Book Review: Visiting The Art Museum

I vividly recall many a childhood hour spent flipping through the pages of Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown’s book “Visiting The Art Museum.” A combination of illustrations and photographs of art, the book follows a young family as they traverse a fictional museum containing everything from aboriginal costume to Greek statue to paintings by Renoir, Rousseau, Pollack, and Lichtenstein. Lest you think this is a mere caricature of The Met, convenient captions reveal that all but two pieces are from different museums across the globe.
The binding is broken on one favored page (page 16) that depicts a girl’s distress looking at John Singleton Copley’s Watson and the Shark. I remember staring at this painting, taking in every detail from the emotional concern of the men in the boat to the angelic glow of Watson’s body in the water, his face evoking more ecstasy than fear.
My mother loves to recall the day that we travelled to some out of state museum to peruse an exhibition of American paintings. I was perhaps seven at the time and, spying the Copley across the room, my eyes grew large, and I gasped and exclaimed, “LOOK The Painting!” I still inhale sharply every time I have managed to stumble across it on loan at The Met or at its home in The National Gallery.
But Watson isn’t the only familiar friend that was introduced to me in “Visiting The Art Museum.” I make a special effort on every MoMA trip to at least pause at Roussaeu’s Sleeping Gypsy. And seeing the Lichtenstein exhibit at The Morgan Library last year was like catching up with an old acquaintance.
But the book gave me more than an appreciation for paintings; the comments of the family as they progress through the galleries provided me with a framework for talking to my own parents about art. It validated the emotional reactions and unconventional connections that flowed through my mind when standing in a gallery.
More than any art history book or monograph, “Visiting The Art Museum” imprinted itself in my brain. Without it, Museummonger would never have existed.


2 Comments on “Book Review: Visiting The Art Museum

  1. Allison says:

    I love, love, love your blog! I think of you every time I get into a museum. Jonathan and I went for a walk on St.-Michel yesterday, and paused in a beautiful park behind an old-looking building. We sat there for a half an hour before we decided to see what we were sitting behind. Turns out it was the Cluny museum (the museum I’ve been most looking forward to), and it was free museum day. And of course, they were now 20 minutes from closing. Ah, such is life. But even on our dash through, I was trying to imagine what you would think of the use of natural light, the arrangement, etc.

  2. Alex says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this!!!!

    My auntie bought me this as a present when I was younger and it made a huge impression on me! I have just spent an hour or so trying to track it down online!


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