It’s still a wonderful asset and advantage to tourists and locals alike that you can see all the treasures of the National Gallery for nothing.
Two trips to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh set me back nearly 40 euros.
Yesterday the tutor of our excellent art course organised a curated tour to accompany her course of European post-Renaissance Art.
Despite the ambit we started with the famous Raphael of the Crucifixion noting the colours and its rather serene quality; we moved to the Masaccio of Virgin and Child – the first artist to employ and understand perspective – and next to it the Paolo Uccello of the Battle of Romano which so entranced David Hockney as an art student.
I was more interested in the Golden Age of Dutch Art but to get to its one room you passed through two rooms of Rubens.
Our tutor made the good point that the huge canvases tell a picture with which the modern viewer cannot empathise. That is why I like Dutch Art. It was the first expression of urban, non-religious art and an art market.
These stark but detailed landscapes were pre-Constable, Corot and Delacroix. They often had a huge sky and a church in the background. It’s a style that the great Americans artists like Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth successfully followed.
It was a fecund period in which the independent Netherlands produced 1.3 to 1.4 million paintings, extraordinary for a population of 2 million. All the great landscapists – Jacob van Ruiydael, Cuyp, van Ostade, Hobenler – were there. Some of these could have been bought for £5 at the turn of the last century.
The National Gallery has traditionally concentrated on Greek, Roman, Italian and French Art with British art more represented in Tate Britain. This is a shame.
By lunch time I was rather tired on my pins and Museumitis had set in.
London was gridlocked by the Nato conference so I did the sensible thing and walked. One thing I don’t miss about London is being stuck in traffic in a taxi with the rising meter and a chatty driver bemoaning Uber.
At least the castigation of the Mayor has ceased.