Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Art Gallery Trip~The National Gallery of London

For a few years now I've dreamed of taking Artist Son to a significant art gallery of Western art. Unfortunately, there aren't any in the Middle East and we don't have much of a chance to visit renowned galleries even when we are stateside, being from Idaho as we are--though we were treated to an excellent exhibition of James Audubon paintings at the Boise Art Museum last year.

Then one late night this fall, I realized that my seemingly fanciful dreams could become a reality and within the week our gallery trip was planned and booked: Until now it has been expensive to fly from Jordan to just about anywhere, with flights to London costing around $600, but last year Easy Jet entered the market with a flight from Amman to London at very good prices, depending. It turns out that early December, when we wanted to travel, was one of the good times to fly and I was able to purchase both our tickets for a total of $340! Some of our dearest friends live near London and were willing to host us, and the National Gallery offers free admission, so our trip expenses were minimal. My friend even made sack lunches for us every day!

But how could we go to London and visit only the National Gallery? With over 2300 masterpieces on exhibit, we didn't even wonder. So short was our time (three full days in London proper) and so narrow our focus, we didn't even consider visiting the National Portrait Gallery a couple blocks away or the Leonardo DiVinci exhibition on display at the National Gallery, for which we would have had to purchase advance tickets and que up in the cold early morning. No regrets. Not one.

My favorite Art Nerd in front of the National Gallery

If ever I wondered if Artist Son was made to appreciate and create art, I wonder no more. He seemed to relish everything about looking at and wondering at artful masterpieces for three full days. His favorite part was the free walking tours and other lectures offered by art historians of the gallery. Twice a day, a one-hour walking tour was offered in which five to six works of art were explained and explored. We learned so much. We also enjoyed such lectures as a 45-minute lunch-time lecture on a Raphael altarpiece.

A contraband photo of Artist Son viewing Joseph Mallord William Turner's Ulysses deriding Polyphemus

Toward the end of our first day at the gallery we happened upon a once-a-month workshop in which an artist described Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait of Queen Charlotte and then instructed a group of artists (amateurs and professionals?) on how to render it in charcoal.

Portrait of Queen Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1789, London),
The National Gallery
, London

When the drawing session was over, the artists were instructed to put their sketches on the floor in the front of the group so that all could gather round to see what had been created. Coming a little late to the session, Artist's Son's drawing was less complete than some of the others, but proud and loyal mother that I am, I examined it carefully to find its goodness. A women who was studying the art work carefully pointed at Artist Son's drawing and inquired, "Who did this one?" Not a peep from Artist Son. She asked a second time, adding "This one, right here, is really good." Still no word from Artist Son so I felt compelled to point him out, "He's the artist." Oh, and I had to add, "He's my son."

So went our wonder-full, beauty-full days at the National Gallery. We didn't get to view every painting, many paintings we longed to study more closely, but a few paintings we visited each day, letting their beauty and awesomeness soak into us. (I've been toying with idea of doing a Fine Arts Friday but for my knowledge of how inconsistent I can be. Maybe a Fine Arts Whenever. Stay tuned.)

While in London, we really did just hang out at the National Gallery, but one night after the gallery closed, we walked few blocks down near the bridge over the Thames and took a few "I Was There" pictures:

Artist Son in front of Big Ben

Artist Son in front of Westminster Abbey

The perfect finale to our gallery trip was seeing a brilliant production of Les Miserables. Artist Son was skeptical when we took our seats in the very last row of the theater, truly the nosebleed section. I had purchased the tickets that morning, requesting the best bargain seats. Even though the tickets were for the last row, the ticket agent guaranteed that they were a good buy for the money and that we would be able to see 100% of the stage. After the show began, Artist Son's doubts quickly vanished and he was visibly awestruck and moved when the show was over. Guess what soundtrack he listens to now while he is working on his art?


Woman of the House said...

Oh, this sounds so wonderful! I'm so glad you and your son had the opportunity to go. Thanks sharing your experience!

jlt said...

I loved the National Gallery when I was in London. Since I'm not an artist but am an English history fan, I did spend an afternoon in the Portrait Gallery, too. :)