Are we blessed – the London weather has been fabulous and our English Art Retreat is off to a fantastic start! Three of my terrific fellow travellers and art lovers met up over drinks and food in Paddington on the evening of May 15th – Italian was the order of the evening and much hilarity. We began properly the next day heading off to the British Museum (luckily I have a great map reader in Alice, who took over when I was talking so hard, I missed a street turn after exiting the underground!)
Once there, the great court is such a marvellous space and the light is incredible. We moved smartly to avoid some of the crowds (many, many school groups) and took in Egypt, Assyria, Greece and Rome. The immediate impression on walking through these galleries for me, is the immensity of the monumental sculptures on all sides. There is even a Greek Temple rebuilt in one of the galleries.
The pieces of course, raise the question of ownership – clearly these were not British originally. The Rosetta stone, the key to deciphering heiroglyphics which appears immediately in the Egyptian rooms was found by Napoleon’s soldiers in 1799 and came to Britain as war reparations after Napoleon’s defeat. The so called ‘Elgin Marbles’, the amazing sculptures of the Greek Parthenon were brought to England by Lord Elgin and so many more of these ancient works arrived after just being removed to England by wealthy men seeking knowledge of the ancient world. We all discussed this issue without resolution, as have many others.
A trip to the London Graphic Centre for art supplies, lunch in Covent Garden and an exploration of the collections of the Courtauld Galleries was extremely interesting – The works on display at the Courtauld must be some of the best examples of 18th – 20th Century visual art anywhere. There were Manet’s famous work ‘Dejeuner sur l’Herbe’, Cezannes I had never seen before even in reproductions, Gainsboroughs, Reynolds and many more. It is a superb collection.
Dinner at the Cork and Bottle as we welcomed two more travellers, Robyn and Trish and then after a much needed sleep, it was off the next day to visit the two Tates (Britain and Modern) to see the famous Turners, checkout the Constables, see some Francis Bacon and Trish’s favourite of the moment, Morandi.
With the magic of blue skies we sailed off on the River Boat to travel from Tate Britain to Tate Modern and to learn more of Rothko, Monet, Klee, Dali, Miro and on and on
it goes – such a collection of art that it is so very hard to know where to begin and where to stop but I do know the English art retreat is off and running!