Last night I was reading with Boy #3. We were reading Math-terpieces (which is a really cool book, by the way). It introduces a famous painting and then adds math to the mix by pulling out a feature in the painting, such as a melting watch (think Dali) or a feature related to the painting, like soup cans (yep, Warhol) and asks kids to do some problem solving, combining groups to arrive at a certain sum.
I was focused on the math, and I have to admit, I was pretty impressed with how Boy #3 was doing with coming up with “7” or “9” several different ways. But it was when I turned to page 20 that he asked the question that completely blew my mind.
“Is that a Piet Mondrian?”
“What?” I asked, sure that I must’ve heard him wrong.
“Is that painting by Piet Mondrian?” he asked again. And mind you, it wasn’t just that he asked it, it was also the way the Dutch name just rolled off his tongue, like he’d been saying it since right after he learned “dada.”
Now, here’s the really sad part: I didn’t know. I had to look on the page and find the caption under the painting to see which artist had created the work.
Oh, yeah, Piet Mondrian. Of course it was.
“Uh, honey, how did you know that Piet Mondrian painted this?” I asked. (I didn’t pronounce it nearly as nicely as he did.) I knew he hadn’t had time to find and read the caption yet; I had just turned the page.
“I learned it in Art class,” he said.
“You did?” I asked, remembering when I was in kindergarten and how our entire Art curriculum seemed to revolve around a single standard: “Don’t eat paste.”
“Yeah,” Boy #3 said nonchalantly, sounding eerily like Cliff Clavin. “He only painted squares and lines. Well, except for one painting of a barn that he did early on. But the rest were just squares.”
“Is that so?” I asked, realizing I’d just gotten schooled by my 6-year-old.
I think Robert Fulghum may want to consider revising his book and adding a chapter on “Art History and Appreciation.”