Gallery Opens Web Site for Children

Monday, August 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two centuries ago an artist painted a shark attacking a sailor, a picture that became a landmark in American realism. To help interest kids in art, the National Gallery of Art opened a Web site Monday that features the picture in a display of high tech magic that shows the shark chomping in hungry expectation.

Another link on the site for youngsters goes to a famous portrait of Napoleon. It also provides a version of the picture that gives the emperor a pot belly under his tight-fitting uniform. The pot belly isn't in the original, although even if pudgy little Napoleon had had one, the artist Jacques-Louis David probably may have been too courtly to include it.

The change in the image comes in answer to a likely question from young viewers: Why does Napoleon have his hand inside his vest? The text that goes with the picture gives some suggestions: Maybe he had an itch, maybe he was just relaxing. Or maybe he had too much dinner — and that's where the pot belly shows up.

``We want to have some material targeted to a young audience,'' said Donna Mann, the production manager who put the site together. ``Some children will log into the gallery's regular site, but we thought it was important to have something particularly for them.''

She said she hoped adults will enjoy the material too.

``We're not trying to include so much history and analysis,'' she explained, ``but we want to give children the tools that will enable them to look at other works of art as well.''

Enterprising youngsters can now visit and thrill to the animated version of John Singleton Copley's ``Watson and the Shark.'' Or they can watch Napoleon's pot belly pop up in a way that artist David never painted.

``NGAKids'' also offers a game of virtual hide-and-seek in an artist's studio of the 1800s. And young viewers can imagine crouching under Louise Bourgeois' 24-foot bronze spider that stands in the museum's new sculpture garden. A tranquil walk through the garden is laid out with a story attached, for children ages 7-10.

A link to George Catlin, the painter who specialized in depicting American Indians, should be popular with the cowboys-and-Indians set. It leads into an elaborate project to create Indian names, costumes, headdresses, face painting and jewelry made from different shapes of dry pasta.

Ambitious young explorers of abstract painting can try to find the masts, sails and cannon in a colorful work by Wassily Kandinsky. To the unpracticed eye, it's a whirly mix of brightly colored shapes and lines unidentifiable at first sight. Kandinsky said it was a sea battle.


One the web: The National Gallery of Art: