art for kids

La Vie Est Belle…Paris in Instagrams

photo

It’s been 15 years almost to the day since I was last in Paris, undoubtably my favorite city in the world. I can’t say if it is the beauty of the Haussmann designed neighborhoods, the variety of world-class and intimate museums, the incredible shopping, in particular the antiques, or simply the butter and the croissants. It just doesn’t matter. Even when gray and rainy, life is beautiful in Paris. While my husband had long been in agreement with me, my girls had only fantasized about Paris and I was looking forward to sharing it with them. I wanted to be sure to do Paris right, because it can be done wrong – endless lines, endless tramping through museums coupled with bad cafe food. The key to doing Paris well with kids (and by default other cities too) is to break things down into small pieces, small tastes and acknowledge that only what is directly interesting in that moment needs to be experienced. Find the sublime, because it is out there.

Obviously museums are the baguette and butter of a trip to Paris. Some of the greatest hits should not be missed including Monet’s masterpiece Les Nymphéas at Musee de l’Orangerie, Winged Victory at the Louvre, and for my girls, Degas’ Blue Dancers at the Musée d’Orsay. But we arrived at l’Orangerie at opening to view the space empty and only went to the Louvre during the relatively uncrowded evening hours – it is open until 9:45 Wednesday and Friday – which made all the difference. Beyond the biggies are some magical places – the Musée Rodin Museum, Le Petit Palais, The Musée Jacquemart-André to name a few – but those are the ones that appeal to me. There are endless choices, but but be sure to pick only a few.

orangerie louvre dorsay museums

Ironically enough, at the moment I was uploading what I though was a very funny selfie of us crammed in at the Mona Lisa (with the actually much more interesting The Wedding Feast at Cana directly behind us), The New York Times was publishing its own version of the photo as a companion to their article “The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum” which makes a strong case for doing just what we did.

view at the louvre nytimes

My small but very exciting moment was seeing Jaques-Louis David’s unfinished portrait of Madame Récamier (although I was probably supposed to be looking at the gargantuan The Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame across the room). You all know I am a sucker for a daybed of any type, but I’ve never been lucky enough to have one named for me. And in one of those moments of synchronicity that could only happen at the Louvre (or perhaps the Met), we stumbled across her actual chaise made by Jacob Frères.

Madame_Récamier_by_Jacques-Louis_David and her recamier by Jacob Freres in the Louvre

As the ballet obsession continues unabated in our house, a trip to the Palais Garnier was called for. Alas, there were no performances to be had during our visit, but the tour of the opulent and over the top Beaux-Arts theater did not disappoint. To make the space more digestible we focussed on the ornate ceilings.

opera palais garnier ceilings

Autumn had not quite yet come to Paris, but after a couple of months in the desert we were bewitched by the green and eager to be outside. We did a bike tour, a boat ride and played HintHunt, which has nothing at all to do with Paris, but trust me, if you are traveling with bigger kids its is one of the most enjoyable hours they will have.

tuilleries green

We had numerous memorable meals and one particularly magical night at Chez Julien just over the Ile St. Louis bridge on the right bank. My husband and I had eaten there 20 years ago and never forgot the prettiest Belle Époque interior. There happened to be a small wedding party – just 4 people – there that night and the candlelight and mirrors combined with her dress and headpiece made us feel as if we were in a Degas painting.

chez julien and degas

Where’s the shopping, you may be asking yourself? I did, of course, mention antiques. But that needs a Paris puces post of it own, later this week.

On another note, I forgot to announce the winner of Frederick Harris’s book Ukiyo-e: The Art of the Japanese Print, although I did notify the winners in Singapore and Israel. One of the most enjoyable things about the giveaway was seeing the truly global span of my readership. 

Not Just for Grown Ups…Buying Art for Kids

Tami Ramsay girls bedroom

As many of you know I have been writing a column on another blog called Cloth & Kind which is the brainchild of a wonderful pair of designing women. Tami Ramsay, the half of the duo that lives in Athens, Georgia just had her lovely bungalow featured in Lonny Magazine. The entire house is just beautiful (take a look!), but I paused and returned to her children’s rooms as she has highlighted work by local artists in both of them. Real art too, not just kiddie stuff to fill the walls. Pieces that could travel into adulthood with them.

tami ramsay boys bedroom

I’m a huge proponent of buying art for kids. Frankly, I’m a huge proponent of taking them to museums, in small bites at first, but slowly developing a sense of what interests them as well as giving them a chance to stretch their patience. I have a similar theory about art as I do about antiquing with kids, which is everyone gets interested when purchases get made. Art is horizon expanding, question provoking  – whether representational or abstract – and a sense of ownership makes anyone, even children, more interested.

One of the strengths of this year’s CWAJ Print Show is the number of prints that will appeal to kids while having long-term lasting power – call it an investment – in their memory and decor. How amazing would it be to leave home and go off to your first home of your own and actually have some pieces with meaning to take with you? I’m using the Print Show to highlight this particular post, but it would hold true no matter where in the world you are. There are always artists and they are always making work.

The Print Show is full of sweet and obvious prints with childlike appeal, such as CLARK Kevin Lee’s Koinobori. You get Mount Fuji and the fish – two for the price of one – all in the same print. Traditional woodcut technique adds to this Japan memory print.

CLARK Kevin Lee

Nothing cuter than the Small Hairpins seen when little girls dress up in kimono for special days. OHTSUBO Kazue’s silkscreen will charm your daughter now and look wonderful as part of an art wall or in a powder room when she is older.

OHTSUBO Kazue

And SOMEYA Mayumi’s etching is just so cute I could eat it up. This could hang anywhere. Ageless!

SOMEYA Mayumi

But let’s talk about some of the less obvious choices. Instead of brightly colored alphabet blocks, what about learning your kana (Japanese letters) the old-fashioned way? ARAI Yuko’s I-RO-HA-ORDER is based around the traditional syllabary in which each character appears only once based on a 1000 year old Buddhist poem. Animals starting with each syllable help to illustrate the sound and the details grab attention.

ARAI Yuko

GYOBU Fumi’s “P” of print studio–composition for an artist book has a similar graphic quality and is quite question provoking. What does the letter mean? Do the objects in the print start with that letter? Why are things upside down? I see endless questions yet there is nothing juvenile about the work at all.

GYOBU Fumi

Sometimes you need to be literal, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be subtle. Have you a little girl who loves ballet? KIRIZUKI Saki’s dramatic woodblock print Weightless Dance-g

KIRIZUKI Saki

…or WATANABE Kanako’s Red Shoes 2 would satisfy that girlish interest, while their monochrome palette and dynamic woodblock technique give them long-lasting maturity. I bought Watanabe’s moody and mysterious print Road last year and it is hanging in my elder daughter’s bedroom now.

WATANABE Kanako

There is so much hidden fantasy in Japanese prints, particularly the monochrome mezzotints, etchings and lithographs with their fine details. Do you have one that loves to read? This lithograph from MISAKI Akihiro has the kind of surreal realism kids love to examine and if you look closely, there is a little hidden surprise. The artist had much the same idea; “The person might serve as a bookmark, who seems as if waiting for someone to open the pages. He is probably waiting to be freed. I hope this work of mine will free you into a world of imagination, as one usually does when travelling and visiting historical places. Old remains might undoubtedly inspire you and make you dive into a world of history.”

MISAKI Akihiro

In NAGANO Junko’s It is Beginning to Tell the Story, the fantasy grows larger, much like the magical stag’s antlers do. It seems to me as if the reading boy’s imagination is driving the story forward, but that is my version of the tale. One of the things I remember loving as a child was searching images or wallpaper around my home and others for pictures, shapes and hidden images that would feed my imagination.

NAGANO Junko

And what about the deep inky black tones of RISHO Shigeo’s aquatint?  They make for a very mysterious castle.

RISHO Shigeo

Rather than a Disney icon, consider TOKITA Yuriko’s Infant of Margarita (bee). Your little princess may think of her as her princess picture now, but I guarantee she’ll love the reference back to Velázquez and Las Meninas later.

TOKITA Yuriko

Quite a bit of Alice in Wonderland can be found this year. NEMOTO Kana’s garden–mushroom– provides a charming toadstool with a single bite taken out of it…

NEMOTO Kana

…while IKUTA Koji’s A Cat Called Alice is a picture play on the story.

IKUTA Koji

No need to be limit oneself to black and white either. NISHIDA Tadashige’s The Town of Stars (6) Departure would satisfy any dreamer who longs to be an astronaut or play soccer in a giant stadium.

NISHIDA Tadashige

And can’t you see FUJIMOTO Keizo’s giant silkscreen Watch-BR anchoring a teenage boy’s room and then later, his first “man-cave” apartment?

FUJIMOTO Keizo

And my hands-down favorite? It has to be newcomer ITO Ayami’s Tyrolean Japanese fantasy called Friends to Walk With. I love the charming floral design, the sweet mermaid and the seal, but mostly I am obsessed with that onigiri (rice ball) with its matching patterned nori (seaweed). Obsessed!

ITO Ayami
Prints and other works on paper tend to be eminently affordable. So think about birthdays and holidays and consider the difference between another toy, another dress, those things that are easily outgrown. And if you are in Japan right now, take the opportunity to visit the CWAJ Print Show.

Related Posts:
A Little Bit of Tat is a Good Thing…Tips on Antiquing with Kids
Artist Spotlight…58th CWAJ Print Show

Tokyo Jinja

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