My first and fondest memories of art galleries has to be when I would drag my dad up to see new exhibitions in London museums during my summer holidays. London has an impressive array of art museums throughout the capital, from the renowned to the more obscure, but my first blog entry will detail the National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square.
For the unacquainted, the National Gallery emerged during the 19th century when Sir Beaumont bequeathed his collection of paintings to the nation. Almost two centuries on, the collection now consist of over 3,200 works that is open and free to the public all year round.
I will begin with the caveat that having a ‘favourite’ – whether that be art or the artist – is always difficult and often transient. That being said, the National Gallery houses some of my favourite paintings and perhaps my favourite artist, in Claude Lorrain. His complementary pair of paintings hanging up consist of ‘Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca’ and ‘Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba’ (1648). When renowned painter Turner died, he bequeathed over 1,000 of his paintings to the gallery. The one condition, however, detailed that his famous ‘Dido building Carthage’ and ‘Sun Rising through Vapour’ should be displayed alongside Claude’s aforementioned pair. This behest does more justice to Claude’s talent than anything I can say.
The National Gallery is home to one of the greatest assortments of paintings across history. All major traditions and periods of western art history are represented and grouped in the following; 13-15th century paintings, 16th century paintings, 17th century paintings and 18th to 20th century. There is an impressive array of all our beloved Renaissance masters, and famous works from Holbein and Bruegel. 17th century periods feature Rembrandts, Velasquez, Caravaggio (my mum’s favourite) and of course Claude. The more recent artworks features Cezanne, Monet, Goya and Turner.
Wandering around the gallery is an experience in itself, and whilst it may be easy to get lost, it is also easy to find yourself in a completely new time period. If you have the time, tracing art through its time periods, and watching styles and subject matter shift over centuries of innovation, is a wonderful way to pass the day. I goes without saying you cannot experience everything, so it is sensible to pick out a few things that you wish to see first. Also, it is wise to avoid the expensive cafes and museum shops unless you absolutely feel the need to.