Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Visit to the National Gallery, London.

Canaletto: A Regatta on the Grand Canal

While I have been to many local art exhibitions and seen some fabulous paintings, it had been playing on my mind recently that I really ought to visit one of the art galleries in London. This in mind, I booked a couple of train tickets for my wife and I earlier last month. The extraordinary thing about train travel is, though fairly expensive, if you can book your journey off peak, a month or so ahead, you travel for peanuts in comparison. Our tickets from Market Harborough to London cost £17 each – the same journey bought on the same day as travel would have been near £90 each!

Regatta: (detail)
 Although it was October, the weather proved outstanding, with a lovely warm sunny day where we were all walking around in our summer clothes, but unlike summer, it wasn’t too hot and we weren’t looking around for somewhere shady to be comfortable. The great thing about London is that there is so much to see, and like Paris, much of which on a grand scale. Our chosen venue was the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, a huge building with the most impressive portico elevated from the north side of the Square.  From this portico, the view across the Square was brilliant, dominated by Nelson’s column and those huge lions at the four corners of the statue, this set amongst the fountains, all rounded off nicely with Big Ben clock tower in the distance.

I learned later that the National Gallery houses well over 2000 of some of the world’s greatest paintings! More amazing though is the fact that entry to view these marvellous works is absolutely FREE! Having said that though, there is a large donation box as you go in, and as soon as I stepped inside the first hall and saw the magnificence of the work that greeted me, I realised that the note I dropped into that box was the best value for money I’ve had for a long time!

OK, I’ve seen some really old paintings at various historical houses we’ve visited over the years, but nothing could have prepared me for this. I was absolutely in awe of some of the works on display. So much so, that the amount of time it took me to take in various paintings left me way behind my wife in the viewing stakes! I was glad that we took advantage of the audio commentary, where we wore headphones, and just tapped in the painting number to hear the info on work and artist.

National Gallery, London (C)(Frank Bingley)
Some of the paintings were incredibly large, some taking up almost entire walls in these halls, which in themselves are huge affairs with sky high ceilings! This in itself had dramatic impact, but even more so was to see work by the likes of Monet, Renoir, Degas etc. close up and REAL – the actual work right before my very eyes. It is difficult to describe the effect of seeing a well-known painting in front of you rather than in a book or on the computer screen – just amazing!

A blogger friend of mine, Sandra, recently blogged of her visit to this place, where she was so taken by the works of Van Gogh. Well, I never got to see his work as it soon became very apparent to me that it would take considerably more than one day to see and appreciate everything on show in the National Gallery. I am very much a fan of Renoir, and I did get to see a number of his best known works, but the artist that I was so taken by was Canaletto. His huge works – vistas of Venice on a grand scale, were a marvel to behold indeed. His portrayal of all the buildings, canals and hundreds of people throughout his works was astonishing, and in such detail too. It must have taken him months, no years to paint these scenes. Incredible!

After we could no longer stand on our legs, a cup of coffee in one of the bars was a welcome respite. Here, there were lots of computer terminals where you could look up all the details and location of works on show. Again, free access – all the information readily to hand. Afterwards,  there were the (inevitable) gift shops, where one couldn’t resist coming away with a little souvenir of our day at the National Gallery, London.

This post duplicated on Market Harborough Art Club blog.


  1. Frank, I really want to thank you for sharing this trip.. I can't compare it to anything I know as I've never been to a large gallery and on such a grand scale. Nor is it likely that I ever will.
    I can just imagine the thrill of seeing a real in person view of a Renoir, Monet,
    Da Vinci or Rembrandt. Thank you so much for the post.. I can feel your excitement and know that you've had a wonderful day... BJ

  2. Frank, thanks for sharing this trip. Some da when I get a chance to visit this great city, the National Gallery will definitely be on my agenda.

  3. So pleased to hear you had such a great day at the Naional. You got a stupendous deal on the train tickets, the on the day price is shocking!

  4. Wouldn't it have been funny if we'd have gone on the same day! I wonder if we'd have recognised each other? It really is an amazing day out isn't it? I would definitely recommend a visit to the Tate Britain the next time you are over this way too. It's well worth it and you are allowed to take photo's there too :0)

  5. Barbra, for anyone who really appreciates art, seeing an exhibition like this is like a dream! Maybe you won't get to visit the National Gallery in person, but a good second best is to visit the website here: , where you can zoom in on a lot of the artwork to your heart's content!
    Thanks AK, never pass by that chance if it comes your way.
    Pat, there seems not to be any logic in the prices of East Midland's train tickets.
    Sandra, I'm sure you would have had no trouble at all in recognising me if we met in a crowd, but there is NO chance that I would recognise you, as I have the most terrible memory for names and faces!!!
    Funnily enough, the Tate Britain was on my short list, as was the watercolour gallery on the South Bank, but one art gallery in a day is enough to cope with ;)
    A few years ago, we visited the Tate Modern, and I have to say that I thought it was rubbish - not much to do with proper art at all.

  6. Great post Frank. I keep promising myself a trip (or two) to the National but it just never seems to happen. One of these days. You and Sandra have certainly whetted my appetite. ;-)

  7. Read this with a feeling of delight from beginning to end ~ like being there with you. Great writer too, you are!

    Sounds like a fantastic trip!
    Happy painting!

  8. Yes Frank, I have`to agree with you that it is well worth a visit. years ago when I was working up London, I went in there every day to look around and talk to the students that were there painting. You can`t do that now I`m afraid, only drawing. I have been there recently a couple of times, and thoroughly enjoyed the visit. thanks for sharing your visit mate. All the best.