May 02, 2006
The National Gallery, London
Another thing I didn't know about London: The National Gallery (of Classic Art) is located in Trafalgar Square (webcam link which updates every 5 seconds!). So is Nelson's Column, which was completely enshrouded in scaffolding during our visit (and still is, as you can see on the webcam if you look during London's daylight hours, 5-8 hours ahead of the continental U.S.). These are all familiar names to me, but I wasn't aware of how they interacted. Standing on the front steps of the Gallery, looking beyond Nelson's Column, one sees Big Ben in the distance. By the way, if you want to know why Lord Nelson deserves such a prominent column all to himself:
"Admiral Nelson [...] won four notable naval battles, at the personal cost of losing an arm and one eye. Nelson's last and most famous battle was fought off the Spanish cape of Trafalgar, when he defeated Napoleon and the French and Spanish fleets; during which he lost his life, dying aboard H.M.S. Victory."
As we toured the National Gallery, Emily took notes and Jason made detailed sketches of whatever drew his attention, be it a picture frame, an architectural shape, or a painted weapon. Visitors are not allowed to take any photos, which means you actually have to LOOK at the artwork! I found that an interesting phenomenon, being forced to spend time just looking rather than doing any photography. Being forced to do what I ought to be doing anyway, taking in the masterpieces with my own eyes and nothing in between. In Paris at the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, this is not the case, since photos are allowed.
Before I discovered the camera rule, I took a few shots of the entrance hall, which is particularly beautiful: marble Corinthian columns, mosaic floors, a domed skylight, and red, blue, white and gold patterns on the upper walls and ceilings. Pink stargazer lily arrangements imbued the air with a delightful fragrance.
Just now I found out that the NG's website hosts photos of their complete collection. Pretty cool. Some of the artworks of which we took particular notice:
- Rembrandt's Self Portrait at the Age of 34 (my age in a few days, only he was 34 in 1640; that's a pretty old painting).
- Rubens' Samson and Delilah (quite an attention-getting chest on her, and really enormous muscles on him, about to have his hair cut off, with soldiers waiting at the door to capture him)
- Vermeer's A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal (an instrument like a piano)
- Leonardo da Vinci's "The Virgin of the Rocks" (very, very dark - Jason sketched the golden picture frame!)
- Van Gogh - Sunflowers. Cool. His Chair, which Jason sketched.
- Dégas: After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself.
- Cézanne: Landscape with Poplars
- Monet: Irises (a new one I hadn't seen before, big and with an olive green swath in the middle); Water Lily Pond (with bridge perfectly arching over pond); Houses of Parliament at Sunset (fun to see while in London where they really are)
- Picasso, from his blue period: Child with a Dove) - we especially noticed since Jason had done a project on this artist's pink and blue periods, and their significance, in his art class at school this year.
- Seurat - "Bathers at Asnières" striking skin complexion/color.
- Cassatt, Manet
- My new favorite painting of the week: Lake Keitele, which is apparently North of Helsinki, by Akseli Gallen-Kallela (Finnish version) / Axel Gallén (Swedish version). This artist heretofore unknown to me lived 1865-1931. This painting draws me in, makes me want to be there: lake and mountains and island, the peace and beauty, the stillness, the quiet...
We didn't even get around to Michelangelo, Botticelli, or Raphael...just too much to see, and limited patience from children and all eight of our feet. Blog readers' comments have already indicated this museum is a favorite, but personally I still prefer the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. ;-)
May 2, 2006 | Permalink
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Wow, ya'll got a lot accomplished...I'm not sure Iunderstood all that was posted but it sure was interesting. Job well done for Jason! I'm assuming he's your son?
Posted by: Theresa | May 5, 2006 7:56:52 AM