Soaking in the art at AGO

It’s not every day your 4 year old asks to get a better look at Monet’s use of cadmium yellow. A few nights ago we were reading in Kaleb’s trusty Basher Science: The Complete Periodic Table: All the Elements in Style! that cadmium was used in Monet’s favourite yellow paint. We decided to google some of his works, and in the process discovered that the Art Gallery of Ontario has a few of Monet’s works on loan at the moment in their Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more exhibit. Clearly, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it just so happened to be the perfect moment for it too!

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Kaleb was super excited to go see some art! I stayed up last night trying to learn a bit about the works and artists we were going to see so that I would have some neat tid bits to tell him. We had already looked into the use of toxic elements in pigments, but I tried to inform myself a bit about the chemistry of art as well just in case I had a Mr Wiggle Pants on my hands and wanted to buy myself a few more moments with beautiful works of art. All of this proved to be a waste of time! I was afraid he might find it dull, but he was captivated! Funny how grown ups ruin everything for littles isn’t it?

Our first stop was the kid’s gallery. We arrived, amazingly considering Niagara-Toronto traffic, before our timed entry to Mystical Landscapes so the kid’s gallery seemed the perfect place for a museum primer ie. no touching, quiet voices, and gear that brain up for some learning! He is an amazing guide around the ROM, so I wasn’t too worried, but we haven’t done much art appreciation before (*gasp* *shock* *horror*) so I wasn’t sure what to expect.


The theme of the kid’s gallery is pets, and they even have a great station where you can sit and do your own portrait of your pet! Kaleb was a little disappointed as he had already planned to do a picture of the solar system, but it said right on the paper “pet’s name” and you just *can’t* ignore directions (unless it’s Mom asking you to brush your teeth for the 12,999th time), but he drew a very nice portrait of him with our pup! He even got to hang it on the gallery wall which is just the best touch for little artists, don’t you think?

After he was done flexing his artistic muscles, (I guess that’s a cool-kid way of saying brain. I should just say brain.) we headed up to Mystical Landcapes. Now, I was a little nervous about how well my 4 year old was going to handle an actual art exhibit. I had downloaded the AGO app and the audio tour on my phone the night before, but I doubted it’s ability to hold his attention. We were offered audio wands at the beginning of the exhibit and YA’LL TAKE THE AUDIO WAND. My son has always had a love of numbers, and an even bigger love of order (it’s a kid thing), and he had so much fun going from area to area typing in the number and listening to the audio guide at each part. We sat on benches and stared at priceless works of art for over an hour! It was amazing. I didn’t even have to bust out my facts about how chemistry is often involved in art restoration, he was happy just to learn about the art itself.

That being said, the final room of the exhibit was were he was totally swept away. The paintings were all beautifully lit in a dim room, and in Kaleb’s opinion, Wenzil Hablik stole the show away from van Gogh himself. Between the grandeur of Crystal Castle at Sea and it’s geometric shapes and the fact that it’s, duh, crystals; and Starry Night with it’s swirling celestial objects or “the whole universe!” as Kaleb put it, I think it’s safe to say Hablik found a place in my 4 year old’s heart. We even left with our very own Starry Night print.


After he unwillingly handed over his audio wand, we headed down to The Dr. Mariano Elia Hands-On Centre. It was pretty quiet when we arrived (about 1pm on a Friday afternoon), which was nice as he was able to explore. There are toys, books, dress up clothes and there is a huge art table! There was even a space theme because of the special exhibit.




All in all, I think we’re going to have to head back at least once more before Mystical Landscapes: Monet, van Gogh and more ends on January 29, 2017. We were only able to spend 3 hours at the museum as we had a 4 hour total (if not more!) car ride and a pup at home that’s not used to being left for more than a few hours. But it was not enough time! The whole way home I had to listen to cries of “I never want to leave the art gallery! We should just live there!” and “I wish I had my own telephone that tells me about art.” (Let’s be honest though, I also heard every other cry from “I need a hug” to “I’m sick”.) I think I may even venture to take Kaleb on the GO train for our next visit if it will buy us a bit more time. We need to check out the Floor Burger more thoroughly too!

When we got home, we got out the paints and made some more art of our own. Of course, I caught him trying to sample the paint to which he replied, “What? It’s non toxic!” as though the only reason we don’t eat paint is if there’s Cadmium in it.

It wouldn’t be right to end this post on such an angelic note because let’s be honest- if your 4 year old acts 4 decades older than he really is for an entire hour, and at least twice his age for another couple hours, it equals break down city for the remainder of the day. After he finally fell asleep (a request was made to listen to the AGO audio guide again), I sat contemplating which was more expensive: the amount of wine a SAHM drinks or the inherent mental breakdown if she didn’t.

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