ART: 11 Before 11

Children and art go hand in hand, whether it’s messy potato prints in the pre-school book bag or junk-modelling masterworks made out of egg boxes and glue. Encouraging creativity is a top priority for most parents so we make peace with glitter, let them loose on the Playdoh and keep filling that box in the attic with their artistic endeavours.

Trailing our budding Picassos around a gallery can feel like a daunting prospect (getting told off by a security guard in the Tate is a parenting rite of passage, no?) but there’s nothing like seeing the real deal up close to spark their imaginations and understanding of what ‘art’ is.

But where should you start?

Well, we love a list here at Smallish HQ (check out our BOOKS: 11 Before 11 here) so we’ve whittled down 500 years or so of art (we’ve stuck with paintings; other mediums to follow!) to 11 works we think will interest, inspire and stand them in good stead in a pub quiz in 20 year’s time.

Check them out online, find them in books or, if you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic (and deep of pocket), see if you can manage to tick them off in situ* before they hit secondary school.

As always, if you think we’ve got it wrong or missed out something unforgiveable, please let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

*We’ve picked as many London/UK based works as we could to help with the latter

1. Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
Where to see it: National Gallery, London
Emblazoned upon a million notebooks, postcards and mousemats, the Dutch artist’s Sunflowers series is among his most famous and admired work. Handily there’s one in the National Gallery (pictured above) so you don’t have to get on a plane to appreciate its beauty.

2. Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci, 1503
Where to see it: Louvre Museum, Paris
You can’t do an art must-see list without including the world’s most famous portrait – it’s the law. If you decide to make the trip to Paris, brace yourself for queues, crowds and a brief squinting glance at a surprisingly small painting. Google comes into its own with this one, trust us.

3. Campbell’s Soup Cans, Andy Warhol, 1962
Where to see it: Museum of Modern Art, New York
The pop art pioneer’s 32 canvases (pictured above) make a bold statement. Great for sparking conversations about consumerism, popular culture and what makes art, art.

4. The Snail, Henri Matisse, 1953
Where to see it: Tate Modern, London
The final triumphs of a long artistic career, Matisse’s brightly coloured cut-outs have a simplicity that really appeals to children. Take them to see The Snail (pictured above)then let them loose on the cutting and sticking at home so they can attempt to create their own.

5. Guernica, Pablo Picasso, 1937
Where to see it: Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid
There are several museums dedicated to the work of the Spanish painter but you’ll have to head to the brilliant Reina Sofia to see one of his most famous. Painted as a reaction to the devastating Nazi bombing of the Basque town in April 1937, Picasso’s Guernica mural is as much a political statement as it is a work of art.

6. Water lilies, Claude Monet, after 1916
Where to see it: Tate Modern, London
Paintings from Monet’s famous Water Lilies series can be seen at galleries from France to Japan, but this one is right here in the UK. Big, beautiful and the perfect introduction to Impressionism for little ones.

7. Fulang-Chang and I, Frida Kahlo, 1937
Where to see it: Museum of Modern Art, New York
There’s something about Kahlo’s work that really captures young imaginations. This self-portrait (pictured above) with one of her pet monkeys appeared in the very first major exhibition of her work in New York in 1938.

8. Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo, 1508-1512
Where to see it: Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
Parental feedback on this one is rather more positive than the second work on our list. Seeing really is believing with the Sistine Chapel. If you decide to make the trip, there are audio guides and treasure hunt maps for children.

9. The Scream, Edvard Munch, 1893
Where to see it: National Gallery, Oslo
A great introduction to Expressionist painting, Munch’s Scream is famous for its bold brush strokes, evocative imagery and appropriation by the UK student pub industry in the 1990s. If they’ve seen Home Alone get their minds whirring by asking them if anything about this painting reminds them of a scene in the film.

10. Number 1 (Lavender Mist), Jackson Pollock, 1950
Where to see it: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Kids can’t help but get fired up when they first get introduced to Pollock. There are plenty of places to see his work around the world (London, New York, Venice) but this (pictured above) is one of our favourites. Stock up with dust sheets for when they decide they want to recreate it at home.

11. A Bigger Splash, David Hockney, 1967
Where to see it: Tate Britain, London
Currently the subject of a major retrospective at Tate Britain (until 29 May 2017), at 79, Hockney is considered to be Britain’s greatest living artist. His time in California inspired him to create a series of paintings of swimming pools, of which this is one of the most famous.