The National Gallery

Yesterday was a long day at the National Gallery. Half the day was spent in a special show of Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure. This show features Vermeer and other Dutch artists’ depictions of music in the lives of men and women of the time. I’ve never seen so many women sitting at keyboards! The paintings are stunningly beautiful, the curation is superb, and the information almost overwhelming. Having never been a huge fan of Dutch masters, I had few expectations. However, the staff at The National Gallery have put together a show that captures my imagination and fuels my interest. The last room of the show features a scientific analysis of the four Vermeer paintings in the show. Through scanning, analysis of chips, expert analysis, etc. they dissect Vermeer’s materials and techniques. Wow!

The second half of the day was spent in the 19th century, leaning slightly into the first decade of the 20th century. Turner, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Degas, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, and many many more. Once more Turner rises to the top for me. However, two paintings particularly interested me. Degas painted a sepia-toned copy of a photograph of a famous woman…and I do mean copied. Princess Pauline de Metternich looks like a photograph, not at all his usual style. I would like to think he did it just to show us all that he could paint realistically if he so chose. The detail is exquisite. He even went so far as to copy the places where the camera failed to focus! This follows our attendance two years ago at an exhibit in London of Degas and the Dance that featured his curiosity and experimentation with photography. The link above gives a better view than this tiny one, which is all the museum allows me to download.

Degas Pauline



Another painting that Jean and I both wowed over was a very small Theodore Rousseau painting. Unfortunately the museum does not allow photography and their tiny photo does not do it justice. Sunset in Auvergne is one of the most dramatic paintings I’ve ever seen. Click the link to see a slightly larger version on the museum’s web page.


About Paul

I'm retired, but working at painting, photography, and song writing. We like to travel and paint plein air in new places. Of course that's also where photography comes into the picture, so to speak. Sometimes I get inspired to write songs about the people and places we visit.
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2 Responses to The National Gallery

  1. Jean-Paul Dumont says:

    Greetings to you and thank you for keeping us abreast of your cultural adventures in London museums. It seems like a very thoroughly packed day you had. I do not know very much, well, let me rephrase, I know nothing about this Mr Rousseau but I must say that his painting is extraordinarily appealing; I do agree with you on this one. I am perhaps less convinced with your take on Degas’s portrait of Pauline de Metternich; for me at least, no matter what, Degas’s painting looks like a Degas. The most important item is that you seem to enjoy your visit of London. Great! With love, JP

  2. Carolyn Raham says:

    It’s interesting that things now don’t look much different when it comes to nature. The fact that the painter captured it so well is remarkable at anytime.

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