Last weekend a few friends and I went to visit the National Gallery in London. I was looking forward to seeing how really brilliant painters do their thing and hoping it would be good but I had no idea how amazing the experience would actually be. It was fantastic!
I’m still so amazed by it that I’m finding it hard to put my feelings into words. I think the thing which shocked me most of all was how very different it is to see these paintings in real life compared to images of them you can see on the comptuer or even prints that you can buy. They are an order of magnitude more beautiful in real life. They are luminous.
Anyway here are my top 12 paintings for this trip. (We didn’t get to see the whole collection in one trip – it’s too big!) According to the National Gallery these paintings can be reproduced in this blog under the Creative Commons license. According to this license I have to let you all know that I’ve made no changes to the pictures.
My favourite painting of all was Whistlejacket by Stubbs. We were on our way from the barogue Era to the Impressionists when I saw this painting through a doorway off to the left – it looked to me like a live horse in the gallery. The colour was so rich and the lines were so perfect and so clear I was completely transfixed.
I liked this so much a bought a print but the print doesn’t look even half as good as the original – the colour is too dull and flat in the print. It still serves as a good reminder though.
My second favourite is unfortunately an image I can’t download because there isn’t a creative commons license for it although you can see it on the National Gallery Site here – Dutch Boats in a Gale
It’s by Turner and it’s called ‘Dutch Boats in a Gale’. Before I went to the National Gallery I thought that I didn’t really like Turner’s work. Lots of his later work is more famous I think – like the ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ – but I don’t like that sort of watery style because I can’t see what’s going on. (That’s not to say it’s not good – I’m sure it is – but I don’t get it at all.) But his early work like this painting and also one called ‘Calais Pier’ I love. It’s such a shame I can’t show a picture of my number two paiting here. What I love the most is the way he’s painted the sails straining against the fixed rigging – it’ just looks so real. Looking at it in the gallery I kept getting the feeling that I could feel the sail cloth if I were to touch it. (You are not allowed to touch the paintings – even gently.)
My third favourite is Wheatfield and Cypresses by Van Gogh. I turned the corner into this particular room and this painting was like a blaze of light and colour – it was so beautiful. Looking at the computer image now it looks nothing like the real thing. I’ve always liked Van Gogh’s simple style but until I saw this painting I never understood his genius before. It just shines out. It was stunning.
The others I really enjoyed were:
The Infant St John with Lamb by Murillo
The Adoration of the Kings by Dolci
The Watering Place by Rubens
The Sun Rising through Vapour by Turner
Hillside in Provence by Cezanne (which surprised me because I didn’t think I liked impressionist work much at all, but the painting in real life just has something wonderful about it.)
Bathers by Cezanne.
The Execution of Maximillion by Manet
Keitele Lake by Kallela (I love the reflections in this one.)
And finally, but one of my favourites…
Men of the Docks by Bellows
I had a most wonderful time at the National Gallery. We walked and looked until I thought my body would collapse it was so good. We’re already thinking of going back again as soon as we can!