Sunday, January 27, 2019

London: National Gallery

As we arrived in the West End, one building you can't miss from Trafalgar Square is the imposing National Gallery. The building is the third to house the National Gallery and was designed by William Wilkins from 1832-1838. There are additions to it that are far more contemporary and even somewhat controversial in design. (By the way, for a great post about Trafalgar Square, visit Mike's A Bit About Britain here. In fact, for anything related to England, make sure you stop at Mike's blog! His posts are terrific, well researched and filled with loads of fun trivia bits you wish you knew before you visited!)

It also houses one of the most magnificent art collections in the world.

One could spend days at the National Gallery. We didn't have that much time, having first enjoyed the guitar exhibit at Canada House. So we opted for some of the classics and older pieces, starting with some of the beautiful religious pieces.

I was sitting down during our trip, Rick wheeling me through, so most of my photos are a tad off kilter, shooting "up" and I don't have all the names of the pieces I'm sharing here, but this is a sample of what we enjoyed.

I particularly liked the colors and delicacy of this one, although that's one pretty ugly baby face and out of proportion to the skinny body. But I do love the fruit.

The goldwork here was tasteful and quite lovely.

Moving forward in time, this is my favorite of all of Leonardo's work, the reason why I wanted to visit the National Gallery the first time in 1973 and the reason I wanted to go back. It is his interpretation of the Madonna with Saint Anne.

The painting is in a small room with another of my favorite Leonardos, The Madonna of the Rocks.

When the large tour group admiring this painting left, I could get a better view!

Just look at that fabulous face!

I should remember who did this and the title -- it's one I've always loved. Laura Ingalls Gunn, feel free to weigh in on any of this. Your art history degree is far more current than my studies long ago!

Another of my favorites is Jan Van Eyck's Marriage of Jan Arnolfini and his Wife. (Also: The Arnolfini Marriage, The Arnolfini Wedding and The Arnolfini Portrait.) I'm pretty sure you can't see this in the photo unless you can click it to original size but if you look at the convex mirror in the back, you see the image from the back of the wedding couple.

It also seemed to attract quite a following. Maybe not Mona Lisa crowds, but certainly seemed to be a favorite of others.

I did find this painting of Saint Barbara dong in 1437 quite different from much of Van Eyck's work and rather enigmatic. The palm branch in her hand indicates her martyrdom.  Although signed and dated on the original frame, it is unknown whether the artist considered it finished. I find it perfect. (Just think of that -- over 500 years old, closer to 600, and still so beautiful.)

Vermeer is a favorite of mine. I'd already seen one of his at Kenwood, again with an instrument. This one spoke to me... did this one.

I don't remember who did this one. We didn't have time for the gift shop but if we had, I would have bought something that featured this painting. The faces are so trusting and you can just feel the relationship.

I'm also fond of the artists from the Netherlands, like Landscape with Travellers and Peasants on a Track, done in 1610 by Jan Brueghel the Elder.

...and this wonderful piece by Hendrick Avercamp. This is the kind of painting that really lets your imagination go. I can envision showing this to a group of writing students and letting them develop stories for one or more of the characters.

And of course there were the Rembrandts. He had quite the section of his portraits. Also from the Netherlands, Rembrandt aspired to paint biblical subjects, considered more prestigious than portraits. But after he settled in Amsterdam he enjoyed tremendous success in portraiture.

He did at least 40 self portraits. We saw one at Kenwood. Here is another...

...and another.

And this is his wife, Saskia.

Much of the rich collection of Impressionist work in England is at the Tate Britain. But here is a VanGogh you may recognize...

...or perhaps you prefer one of his sunflowers.

And of course, there is Monet, painting Paris' Gare St. Lazare.

 We could have gone on and on, enjoying the Turners (they are enormous) and Raphaels, Rubens and Titians. Constables, Gainsboroughs, Renoirs and more. But it was getting dark.

Time to go to the theatre!

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Valerie-Jael said...

It is indeed a fabulous place, and I have spent many happy hours there. Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos. Hugs, Valerie

Mae Travels said...

Only on one visit did we ever get to the National Gallery! Somehow the British Museum and the Tate Modern always get to the top of our lists. Your trip just sounds wonderful! I love all the pictures you showed in this post. I'm noticing that several of the Madonna and Child paintings there's the interesting iconography of oranges and coral necklaces. Neat.

best... mae at

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I hope you enjoyed the theatre. I've only been to the National Gallery once and it was quite a rushed trip. We were either on our way to a theatre show or a concert.

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

Oh, I am SO jealous of you, being able to see so many famous painting up close and personal! View your blog today was like being back in an art history class.

Lynne said...

Wonderful London, National Gallery Jeanie review . . .

Just to let you know, other than being snowed in, bitter cold, I can’t post, email, comment.
FB seems to be the only thing working on my iPad. As soon as this weather front clears,
off I will go to find an expert to help me.

Stay safe and warm!

NanaDiana said...

What a fabulous place to visit. I am sure you could spend a day there and not see it all---it must be kind of overwhelming.
I am glad you pointed that mirror out in the wedding picture. I thought that was interesting.
Have a great Sunday!!!! xo Diana

William Kendall said...

I would love to get there someday. Of all the ones you've shown, the Leonardos and the Monet particularly stand out.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh Jeanie.....first of all, this has been a butt-kickin' year back to full-time work teaching at the elementary level. My mornings are SO tight and I've missed so many of your posts, since I do my blog hopping (or would like to), in the morning.

How marvelous to see these masterpieces in such an iconic place. The Dutch Masters are my ultimate favorites. They mastered the shaping of the light with their colors and tones.

Dear friend, thank you so much for coming to my blog post and with such kind words. Keep on blogging!

Susan Kane said...

Such richness all in one place. How wonderful.

My name is Erika. said...

Wow. Off kilter or not that was a fabulous "quick" view. I have been by the outside of the building but never inside. 2 trips to London just isn't enough I fear (at least for me). One thing I did notice in the wedding portrait is how young the bride looked. Not that I didn't know that but it is just struck me as I viewed it. Thanks for taking us on this fabulous trip Jeanie. Hugs-Erika

Iris Flavia said...

You made me laugh about the "although (!! HAHA) that's one pretty ugly baby face"! :-)

Beautiful works indeed. I think, though, here (well, in Germany) it's mostly forbitten to take pics.
Those "paintings in paintings" I do like!
Yes,VanGogh has his style for sure.
Hmmm, I do feel all arty now!

Marilyn Miller said...

If I ever get back to London I must go here. Museums such as this I find are exhausting, but I do love them too. Some of the photos you showed I remember from art history for sure. The Van Gogh sunflowers is a favorite, which it seemed there were many at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. Oh to have time, money, and energy to visit all the special places in the world.

Pamela said...

Wonderful tour! Thanks for showing us what you saw.

Anonymous said...

Jeanie, I love to go to galleries and look at paintings. I like to imagine what is happening in the pictures! I was amazed at the paintings in NYC how some of them were so LARGE - like garage door size! xo

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, I have only been once to the National Gallery and it was years ago. Thank you for your lovely photos, I love art and can never stay long enough in a gallery to take it all in.

Joanne Huffman said...

It was nice to [virtually] join you to see all this art.

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Absolutely stunning photos!! Amazing!! Thanks so much for sharing and thanks so much for visiting!!

Bonnie said...

I enjoyed your post very much. You are amazing remembering particular paintings and their artists.
We have visited the National Gallery three times I think. One of the times there was a string quartet playing and it was lovely hearing the beautiful music as we strolled through the rooms admiring the gorgeous paintings.
We also stumbled onto a restaurant that overlooked Trafalgar Square and it had a beautiful nighttime view. Every time I read your posts I want to look up my pictures I have forgotten about. I've always wanted to eat at this restaurant in the evening to enjoy the view because I am curious if the food is good and the view was so beautiful. Reservations are required. I asked permission to make a picture since we could not get in to eat. I felt awkward making it but snapped it quickly and made my exit. Off to look up my pictures. Thanks for the memories.

Rita C at Panoply said...

Thank you for the virtual artwalk, Jeanie! said...

Wow, I can only try to imagine the impact of seeing these masterpieces in person! Thank you for taking us with you Jeanie!

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Whenever I visit a museum and see so many masterpieces, it's almost overwhelming. I love Leonardo's work and many of the others. Beautiful post!

Sally Wessely said...

What a wonderful collection of art! I've not been to the National Gallery in London. Maybe I will get to London some time in the future. If I do, I hope to visit the National Gallery.

Thank you for your recap and for capturing the photos of the paintings so well.

BB said...

I'm behind and playing catchup. You are spectacular at getting photos for us. I agree about the visibility of trust in the relationship between the woman and the little girl.

Olka said...

You've visited so many amazing places in London! :)

Zaa said...

I so enjoyed touring the National Gallery with you ..OMG, what beautiful paintings to view. I am particularly fond of da Vinci’s work ..but they are all exceptional ....You are indeed having a fabulous visit....ENJOY your week...hugs

Red Rose Alley said...

Oh, I love to see religious art work, Jeanie. I've never seen a picture of Mary and her Mother before. I have quite a few beloved Saints, and Saint Anne is one of them. I really like the painting of the mother and daughter too. How interesting for you to browse through all this magnificent artwork. Thanks for sharing, Jeanie.


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Now this kind of art is more my style! You saw some beautiful works of art. I'm glad there was a wheelchair available so you could enjoy the museum and give your poor feet a rest!

Liz@ HomeandGardeningWithLiz said...

Well that was enjoyable! I hate to admit I’m not a big museum follower but that had to be quite the one to visit! Glad you could visit and the wheel chair helped make it happen.


London is one of my fav towns in the world ! The museums are one of the best parts of great cities. I'm sure you were very comfy in the wheel chair, I'd love one sometimes, I get so tired toursting at times.

Tracy said...

The British National Gallery is HUGE... You could live there a week and still not see it all... haha! It's something of a pilgrimage or other, isn't it?! Whenever we're been there, we're usually short on time. So it's kind of nice, in a way, to be able to go each time and it feels like seeing things we'd not seen before... because we hadn't! The religious works are some of my favorites. Vermeer is a favorite of mine the Flemish painters. Trying to surface after being under the weather here, and catching up with your London posts, and really enjoying it all!! :))) ((HUGS))

Pam said...

So many cool things to see. Love that gate.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

The London Natl Gallery is SO much better than ours. There were paintings I have admired forever, wished I could see in person, and are all in my History of Art coffee table book. Even many of the religious icons.

I had to laugh at your having to photograph the art from below eye level. Welcome to my very short person world, dear.

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