Mimiko, a teenager from Tokyo, visits the Met and tours the new 19th-Century European Paintings and Sculpture Galleries.
Mimiko: Hi. My name is Mimiko. I live in Tokyo but I come to New York every summer with my mom and dad, and visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art whenever I can.
The Met is a great place to visit, because it’s so huge that you can see whatever you’re in the mood for. It’s got one of the greatest and largest art collections in the world, and it’s also New York City’s biggest tourist attraction.
All sorts of works of art are on display, like an enormous Egyptian temple and giant statues of Hercules from ancient Rome. There are paintings by Rembrandt and Picasso, beautifully decorated rooms from French palaces, and knights in armor riding on horseback. And there are works of art created by artists who are alive today, like a wavy golden wall sculpture made in Africa out of bottle caps.
To see an amazing view of Manhattan, I go up to the Roof Garden, where there are huge outdoor sculptures. You can see across the thousands of green leafy trees in Central Park to the tops of the buildings on the other side.
And if I get homesick, there are lots of rooms with art from Japan.
Some of the works of art I love most are in the new galleries for European painting and sculpture from around the time of the Impressionists. I want to tell you about a few of them.
Degas painted and drew hundreds of pictures of ballet dancers. The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer is actually a sculpture made of bronze, but she’s wearing a skirt made out of cloth and her hair is tied back with a silk ribbon. What I really love is her dance pose. She reminds me of my cousin Jade, who takes her ballet lessons very seriously. The girl in this sculpture and Jade are both about the same age and I think they both practice a lot, too—at least, I know Jade does.
There’s also an entire dining room called the Wisteria Room, named for a beautiful flower. And you can see pictures of that flower in everything that’s in the room: the paintings on the walls, the furniture, the lamps, everything! But you have to look closely. The room came to the Met from a house in Paris that was built near the Eiffel Tower about a hundred years ago.
The Garden at Sainte-Adresse shows relatives of the artist Monet at the seaside in the summertime, looking out at the ships from a beautiful garden, while flags wave in the breeze. Monet loved Japanese prints, especially by Hokusai, and Japanese art was a big influence on him, especially on this painting.
There’s a painting that makes me very sad. It’s Repin’s portrait of a Russian writer named Garshin. Garshin wrote about soldiers in the war between Russia and Turkey in the 1870s, and he had a lot of tragedy in his own life, too. He died when he was only thirty-three. You can see the suffering on his face in this picture; it’s so realistic.
The artist Seurat had a special way of painting, called “pointillism,” where he put lots of small dabs of color next to each other to create a picture. If you stand very close to his study for the famous painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, you can see the points of color. But when you step back a few feet, all of a sudden your eyes automatically blend the small patches of color together. And you see the beautiful picture that Seurat wanted you to see: French families with children and dogs, strolling in the park along the water on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know why Seurat’s dabs of paint fool your eye this way, but it’s a neat effect.
I think Vincent van Gogh is my absolute favorite artist, and his painting called Wheatfield with Cypresses is incredible to see for yourself, not just in a picture. He paints a field with cypress trees, wheat, and poppies. He puts the paint on his canvas very thick, so the blue sky is filled with clouds that are actually big, thick swirls of white paint. It’s a happy, beautiful scene, all lit up by the sun.
I’m sure I’ll think of these paintings when I’m back in Japan. And I’ll look forward to seeing them again, like old friends, when I come back to New York next summer. I hope you’ll visit the Met someday, too, and find the art that’s meaningful to you.