Every Dog has its day! A children’s tale of life at the National Gallery
March 13, 2011

Shortly to be launched is a new Touch to See book all about life at the National Gallery.  It is based on the wonderful book ‘A Dogs Night’ by Meredith Hooper which tells a story of how, once a year, after everyone has left the gallery the dogs jump out of their paintings and play:  ‘Soldiers’ dogs and children’s dogs, royal dogs and beggars’ dogs, smooth dogs and woolly dogs, polite dogs and rough dogs…..’ – four return to the wrong painting causing uproar in the gallery but the ‘wrong dog paintings’ draw huge crowds.  A year later, at the next Dogs’ Night party, all is restored. 

We go on to explore 6 paintings from the gallery and author, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, introduces the gallery experiences and some of the characters to be found there.  Bridget, a young Library Member, helped us by road testing the pack before it went into final production and here are some of her and her Mum’s comments:

 “So far, the pack has been a lot better than Bridget’s various forays into galleries –
she hates the quiet, can’t see anything (roped off), cant touch anything….”

On ‘Whistlejacket’ “Excellent, Bridget says this is really good” and when feeling his ears and stroking his head “This is magical.”

On hearing the picture restorer describe the artist, Elizabeth Vigee le Brun’s, colourful life during the French Revolution “Bridget’s very interested in the story behind the painting.”

On feeling the jungle plants in ‘Surprised’ by Henri Rousseau “This all feels lovely” and hearing the tiger growl she exclaimed “Oooh!” in surprise.

We eavesdrop on a chat between Bridget and Dame Jacqueline:

Why do you keep going back to the National Gallery?
I simply love the paintings – and I make a new discovery each time I visit.

Where does your mind go after it enters a gallery?
I just relax and enjoy looking at everything – and making up stories to go with the paintings.

Did you like going to galleries when you were a child?
I was never taken to any, sadly – though my Dad did once take me to the National Gallery when I was a teenager.

What is your favourite style of painting? My favourite raised image in the pack is the horse, ‘Whistlejacket’ and my favourite painting when I visited the Gallery was the Sunflowers because I so, so wanted to touch the canvas!
I love the Sunflowers too – it’s such a shame you’re not allowed to touch it, because the flower petals are painted so thickly you could feel the shape of them.

What would Tracy Beaker like most in the National Gallery and what would she change? I think she’d want a room full of really good fakes so blind children and children who didn’t want to be ‘good’ could touch the canvasses and get right up to them and feel how big and small some of them are because it’s no use asking an adult. 

Absolutely!  I think her favourite paintings would be gory ones, like John the Baptist getting his head chopped off.  She’d also like a creepy witchy painting by Salvator Rosa

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