Droplets of rain threatened to make me dig for my umbrella as I headed for the National Gallery, one of my top five free things to do in London. As I approached Trafalgar Square on that grey Wednesday, a lone bagpiper’s tune filled the square and a playful group of tourists posed nearby, iphone cameras in hand.
I couldn’t decide whether to head right for the Goya Exhibit at the National Gallery or to begin at the Portrait Gallery, not knowing if my enthusiasm to spend an “art afternoon” would encompass both galleries. I checked my luggage and backpack and headed for the Goya Exhibit.
Doña Isabel de Porcel was the first Goya painting I saw. She is dressed as a ‘maja’, as Spanish ladies of fashion often did in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is a hauntingly beautiful painting; one which X-ray photographs later revealed was painted over a portrait of a man in uniform. Considered one of Spain’s most influential artists, Goya was a masterful painter who had the title of “first painter to the king”.
The National Gallery Building displays all the major traditions of West European painting from the Renaissance to the French Impressionists. As I wandered through the collections, it was such a joy to have a wet London afternoon to leisurely explore the various collections. And to do this for free! Do Londoners realize what an absolute gem they have?
When I’m not at SAT Travel’s London office, I am living and working remotely from remote places on the map; upstate NY, a village near the Pont du Gard in the south of France, the Cotswolds, Bend, Oregon. It takes time, focus, money and determination to get my fill of art. This may sound like an exaggeration, but truly, it is not. I have been feeling “art deprived”!
The National Gallery structure itself is simply amazing; soaring columns, majestic space, light, colors, and architectural features. When I finally made it to the French Impressionists, I could settle in and soak in my favorites; Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Pissaro. I was really pleased to see the Van Gogh original of Auvers sur Oise, a town near Paris which I featured in my last IPS newsletter.
I wasn’t alone in my enjoyment of a free visit to the National Gallery and Portrait Gallery. It’s a welcome change to see young and old alike, inspired by the masters of Western Art. A special thank you to the city of London for this free afternoon of inspiration!