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...
...as 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 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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