Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Monet: The Thames below Westminster

Taken from the National Gallery's What's On brochure
Yesterday was my birthday and I spent it indulging myself. At lunchtime I visited the hairdressers and then I had intended to visit Lord Frederick Leighton's house in Holland Park. However by the time I had left the salon it was too late in the afternoon to trek over to west London to do the museum justice.

So I walked from the Cut in Waterloo over Hungerford Bridge to the National Gallery because there is always something worth seeing there and last week I had been listening to Front Row on BBC Radio 4 where an interviewee had been raving about an exhibition that was worth visiting. It was only when I was sitting in the Espresso Bar reading the above leaflet that I remembered that the exhibition in question is on at the National Portrait Gallery just around the corner.

I decided that exhibition could wait until another day because by then my eye had spied that in 30 minutes there was going to be a 10 minute talk in Room 44 on Monet: The Thames below Westminster at 4pm. I liked the sound of this so sauntered upstairs to Room 44 and spent about 20 minutes enjoying the Impressionist paintings by Monet, Pissarro and Seurat's Bathers at Asnières which is vast. One of the paintings on display was of a cluttered mantle piece. It was a very ordinary and mundane view but somehow the painting raised it above its very ordinariness.

My sketch of Monet's painting
The Monet painting in question is quite small compared with the others in this gallery. It was painted on a misty day in spring in around 1871. The colours are muted and the shapes indistinct but you can clearly see Westminster Bridge, the boats, the Houses of Parliament and people standing on a jetty in the foreground. I like the way he describes the reflections in the water and how they change in different parts of the river. I should try to do that sometime – I think it's probably more difficult than it looks.

Four o'clock came and went and there was no sign of any one who looked like a speaker. People were milling around though in expectation and then someone said that the bus with the speaker on it had been held up so the talk was cancelled which was a bit disappointing. But I had spend more time than usual inspecting a few paintings and for the first time understood that Monet, Pissarro and Daubigny had all temporarily located to London to avoid the Franco-Prussian war that was raging away in France. So if it hadn't been for the carnage taking place on the Continent we wouldn't have these contemporary impressions of Victorian London.


Anonymous said...

Ahh, plans laid and changed and laid again and changed again! Reading your response to art always inspires me. ~ Marta

Heather James said...

Thank you Marta, glad you enjoyed it. x