A Day for Art

It’s our last day in London. We had heard that it was supposed to rain all day, but even by 5:00 in the evening we had not seen a drop of rain.

We began our day by taking an enjoyable walk down Sloane Street onto Knightsbridge and then on to Apsley House, home to the Duke of Wellington. This is a real treat for both students of 19th century British history and art history in general as Wellington, in addition to being the famed victor at the decisive battle of Waterloo, was an avid collector of art, and Apsley House has, among its impressive collection, works by Titian, Goya, Velasquez, and Reubens. While photography was not allowed at Apsley House, we were impressed by the superb audio tour, eager-to-please docents, and the overall impressiveness of this English heritage site. What a stirring way to experience a pivotal time in British history and insights into the remarkable life of the Duke of Wellington.

Lunch was at the Crypt Cafe at St. Martins in the Field. For under $20 we had quiche, couscous, and roasted baby potatoes in their jackets seasoned with fresh herbs. We visited the famous church which is actually simplistic in style and noticed they were preparing for a piano concert. The pianist himself was there in coat and tails for a rehearsal, but we missed it.

The National Portrait Gallery is free to visitors and has portraits dating back to the 1300s. Some were larger than life size such as Prince Albert and others were whimsical such as Elton John. It spans from the Tudors all the way to 20th century movers and shakers and pop icons. I was particularly fond of a portrait of Queen Elizabeth with her corgi. We spent some time relaxing in their elegant cafe while classical music played.

Tonight we went to a special Van Gogh exhibit at the Tate Britain. It celebrated the life and times of Van Gogh from the time he lived in London until his death. I learned that Van Gogh spoke four languages and read classical books. His art was inspired by the books of Charles Dickens. Van Gogh also wrote many letters to his brother which were too fragile to transfer from Amsterdam, but exact facsimiles were on display. On exhibit were many paintings that inspired Van Gogh as an artist as well as paintings by those inspired by him. It was sometimes hard to tell which was which from a distance except the Van Gogh paintings always had a crowd in front of them. A sign cautioned people to not block others with their cell phones, but they did. It seemed as if no matter what painting I wanted to study, a lady in a teal blue muumuu was in front of me.

Dinner tonight was at Zizzi. It’s a pizza place that’s very affordable. Tomorrow the alarm will go off at 5:45. We leave on the Eurostar for Brugge at 9:00am.

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