I love that many of London’s museums, including the National Gallery, are free. I mean, I understand that museums need to make money to keep themselves running, but putting a price on admission to museums can also restrict people from wanting to learn more about the world they live in.
The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square (a little more on that in my next post) which houses Western European art from the 13th to 19th centuries. It is open from 10 AM to 6 PM (9 PM on Fridays) and is easy to get to by exiting at the Charing Cross station by Trafalgar Square.
Once again, I opted for renting an audio guide. I like getting audio guides at museums because you get a little more insight into what you are looking at and sometimes I feel like I take information in better by hearing it rather than reading it (though I still like to read the descriptions as well). The audio guide was £3.50, or around $5.40 USD. The adult price is normally £4 (~$6.18 USD), but I think I got the concessions price because there was apparently a strike going on and several of the galleries were closed.
I had most wanted to see “Sunflowers (Version 4)” by Vincent Van Gogh, not only because I am a fan of Van Gogh’s work, but also because I am a big Animal Crossing nerd and have made it a mission to see all the paintings that can be featured in your town museum’s art gallery. Sunflowers is a pretty iconic painting anyway and I remember doing an art project in elementary school when we had to paint our own sunflowers as well.
Here are some of the other paintings I thought were interesting and worth talking about:
- “An Old Woman (The Ugly Duchess)” by Quinten Massys – Painted in about 1513, the description by the painting said that Massys was satirizing old women who “try inappropriately to recreate their youth”. Hey, if you are confident about the way you dress, then rock it.
- “Portrait of a Young Man” by Moretto da Brescia – Painted about 1540 to 1545, I liked this one because of just how over it the sitter, probably Fortunato Martinengo Cesaresco, is. There is also a Greek inscription in his hat that translates to, “Alas, I desire too much”. I feel you, bro. I feel you.
- “Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve (The Ambassadors)” by Hans Holbein the Younger – Painted in 1533, this painting features an anamorphosis, or a distorted projection. What appears to be a strange smudge at the bottom of the painting turns out to be a skull when viewed at an angle. Okay, well, you can already kind of tell that it’s a skull and not a smudge, but it’s a cool effect anyway. I believe that the skull is a memento mori, or a reminder that we will all die. I’ve thought about the concept of memento mori a lot recently, which is probably another reason why I liked this painting so much.
- “The Execution of Maximilian” by Edouard Manet – Painted in about 1867 to 1868, I thought this was more notable for the fact that it was cut up after Manet’s death and then reassembled from some of recovered fragments by Edgar Degas. Only Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian’s hand is what’s left of the puppet emperor of Mexico.
- “Bathers at Asnières” by Georges Seurat – Painted in 1884, this painting reminded me a lot of another famous Seurat painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”, which I would love to see some day when I go to Chicago.
This was probably one of my favorite art galleries that I have visited since it did have quite a few paintings that I liked seeing and learning more about. And again, I should reiterate that admission was completely free.
I bought a lapel pin based on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting in the gift shop and headed outside where I experienced my first happy surprise of my trip.