subject is Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers, a bouquet of sunflowers in a vase, and a detailed version of sunflowers in another painting sits on the right wall.
The Sunflowers paintings provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss with your children the premise of the exhibit: How, on a basic level, are the paintings different?
Once your child understands that one painting is more "zoomed" than the other, you can discuss how the artist played with color, perspective, texture and brushstrokes in Sunflowers and the paintings that follow.
Look to materials provided by the Museum for direction. Introductions in each gallery and descriptions next to the works point out details. Some examples:
Van Gogh's treatment of the dirt road in Outskirts of Paris "leads the eye into the distance."
In Iris, Van Gogh depicts a single flower, not the whole garden he would have seen from his room while he was in an asylum.
In still lifes of fruit, Van Gogh looks "nose-to-nose," rather than above the food.
For younger children, pick up a free self-guided tour booklet, featuring quick lessons in art history, questions about Van Gogh's paintings and a fun cut-out paper "viewfinder" so kids can see for themselves how artists zoom in on details.
At a Family Studio event on Sun., Feb. 5, kids can paint sunflowers like Van Gogh and learn how Van Gogh used brushstrokes and bright colors in his paintings. This drop-in program from 10am-3pm is free after regular museum admission, which is pay-what-you-wish on Feb. 5. Tickets to see the Van Gogh exhibit are $12-$25 and must be purchased separately. Check in for the Family Studio at the Family Cart in the West Lobby.
Stephanie Halinski is calendar editor of MetroKids.