Thursday, December 04, 2003

National Gallery night

All work and no play etc, so we take ourselves off to look at some pwetty pixtures and then a meal.
NG is right on Trafalgar Square, which has Nelson's Column, Nelson way up there, but those four massive bronze lions that guard the base are what stays for me. Kids love them too - they get climbed all over. And St Martin in the Fields looking over the Square from the side - a plain, massive looking old church.
NG is free and has art from the early mediaeval period (1200 or so) through the early 1900's. We confine ourselves to the latter - the middle period (we sample quickly) is mostly boring portraits.
There are some familiar works: Van Gogh's Sunflowers, Monet's Bridge at Giverny, a slew of Constables, JWM Turners and (earlier) Gainsboroughs. Canaletto (earlier again, early perspective drawing) is a particular delight. Funny how many notes about paintings, views etc have little asides like ' the tower depicted in this view collapsed suddenly in 1744' - obviously the solidity of the structures left now, is the result of a rather darwinian survival race over the centuries.
What sticks are three impressions: the main movements in painting were often anticipated very early on: JWM Turner's Great Western Railway (1844) is pure impressionism, 40 years before the main body of this style was produced.
Seeing the actual works allows some insight into the techniques: you can see the slashes and scrapes and layers. Not possible in any reproductions.
And the sheer size of many of the works is never conveyed in books: some of the Gainsboroughs are fully 10 feet tall and exquisitely detailed in aspects like foliage and sky.
It would take days to explore this one Gallery, but that's Britain all over: everywhere has a story and it really is one big museum. We leave, visual senses satisfied.

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