Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Magic of London's V&A and National Gallery.

Hello All,

It has been a while since my last post and I must say quite a bit has happened. I am preparing myself for the application process to graduate school and have just returned from London, England. I know, London! I've never traveled and this was my very first plane ride! Exciting, to say the least!

The museums in London, as I am sure you are all well aware, are free...completely and totally free. I couldn't ask for anything more. I know these galleries have an extensive collection but their specific contents was not something I have a great knowledge of.  Needless to say, I found myself pleasantly surprised.

My trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum was fantastic. After making my way through the gallery, in a bit of a daze, I happened across a Bernini...I know, a Bernini! I flipped, literally. As I made my way through the sculpture atrium, I came across the work from behind, not really attuned to what it was.

I thought to myself " this is way Baroque is so brilliant. Look at the movement and weightlessness of the fabric." And then it happened. I turned the corner, face to face with the front of the sculpture and the name literally leaped off the plaque....BERNINI! I had lost my mom in the midst of the tourist crowd and was, therefore, alone, freaking out. It was a Bernini, a real Bernini. 

To be honest, it feels like a dream. I know I stood in front of it for quite a while as people came and went, but I don't feel like I actually saw it. The beauty of the V&A is you're allowed to take pictures, so I do have some physical evidence of my Bernini experience! Here are some of the many photos I took of the work:

 My trip to the National Gallery was a bit more surreal than the V&A. You're thinking how? Well, I was prepared to see Turner and Constable and others but not Caravaggio. I made my way through the maze of galleries looking for English favourites and excited to see their greatness in person. I turned into one gallery and there it was Supper at Emmaus.

Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus, 1600, Oil on Canvas. Image from Wikipedia.

Again, my heart racing (I should probably have this checked out!) and I glided towards the work. I clutched the strap of my bag as I stood before it in utter amazement. I had to contain myself as I almost cried standing so close the painting. You can never prepare yourself for the actual work. You see it a great number of times in text books and online but in person it's completely different. It's as though its alive and real. The work is so much more dramatic in person. The extreme contrast between light and dark, positive and negative space is so much more jarring and fantastic than when you see it on a page of a book. You can see brushstrokes and the dabbing and mixture of paint on the canvas allowing one to feel the presence of the artist. I was standing before an actual Caravaggio. I could smell the oil paint and the quickness of some of his strokes. I was in awe, to say the least.

Turner and Constable was just icing on the cake. Rain, Steam, and Speed always ends up on a slide carousel but to be honest I've never grown sick of it.

J.M.W Turner's Rain, Steam, and Speed. 1844. Oil on Canvas. Image from Wikipedia.
 It's massive in person and so colourful and dramatic. I fell in love all over again with Turner. There were about 5 or 6 works, giving the artist half of the space in the gallery. On the other side was Constable's Hay Wain which, I suppose, is in stark contrast to the quick and ease of Turner's brushwork.

John Constable's The Hay Wain. 1821. Oil on Canvas. Image from http://www.backtoclassics.com/gallery/johnconstable/thehay-wain/
 Constable is so detailed and concise, varying his brushwork from minimal, barely visible strokes, to long, wide strokes. However, there is never a quickness in his work. You stand before it and know this took time, patience, and motivation. Turner, on the other hand, is quick. You can feel his concentration and rhythm when you look at the work. You can feel the artist quickly applying paint, in long, sweeping strokes. It was pure magic!

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