Late-night opening, at the National Gallery review
Do you know what the nicest thing about the National Gallery in the evening is? -- the peace and quiet. I was walking here from Leicester Square five minutes ago and it was all busy busy busy. Pavements heaving, people jostling bustling barging elbows out, running everywhere, cars all over the place, sirens blaring. And then you walk through the gallery double doors and it's all quiet like a library. Just a load of people shuffling around in silence, tip-toeing to and fro, looking at the art.
I can see why people come in here for their lunch break. It must make a nice change of pace from answering the phone all day, signing this and that, and getting shouted at by the suits in the office. You can come in here and have a think for a bit, and sit and gather your thoughts on their comfy plush poofees. In fact, most of the people here aren't even looking at the art, now that I come to think of it. Sure, their eyes might be staring at the walls, but their brains are on other things. Daydreaming about their missus or what they're having for tea tonight. Some of them are just tourists, ticking off the gallery box on the "must-do in London" list. But some are clearly here for the paintings. You can see them peering up close at the colours and brushstrokes. I suppose it must mean something to them. I don't get the attraction myself. It's just a picture of a place, isn't it. Or some portrait of a bloke I don't know -- no different from looking at a picture in a magazine. Imagine if you went to see the "Sound of Music" at the cinema and they paused it on a shot of the mountains. And you just sat and stared at it for ten minutes, admiring the scenery. People would think that you're a bit daft. But that's what they do in here all day -- sit staring at a landscape where nothing happens. The leaves don't drop, the wind don't blow. No one in it is moving, just snoozing. Like a photo in a magazine.
I'm in a room full of portraits at the moment. People in tight trousers, white wigs and ruffles round their neck. They look pretty important and I'm sure they looked great in their day. But it's just tight trousers and fancy dress. That is how we remember them now -- as Georgian dandies. I wonder how we will be remembered in 100 years time. Will they take the mick out of our trousers too? That is why you should always have your portrait done from the neck up. So they can't laugh at your garb a century from now. Not that I will ever end up in here, of course. I'm a total nobody -- too ugly for a picture on the wall.
The next room is full of religious stuff and angels and saints and Jesus on the cross. They don't seem to be too bothered about clothes in here, I've noticed -- angels always seem to be stark naked. No tight trousers and ruffles for them -- they don't have any clothes at all! I wonder if that's the first thing they do when you get up to the pearly gates -- nick all your clothes. They probably have to make sure that you're not bringing in any contraband -- they don't want people sneaking weapons into heaven.
I'm in the Impressionist bit now looking at my favourite painting. Even though I'm a total Philistine I do still have a favourite piece of art -- it's Vincent Van Gogh's "A Wheatfield with Cypresses". I like it because it's all lively sky and windy. Looks like a windy winter's day in the hills somewhere. It's the kind of place you'd end up if you got horribly lost on a Sunday stroll. One minute you're walking through the countryside and the next thing you know you're out on the moors with the wind and the wolves and it's 5 o'clock and you've got nothing to eat or drink -- oh no my mobile doesn't work either. What am I going to do? I'm doomed! Where the hell am I? Tree leaves blowing and hurricane shaking your face and it's actually quite pretty. Just me and the trees. That is what this picture means to me. I wouldn't mind if it was hanging on my wall. I couldn't afford to pay fifty million dollars for it though. I'd probably pay about -- 100 quid tops. I wonder how much they'd sell it to me for? There's no harm in asking I suppose.
I've just stumbled upon another picture that I recognise, but only because I like my Tudors -- "The execution of Lady Jane Grey". I feel sorry for this girl because she's quite pretty, and she was pushed into doing stupid things and now look where she has ended up -- on the end of an axe. I think the characters are hamming it up a bit though -- they are all overacting outrageously. Swooning and feinting with hands all limp. Even the executioner looks a bit worried for her health. And who ever heard of an axeman wearing poncy pink tights? I'm sorry, but no. I'm not having that. If I ever have my head chopped off and the axeman comes waltzing in wearing pink pants and a red felt hat then I will make a quick dash for the door. I want someone tough to do it.
My final stop is the Turners. He was quite handy with a paintbrush. I like the way he couldn't be bothered to paint the detail later in life. He just went, right... it's white green and blue. So let's just luzz a load of colour on and mix it up a bit. Chuck in some bright white too and call it a day. He can't be arsed to paint the blades of grass or the leaves on the trees. Let's just get the colours down, he says, and then stick it on the wall.
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