Monday, 30 January 2017

The National Gallery 4

Thursday 26 January 2017

Linda and I being, as you know, completists, made one further trip to the great National Gallery, in order to finish our exploration of the collection. As has happened on each of our visits, we were amazed at the number of splendid pictures that 'we' own.  
We went straight to the rooms coloured green on the map (18th century and beyond) and were instantly immersed in Goyas, including the Duke of Wellington, looking strangely un-commanding.

There were lots of Guardis, too. but it was the Longhi of Venetians in masks examining a rhino which caught our attention, before we moved on to a room full of Canalettos (or should that be Canaletti?)

The Stone mason's yard was interesting because of the women workers, though one seems merely to be scolding the children.  Perhaps women were employed to do sanding and washing and brought the children along to save child minding costs.

Next are several rooms of British artists: Zoffany, Lawrence, Hogarth explaining the ins and outs of 'Marriage a la Mode'. And of course, Stubbs, whose fabulous 'Whistlejacket' dominates one wall and fades out the other pictures hung there.

As we paused by Turner's Fighting Temeraire, we were interested to learn that it will feature (with a portrait of the artist as well) on £20 noted from 2020 onwards. Looking at other Turners, we felt that when he went into narrative (like 'Hero's farewell to Leander') he was less convincing.
One of the excellent freelancers who work here was talking to an impeccably behaved primary school class about 'Speed and Steam'. I restrained myself from contradicting her by pointing out that 20mph was really very fast to people used to horse and cart (it is the hare in the picture who is said to embody the speed)

We were delighted to see one picture by Joseph Wright of Derby: his remarkable painting of a demonstration of vacuum. And we enjoyed Hogarth's portrait of the Graham children, with baby Thomas (who did not live to see the completed picture) in his frock.

We skipped past a number of Lawrences and Raeburns of the upper classes to reach the Constables and then suddenly we were out of British art and (mostly) into France.

The British nation seems to own lots and lots of Monets, including his excellent portrayal of the Gare St Lazare, but we were also pleased to see the Pissarros of Sydenham and Upper Norwood.

Knowing the Bathers at Asnieres quite well we were interested in Theo van Rysselberghe's take on pointillism  in his Coastal Scene; and we loved the room with the various Vuillards in it, though the attendant said he thought the mantelpiece looked more like a coffin.  It is an unusual picture, in that it was bought for the National Gallery in 1917, while the artist was still alive.

 Linda and I share only a very limited liking for Pierre Auguste Renoir, and indeed for Gaugin, so we were able to make speedy progress to van Gogh, via a number of Cezannes.

 Getting back, as we did, to Pissarro, we wondered why his son, Felix was looking so moody: possibly just a seven year old not wanting to sit still.  Which reminds me to say that we did like the captioning, which often had bits of story as well as 'art' information.

Towards the end of our visit, we came to another lovely Pissarro. the 'Cote des Boeufs' of 1877 and were interested to read that it had been transferred from the Tate in 1950 when, presumably, the Tate decided to become either 'Britain' or 'Modern'

 We were very taken with George Bellows, about whom I knew nothing. and his portrayal of dock workers in the New York docks, and we also enjoyed a Klimt lady and a Matisse portrait.

There there were rather too many Degas for my liking, though we enjoyed the adolescent glare of his teenage cousin Elena Carafa.

All in all, and I know we have said this before, our visit reminded us that we should not need a 'project' before wandering in and looking at wonderful pictures.

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