Monday, January 25, 2010
The National Gallery
As part of my kid-free Sunday (which turned out not to be totally kid-free after all!), I decided to spend the afternoon in quiet contemplation (?) at The National Gallery.
The National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square and got it's start when the House of Commons paid for 38 paintings belonging to a banker back in 1824, and used his Pall Mall home as the exhibition space. Embarrassed by having their national Gallery based in someones home, the Great British public demanded the Government build a building worthy of a national art collection. The current building was designed by architect William Wilkins and completed in 1838.
I started my self-guided tour in The Sainsbury Wing, the newest addition to The Gallery, opening in 1991. The Gallery is well laid out, with most of the displays on the same floor and you can see most of the paintings in one afternoon.
It didn't hold the same magic for me as The Louvre, but then, I imagine, few places would. It was great to discover some of my old favourites and ones I studied at school - Monet, Rembrandt, Constable, Turner and Van Gogh.
All around the Gallery are seats and benches where you can rest your weary feet and also take in some of the larger portraits from a distance. And in each of the rooms is the ever-present guard / attendant (not sure what to call them!) standing or sitting and looking entirely bored. I'm sure a day in my old office job would seem like too much excitement for them! How they manage not to fall asleep, I'll never know. I did overhear a couple of them talking about whether they preferred gas or electric cookers (I think gas was the winner!), so I guess they have ways of keeping entertained.
The National Gallery is open daily from 10am to 6pm and is free. The usual audio tours, cloakrooms and Gallery Shop are all available. There is a restaurant, but I didn't go in as it looked really expensive.
But my favourite of the whole gallery was discovered in the Gallery Shop on my way out. Among all the prints of the famous portraits, classy stationery and art books was a stuffed Vincent Van Gogh toy, complete with detachable ear and a little tag saying, "I'm Vincent Van Gogh and my ear comes off". Nice.