Thursday, December 06, 2012

London: Art! Art! Art!

I do like a good gallery, and I went to two new ones this time around, the Courtauld and the Wallace Collection. Both were a good size to enjoy without getting exhausted, although probably if I were by myself I would have paid a bit closer attention to stuff in the Wallace rather than getting distracted with chatting. There's only so much you can say about walking around a gallery, so I'll mostly let the photos do the talking.

My first stop on Wednesday, after dropping my bag off at my sister's, was the Courtauld Gallery. As noted the other day, they didn't want me working for them, but they still have a nice wee gallery with some real artistic treasures. I thought the medieval section was going to be bigger, but never mind. I also surprised myself by really liking a lot of the Impressionist paintings, which I'm often fairly indifferent to. Some highlights:

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Manet. I don't know if I noticed before that in the mirror image, she is leaning towards a man. I think this painting must be some sort of comment on French customer service, because she could not look more disengaged
I loved this portrait by Gabriele Münter, a German Expressionist painter who, along with Kandinsky (my fav artist) and Franz Marc, founded Der Blaue Reiter group

I love miniature medieval carvings, they're just astonishing in their detail and virtuosity

I'm not sure what that is peeping out from under the arches, the sun?

I'm amused by the lady on the bed, who seems to be thinking, "Can I just have ONE moment to myself here!"

This unfinished painting by the Mannerist painter Parmigianino was another favourite. The elongation of forms was a feature of his style, rather than a flaw

This medieval painting is supposed to show the martyrdom of two saints, but the one lying in the middle looks more like a kid who's eaten too many sweets to me

Outdoor ice rink at Somerset House, next to the Courtauld
I was happy to remain a spectator. Ice skating was mysteriously in vogue for much of my teen years, but I never liked it. It's cold, it hurt my ankles, I'm bad at it, and if you fall down, it not only hurts, but it's especially humiliating (for teen Gwan at least)

London skyline from Waterloo Bridge

View from the other side of Waterloo Bridge

On Friday, it was off to the Wallace Collection for more (free) art. I'm not sure either where I came across the idea to come here, but it's well worth a visit, not only for the collections, but also for the beautiful interiors. I was meant to meet Rick and his girlfriend Sonya at 11 am, but ended up waiting in the lobby for them for half an hour before going in by myself. I think by the time they finally turned up, they were about an hour late, but very apologetic, so I was just happy that they found me. (My stupid Free mobile does not work in the UK, a cause of frequent annoyance!)

Highlights of the collection include the famous Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals, although I think Smirking Cavalier would be more appropriate:

and lots of lovely decorative arts pieces from the Middle Ages and Renaissance (and beyond). Also a lot of boring French and Dutch paintings from the 17th and 18th century and armour and stuff, but no-one was forcing me to look at those.

Sonya and Rick admiring some paintings

I was excited to see some pages from an illuminated copy of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. Boethius was mega big in the Middle Ages, especially his idea of the Wheel of Fortune. That's right, before it was a gameshow, it was a serious concept seeking to explain life's ups and downs and to remind even the mightiest king (who you can just make out sitting on top of the wheel) that tomorrow he could be in the gutter.

BOOM! This is literally the best painting known to humanity

Awesome. And you can't really see, but he has a little lamb with him, further adding to the awesomeness

There were some beautiful rooms
After the Wallace Collection, it was time to get some lunch, and we had a perfectly serviceable pizza at Pizza Express before I had to rush back to Jess's to get changed for my birthday drinks (of which more next time)...


  1. Questions:
    Is he called Munter because of the end product?
    Is Parmegiani whats his name the inventor of a type of cheese?
    Wasn't it supposed to be Mary who had the little lamb?
    Do you realise that the Manet picture demonstrates a completeb misunderstanding of the properties of mirrors?
    Answers on a postcard please.

    1. Munter's a she.
      Yes he invented cheese in his spare time.
      He's looking after it for her.
      Yes I did.
      I don't have a postcard to hand.

    2. @Anonymous I'm so happy that I wasn't the only one who was disturbed by the man's reflection in the mirror in Manet's painting. I kept thinking, "Wait a minute, that man isn't standing next to the waitress!" "What's going on here?!"

  2. Known to humanity? Shouldn't that be unknown?

  3. LOVE Manet and what you said about his A Bar at the Folies-Bergèr piece! I am cracking up!
    I have yet to explore London's Museums! Crazy right? And that ice rink makes reminds me of NYC's Bryant Park a little bit.. <3


    1. You must! There's so much amazing stuff you can see for free

  4. That is without a doubt the greatest painting ever. There has never been a child more awesome that that one. Boom.

  5. I've always liked A Bar at the Folies-Bergère but will never be able to look at it again without thinking about customer service in France. Thanks, Gwan!

    Who took the photo of you pointing to the best painting known (or unknown!) to humanity?

    1. Ah, never mind. After looking at the photos again, I figured out that it must have been Sonia or Rick who took the photo. I originally thought that you were on your own and asked a stranger (a handsome one, of course!) to take your picture. Oh, well...

    2. Ha, you had a whole conversation to yourself there. It was Geoff the sexy undercover cop of course, he pops up in the unlikeliest places! Mickey has some competition...

      Sorry for ruining Disney AND the Folies-Bergère!

  6. That painting IS awesome! He's all "Holla back now woop woop!" "I'm with my lamb woop woop!" I didn't think facial expressions and movement like this existed back then. Hey, I learned something new today. ; )

    I said it last year and I'll say it again this year, I love that red coat.

    1. "I'm with my lamb woop woop!" Ha ha, love it! Thanks again, I've always wanted a red coat :)

  7. That thing up there in the arches is totally a rubber chicken.

    Love the commentary on the paintings (as usual!).

    1. Thanks! I always worry it might be a bit boring just looking at photos of museums and photos


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