Today, our guest writer Andrea Kirkby continues her personal tour of the National Gallery’s top 10 highlights.
It’s now time for numbers 6 to 10:
6. Stubbs – Whistlejacket (Room 34). They say ‘never work with children or animals’ and animal painting is often trite or twee. But this splendid racehorse – isolated on a yellow background – is stark and true to life, his eye bright and his ears pricked. It’s a portrait of great precision and power.
7. Uccello – the battle of San Romano (Room 54). The attraction of this painting is the utter solidity of the forms, the extreme use of perspective (look at the foreshortened body lying on the ground). It’s utterly real and yet in a way dreamlike, with the muted colours of the horses and that marvellous solitary focus of colour on the knight’s red and gold turban.
8. Whistler – The fighting Temeraire (Room 34). I adore Whistler and he excels himself in this painting with the ghostly white Temeraire being towed away by a stark black tug and the strange rays of sunset. In some ways it’s about loss; in other ways, it’s about the way we can find beauty in the saddest things. I get more from this picture every time I see it.
9. François de Nomé (aka Monsu Desiderio) – Fantastic ruins (Room A screen 21 – only open Wednesday afternoons): this is an amazing picture, like something from Fritz Lang or JG Ballard, a sort of post-apocalyptic landscape. The sea has gone out, the boat is beached, the miraculously ornate city decaying. Salvador Dali meets Canaletto. It’s just plain weird!
10. Gallen-Kallela – Lake Keitele (Room 44). This Finnish painter has created a marvellous vision of the grey waters of the lake, with the almost abstract zig-zag pattern of the waves on the water. You can almost feel the cool of a bright spring day coming out from the shimmering surface. I have a deep affection for this painting – if I’m feeling stressed or tired, I just go and look at it for ten minutes. It’s like my personal Zen garden.
We hope you have enjoyed this overview of the best of the National Gallery and that it has encouraged you to make a visit. You can obtain visiting information from the official National Gallery website.
In part one we already suggested one mid-price hotel within walking distance of the National Gallery, but what if you’re after pure luxury?
Look no further than One Aldwych: stylish rooms, staff with well-trained soft skills and gorgeously-designed public spaces, all within a stone’s throw of Covent Garden as well as the historic pubs of Holborn.
Photo credits: One Aldwych, Vic Lic’s photostream.