Friday, 1 July 2011

Making Connections ~ The Time Line

Having managed to get as far as London once there is now absolutely no holding me.  The National Gallery last month and now, this month, the Courtauld Gallery, tucked away amongst the buildings of Somerset House, just off the Strand.

The Courtauld is one of those small galleries, of which there are several dotted around the capital, where you turn a corner and suddenly come across one of the world's great paintings, like this one by Manet.  If you'd asked me where I thought this was I would have hazarded the National or the Louvre or the Prada.  I wouldn't have expected to find it tucked away down a London side alley.

I had actually gone to see the Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril exhibition.  Jane Avril was one of the dancers at the Folies-Bergeres who Toulouse-Lautrec used as models for the posters and pictures he created for the theatre.  We normally see her dressed in bright colours, legs flying, as she entertains the punters in the can-can.  This was the picture that took my attention, though, showing the dancer in a much more somber mood as she leaves the theatre in the early hours of the morning almost unnoticed in her classic blue suit.  There is something so contained about her in comparison with the abandon she displays in the more well known paintings.  She looks separate, lonely.  This is the canvas I could live with.

I had as much pleasure though from looking around the rest of the gallery.  As well as the Manet they have some wonderful Van Gogh and Degas as well as an interesting collection of paintings by Rubens and it was the Rubens which brought home to me gaps in my knowledge that I know I have to do something about.

Where each of the individual creative arts is concerned I have a reasonably good understanding of the time line through from the medieval to the modern day.  I know where Rubens comes in relation to Degas or when Mozart was composing in relation to Brahms.  What I don't know is how they relate across the artistic boundaries.  So, I find it amazing that Rubens was painting this picture of Moses and the Brazen Serpent at the same time and in the same place as Shakespeare was writing The Tempest.  It isn't that I thought they were from different time periods, I just have no real understanding of how they relate at all.

Well, there is no point in simply bewailing my lack of understanding, is there?  I need to do something about it and I'm going to, but that is for another post.

Oh, and before any of you ask, yes, of course I went to Fortnum and Mason for afternoon tea.  This time I replaced the scones with a slice of Raspberry Yoghurt Cake but unfortunately I can't find a picture of this magnificent confection.  I should have taken one before I demolished it.  Anyway, I can definitely recommend you treat yourself, just be prepared to explain the bill to your bank manager next time you see him!


  1. I love visiting museums, so this sounds wonderful. I was fortunate to have visited the Courtauld when I was in London in the early 90s and at the time there was also a bookstore in the same neighborhood (if I am remembering correctly?) called Dillons (?) though I wonder if it is still around. Isn't it nice finding such a spectacular place all tucked away like that?

  2. Your trip sounds wonderful! I'll add the Courtauld to my list of places to visit next time I'm in London. I also don't have a good understanding of how the timelines of the various art forms relate to one another -- one of the problems of studying only one discipline in each class. I need an interdisciplinary series of classes to connect all the dots!

  3. Danielle, Dillons was a newsagents, so I wonder if you're thinking of Foyles, which is in the Charing Cross Road and still there. There is also a very large Waterstones in Piccadilly and the independent Hatchards right next door to Fortnums.

    Dorothy, you need the study group I'm setting up for the Autumn. You'll have to come and join us. It will only be once a month and you can have a bed here.

  4. I went to the Courtauld specifically to see the Impressionist paintings especially that Manet painting. I was surprised at its size - even though I'd read about (and its measurements) I'd expected it to be bigger. I also loved the building.

    I'd love to visit again, but now we live so far away I doubt we will, so it's good to see your pictures and read about your visit.

    I'll be following your study group with great interest.

  5. Margaret, one of the ideas I'm playing about with is putting together a written record of what comes out of the study group. If that comes to anything then I could let you have a copy if you were interested.

  6. Sounds good - I've just read your next post! I'd be very interested - thank you. Let me know if there's anything I could contribute.

  7. Excellent! Now can I quit my job so I have the free time to join your group?