We went to the National Gallery today, one of many fantastic museums here in London that have absolutely free admission, even to temporary exhibits. This one sits in Trafalgar Square, a great open space with fountains, a traffic circle, two lion statues almost exactly like the ones guarding the Art Institute of Chicago, and right now a set-up for some sort of event tonight. The National Gallery is a beautiful neo-classical sort of a building, lots of columns, and the entrance is clean and modern, marble and white walls. The ceilings are very high, the floors are old but don't really squeak, there's polite knee-high ropes and lots of docents and guards, and the wallpaper is incredible, each room a solid tone that's glossy but a little faded and has a raised pattern on it, so stately, and there's beautiful doorframes. The museum, all paintings, is divided up into four sections--13th to 15th Century, 16th Century, 17th Century, and 18th to 20th Century--but each specific gallery has a name and a plaque explaining the full significance of each room, as well as a plaque alongside each work describing the specific piece's significance.
Lovely. Let me list some of the most famous artists whose work I viewed today: Titian, Veronese, Caravaggio, Rubens, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer!, Goya, Turner, Degas and Monet. Those are the guys the map mentions as the highlights of each section. Some of my other personal favorites: Delacroix, Fragonard, Lord Leighton, Renoir, Gainsborough, Berthe Morisot, Elizabeth-Louise Vigee le Brun, and surprisingly a Gustave Klimt, one I've never seen before. Some new guys I haven't really noticed before: Tiepolo, J.M. Nattier and Johann Liss. Also of particular interest to me was a fabulous piece called The Finding of Moses by Orazio Gentileschi; his daughter, Artemisia, is one of the handful of female artists taught in a general art history course, and one of the first pre-20th century female artists that I studied. My favorite piece of hers is Judith Beheading Holofernes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GENTILESCHI_Judith.jpg). I had a ball, and I admit I got very sentimental and emotional when I saw the Berthe Morisot; her Femme a sa Toilette is one absolutely one of my favorite works of art.
Only one thing dimmed it a little bit, and that is that Matt isn't as crazy about painting as I am. (And that crowds annoy him, so that with those forces combined, he didn't even last with me to the 18th century.) I'm really, really crazy about art; I grew up with artists, I went to galleries when I was in utero, I danced and tried to do art and wish fashion had more functional artistry in it. My love affair with art has never dimmed, and I never want it to, of course. Never mind that I rant against about 95% of what they call Modern or, I hate to even type this phrase, Post-Modern (ugh), art. I love art. Love it. Being in a room of all Degas made me want to cry, and seeing Van Gogh's Chair choked me up. Getting close enough to see all of the incredible detail on Vermeer's A Young Woman standing at a Virginal, backing up to see the full beauty of Turner's Dido building Carthage, or The Rise of the Carthaginian Empire, or having to move sort of sideways to see sky details for a Constable, or the way you can stand anywhere you like and not miss a thing for any Seurat, made me so, so elated, so serene and enthusiastic all at once. And so it's just plain confounding to me that Matt--that anyone--doesn't feel the same way... To be fair, I'm sure he thinks it's insane that the most enthusiastic thing I can say about an Aston Martin V12 Vanquish is that it's very pretty and that never in my life will I be able to comprehend what is so damn exciting about rock climbing or skydiving or pocket knives.
So that made me float on a cloud.
Plus, we're going to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince tonight. In London. Oh, yeah. I think Tony will agree: 10 cool points for me, at least. Right? C'mon. And going to a cinema with assigned seating--that's right, they assign seats here, just like they queue up for everything--reminds me of the good old Utopolis in Luxembourg, which had the comfiest seats ever.
I hope all of you got to do or see or eat or read something you absolutely love today too.