The Courtauld Instutite and The Wallace Collection
Today I left Clara at home to get some work done and took the train to London to spend the day looking at art. My first stop was the Courtauld Institute, where my sister Ruth had sent me to look at Edouard Manet's famous "Bar at the Folies-Bergère." Unfortunately, the painting is on loan to the J. Paul Getty Museum until September. I wasn't in much of a mood for Impressionists in any case. I stood for a while in front of Van Gogh's "The Crau at Arles" Peach Trees in Blossom" (a poster of which hangs in Clara's office at Carleton) and felt slightly queasy—something about the dark blue-gray mountains looming in the background of all that hectic color. I was in much more of a mood for spirit-freshening Italian Renaissance Madonnas and for the special exhibit focusing on Lucas Cranach the Elder's 1526 "Adam and Eve," which was displayed with companion pieces from the National Gallery, the Getty, and the Queen's Collection. I loved Cranach's round-faced Saxon Eve, and his penchant for painting reflections in water. Notice, in the "Adam and Eve" above, that the deer is catching its reflection in a small pool of water.
From the Courtauld (in Somerset House), I walked back down the Strand, past Trafalgar Square, down the Mall past Buckingham Palace (where I saw the famous guards on duty; see below), along Piccadilly, up past Berkeley Square, to Manchester Square and Hertford House, the home of the fabulous Wallace Collection. The Wallace Collection has a marvelous collection of medieval and Renaissance armor, as well as a world-class art collection. Arguably the most famous work in the collection is Frans Hals' "The Laughing Cavalier," but what I enjoyed the most were the paintings by the seventeenth-century Spanish artist Bartolomeo Esteban Murillo. The collection also includes too many Greuzes and Fragonards—after a while, all Fragonards begin to look alike. The most famous Fragonard in the Wallace Collection—or anywhere—is "The Swing." The pink girl on the swing has launched her little pink shoe—but my favorite detail is the man in the background, who appears to be holding onto her with strings as if she were a kite. I have to admit that by the time I came to "The Swing," I was exhausted from so much art.