Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The final post from my travels to Britain.  

At the end of our vacation we stole a few days and nights away from visiting our family to show the kids the sights, sounds and history of London. Though the weather was a little mixed we still had a great time and ticked of many a sight. From the Tower of London to Buckingham palace, we also spent considerable amounts of time in the British Museum and the Natural History museum. But perhaps most noteworthy for my 'art' blog was that once again I was able to escape for a few hours to visit a gallery or two.


While, the family watched 'the changing of the guard' at Buckingham palace (yawn); I sidled away to my first stop, the Courtauld Gallery. For those who haven't been, it's only a small collection in part of a lovely building - Summerset house. Though small it does however have some wonderful art, covering the impressionist and particularly the post impressionist paintings with some nice Van Gogh, Cezannes, Gogan, Vlaminck, and more. Even better, they had a Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition, focusing on his 'painting' relationship with the dancer Jane Avril.

As some of you may recall from previous posts, I go nuts over Lautrec's paintings and they had a handful of really nice ones, plus a number of his sketches & lithographs, (which I tend to gloss over I confess).  I'd arrived right on opening time, so I had the paintings pretty much to myself, I spent an obscene amount of time studying the painting 'At the Moulin Rouge' which is just fantastic.

(the contrast levels seem wrong - the original seems much darker and richer than it appears here)

So many of his painting have fantastic palette choices, and I love the green colors that work through the background and shadow areas of this painting. There's so much richness and interest in all the warm darks and browns, something which rarely comes across in reprints or photographs. For me the painting both in color and composition is so daring and yet completely and utterly captivating.


In all my years I'd never had the opportunity to visit the Royal Academy's Summer exhibition, so I traveled there to soak in the eclectic spectacle. For those not in the know, arguably it's 'THE' British contemporary artist exhibition of the year, for both professional and the hobbyist artist. Thousands enter in the hope of hanging on the walls and though the walls are primarily hung salon style, (from wall to ceiling), many great art fails to make an appearance, and of course (arguably), much mediocre art gets in too. 

One of the things about the RA show is it's mandate is so vast and all encompassing. On it's walls you'll find everything from the most traditional of paintings, to print and photographic work, to the most modern and 'edgy' sculpture or installation; there's even a section for notable architecture. As is to be expect from such a broad brief there's something for everyone, and also a lot than can be glossed over.  

Most of all I enjoyed looking through the painted works, marveling at the great and marveling (for different reasons) at the not so good. I also enjoyed studying the spread of red dots (sales), particularly in the small works room, (which had a fantastic sales to hung ratio).

In hind sight I wish I'd visited the galleries in reverse order; my woeful short-term memory would have benefited from seeing some of my favorite paintings in the Courtauld last, rather than the RA; but oh well, there's always next time!