My Grandmother Nan, and Art

Last week I told the story of my grandmother, Nan.
Rose, My Nan, the Log House and Stories
She was born and raised in a log house in West Virginia.  She was kind and strong.  She was the same age, and had the same name, as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter.  Rose.

There is much more to tell.

Nan lived in an apartment when I spent Sundays with her as a child.  Her walls were filled with art.  Not family pictures- art.  My favorite was always “Leaving Home” by Gilbert Gaul.  It tells a story of a young man leaving to join the Confederate Army in the Civil War.  Every family member has a different expression.  Storytelling is so important, and art tells stories.  Art can evoke emotions.  It teaches the soul.  Clearly, this particular art made me fall in love with Norman Rockwell.  Nan and I would love looking through her big book of Norman Rockwell art.  I passed that love along to my children.  They are the kindest people I know, thanks to Nan and her art.

That’s me, holding “Leaving Home.”
I’m blessed to have this from Nan.

These were my favorite Norman Rockwell paintings in Nan’s big book.

When you entered Nan’s apartment, the first thing hanging on the wall was a Picasso, “Girl Before a Mirror”.  I remember thinking how funny the painting looked and having many conversations with Nan. While this became familiar to me in her apartment, so did other art, such as Gilbert Gaul’s “Leaving Home”.  It opened my eyes to art that tells a story with the scene and characters.  I’ve been a history buff ever since.

I came face-to-face with a Picasso at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH.  Nan came flooding over me.

“Woman Seated in a Chair”
, 1941

The Currier Museum interpreted the painting:

Picasso executed this painting during World War II while living in a small apartment in German-occupied Paris.  While the distortion of form and space through simplified shapes reflect Picasso’s earlier Cubist period, the bright color and emotional charge is the continuing influence of Expressionist art.

Emotionally charged, indeed.  This was real.  I crept close and looked at brush strokes.  The white circles on the woman’s dress are thick, raised paint.  I thought about Picasso painting this, perhaps looking out his window at the Germans in the streets of Paris and feeling angry.

And, I thought about Nan.  She was only five years older than Picasso.  How did she come to like Picasso art?  After all, his painting greeted everyone who entered her home.  But, Nan’s life was far from modern.  It was rural West Virginia, in the oldest two-story log house west of the Appalachian mountains.  She was more akin to Laura Ingalls Wilder than to Pablo Picasso.  She had a hard life, outliving her brothers and sisters, two husbands, and her children.  By the time I came along, all she had were her grandchildren.  Yet, she was ever happy and strong.

I teach art to my preschool class in a way that admires and respects the art of well-known artists.  Learning from greatness is a good beginning.  Young children are enthusiastic sponges when it comes to art, and I introduce many styles of painting.  Real is best, therefore children paint with authentic watercolor paints squeezed from tubes onto a palette.  Each April we host an Art Show for the community.  Children paint in the style of Picasso, Kandinsky, Monet, van Gogh, Matisse, Carle, and others.

The Art Show, a few years ago.

I often think of the power of art and how that transcends to others.  Art had an influence on Nan, Nan had an influence on me, and now I have an influence on children.  Thank you, Gilbert Gaul, Norman Rockwell, and Pablo Picasso.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in art, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Family, history, Inspiration, Love, museums, storytelling, The Arts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to My Grandmother Nan, and Art

  1. Ritu says:

    You have some beautiful memories there, Jennie, to transfer into amazing learning opportunities, which you do, daily 🥰

  2. Darlene says:

    How wonderful that your Nan introduced the love of art to you which you now spread to your children/grandchildren and the children you teach. How lucky that you have the painting you loved in your possession now.

    • Jennie says:

      I am lucky! Isn’t it interesting how her taste in art was so diverse? I looked up where “Leaving Home” is located- a museum in Alabama. The photo at the museum is quite brighter and more colorful than my old faded one.

  3. And thank you, Jennie. Imparting your willingness to approach, to observe with eyes and heart, and to create is a lifelong gift to your fortunate students, Nan would be proud.

  4. Annika Perry says:

    Your Nan was one amazing person – that is evident from your wonderful post! Her love of art touched all your life plus your children’s and all your pupils. Their artwork is fantastic, so vibrant and alive! As for the Picasso – wow!

  5. quiall says:

    Art was the original form of storytelling. So I can understand why you were drawn to it. And why it works so well with your children.

  6. beetleypete says:

    Nan gave you that love of art, no doubt. I am glad to see you still have ‘Leaving Home’. It may no longer be ‘politically correct’ in these modern times, but it is a window on the past, whether they like that or not.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Pete. Yes, Nan sure did. And, the window to the past is the only way to understand and learn. Those who feel strongly about PC are not seeing the forest for the trees. That was gentle. I know you understand. Best to you, Pete.

  7. Don Ostertag says:

    Such a great woman. The only artwork on my Grandma’s wall was the calendar from the church. But she was cool also just not into anything but sewing.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, she was a great woman, like your grandma. I think your grandma’s wall calendar is wonderful. I consider my calendar artwork. Sewing is art! Milly the quilter took children’s ideas and turned them into amazing quilts. They hang at national museums. Really. When children watched her sew (all by hand), they were fascinated. It was the same as taking a brush to paint. Art is everywhere.

  8. K.L. Hale says:

    What treasures in your life, Jennie. The rich history, the art…no doubt you have your eclectic love of all arts from Nan. What an amazing life and lady–I see why you are, too! You really know how “open” a person’s mind and heart are when they can appreciate all the beautiful forms of life’s interpretations. It’s a gift. 💛🤍 P.S.-I love the Art Show! I thought of you on Friday when I visited an elementary class to read. Your spirit was with me!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much, K.L. Yes, these are treasures. I still wonder where Nan’s eclectic taste came from. She helped me see art with an open mind. That was a gift, and I’m grateful to open young minds. I’m so glad you loved the art show. We’re ready to begin a new one. Best of all, I’m deeply touched that you thought of me when you were reading aloud to an elementary class. Thank you!

      • K.L. Hale says:

        Happy Monday, Jennie! You’re welcome! ☺️ I can’t wait to see the work of your new show. I’m so glad your heart was touched. Jennie, I was fortunate to be around hundreds of teachers. And because I wear my heart on my sleeve, and try to love everyone where they are, I might seem “fluffy”. During my 8 years as a MS Principal, sadly, I had to let two teachers go. I’m no better than anyone because I was in “charge”. I’m a teacher. I’m a team player. And anyone could walk into a room with you at the helm, and know you’re a class act who cares. It’s all about the heart ❤️. That’s you!! 🤗🥰😘

      • Jennie says:

        Thanks so much for your kind words! You do not seem fluffy at all. I think you ‘get it’. How challenging it must be to be a MS principal. I know what you mean, I can also walk into a classroom and know right away about the teacher. It’s all about heart! ❤️

      • K.L. Hale says:

        Aw, you’re welcome, Jennie! And thank you for the precious words. Middle School was actually some of my favorite years. Tough, but also so impactful. I do “get it” for sure. Take care my friend. 💕

  9. All great artists, Jennie.

  10. What a great lady; children should be surrounded by art of all sorts and be allowed to think for themselves what is going on

  11. Dan Antion says:

    I love that painting, Jennie. Even the dog has an expression. I love that you bring art into your classroom. It is more important than most people seem to understand.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, yes! I had to go back and look at the dog…oh, you were right. Art is a visual of emotions, history, beauty, nature… well, you know. I can’t imagine not sharing art in class. Tomorrow I introduce some major works of art. When I do this, I know which child would love that work of art. I say, “Mary you can do this!” in a very excited fashion. The child always smiles and nods, big time. See, all children need is a boost of encouragement and confidence, especially from their teacher. Thank goodness for art.

  12. Jim Borden says:

    what a wonderful relationship you had with Nan.

    And I love how you make the connection from Nan to your school children…

    It’s always sad to her about schools cutting their art budget…

  13. I enjoyed this uplifting post. The art I remember most from my grandmother’s house was by Courier and Ives. Your children are so lucky to be learning about art from you!!

  14. Art is a wonderful story-telling tool, Jennie, and I’m so glad you include it in your classroom. Of course, you would, and in multiple ways. Thanks for sharing your Nan with readers, as well as the wonderful way she enhanced your life.

  15. I knew nothing of art growing up and since we traveled so light, not even family photos were on the walls. I think Norman Rockwell was the first artist I remember being exposed to and then as an older adult tried to educate myself about art bit by bit. You are a blessing to those youngsters. This will build their world in ways you can’t even imagine. They told me I’m not allowed to put nails in the walls here. Ha! I’m using a few command hooks on some things but I’m going to let them sue me when I’m gone for the rest of what’s going to hang on the walls here. No home is a home without art. Some of mine is quilts. Keep doing what you do for as long as you can. The world needs more Jennie’s.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, put up command hooks and hang art! It really does shape our world. Thank you so much, Marlene. I’m excited to introduce the children to some great masterpieces. Every year they find something they love.

  16. petespringerauthor says:

    I have several painting friends. In nearly every case, there was someone who served as a mentor or got them interested in art the way your grandmother did for you. It further reinforces the importance of role models and mentors in any skill.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, it really does. I’m not a painter, but I’m a storyteller. Art tells a story, and I wonder if that was the pathway for me. Make sense?

  17. Pingback: My Grandmother Nan, and Art | THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON...

  18. Ayesha Jazib says:

    You’re so lucky to be introduced to art this way!

  19. beth says:

    what a lasting legacy she left you, art and stories are so closely connected

  20. srbottch says:

    There are wonderful pieces von on the wall in the last picture. As a kid, I couldn’t wait for the Saturday Evening Post to arrive and enjoy the Norman Rockwell drawings.

    • Jennie says:

      Thanks, Steve. I remember looking forward to the Saturday Evening Post, too! I still love Rockwell’s art. His museum is in Massachusetts.

  21. Pingback: My Grandmother Nan, and Art – Nelsapy

  22. Josh Sanders says:

    She sounds like an amazing lady.

  23. It is amazing that your Nan had this artwork on her walls. It is so nice she could pass on to you a love of art. It must have very hard to outlive your children.

    • Jennie says:

      At the time when I was young, it didn’t seem amazing, yet in retrospect I realize it was. Yes, the love of art stemmed from Nan. There was no fanfare, it was just there. I often think of her outliving her two children and remaining strong and ever positive. When my stepfather (wonderful man) wanted to marry my mother who had lost her husband (Nan’s son), he first asked Nan’s permission. Isn’t that wonderful?

  24. Pingback: My Grandmother Nan, and Art | GABJIG

  25. CattleCapers says:

    Nice to read about someone who loved art who isn’t a Hollywood stereotype.

  26. Those are wonderful memories, Jennie! You had a wonderful childhood, with many experience you later were able to use for teaching children. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing! xx Michael

  27. gabjig555 says:

    Great 👍

  28. Isha says:

    Such a wholesome post! Loved the descriptions and the journey you took the reader on!

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