Pre-Caravaggio Tour Art Excursion: 26 Hours in London

We landed a little early, 7:20 am–border check, change terminals, drop bag at hotel, top up my Oyster card, onto the Tube– and shortly after 10 am, I’m at Green Park Station, near Buckingham Palace and the Royal Academy of Art, where they’re hosting a big Abstract Expressionism exhibition. Probably the biggest name in Abstract Expressionism is Jackson Pollock but my favourites are Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Clifford Still, Franz Kline, Sam Francis, and Barnett Newman.  All of whom have works in this show. And I learned of an artist I hadn’t seen before, Joan Mitchell, whose work I really liked. While I love art historical works, these artists produce works I’d put on my walls–if I had an extra $200 million!

From there, a short walk to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery to see the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition. This is not a Caravaggio show; its object is to illustrate the influence he had, despite never having students or a workshop. Simply the radical nature of his work changed European art. In some ways, it is unfortunate that Caravaggio’s works are included. They are necessary so you can see the elements in his work copied by his followers, but his works are like the monster in the room. They are so much better than the other works on display. There are only 6 Caravaggios–3 already owned by the National Gallery, Boy Bitten by a Lizard, Supper at Emmaus, Salome with the Head of St John the Baptist;  one from Her Majesty, an early work, Boy Peeling a Piece of Fruit; one from the Irish National Gallery, Taking of Christ; and a St. John the Baptist, from Kansas. There were some nice works; the de Ribera paintings were good as was Artemisia Gentileschi’s Susan and the Elders. But a lot suffered from being so close to Caravaggio. However, the exhibition is popular. Even on a Tuesday, it was a crush of people.

My magnet purchases

After a pause for lunch, I spent four hours looking at some of the National Gallery’s permanent collection.

Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Marriage Portrait–apparently popular
Leonardo da Vinci drawing
Constable’s The Hay Wain
Velasquez House of Mary and Martha
Raphael Pope Julius II
Rembrandt Self Portrait

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