Courtauld Gallery review (Aug 2014)
This is out-of-date! I have been here again since I wrote this review
I've found a couple of nice places for coffee today. One is on top of the shop at HMS Belfast — yeah I know that it sounds rubbish, buy they've got a little balcony rising high above the water so you've got open-air views up and down the Thames. And the second one is on the forecourt of Somerset House. If you walk through the arch then it's directly on the left. It's got to be a sunny day though — it's no good when it is raining, because you want to do a bit of people watching on the forecourt. There's usually a load of fountains spraying ten feet in the air, but they must be having a rest today because they've switched them off. It's just a load of tea drinkers and security guards lounging around in the sun.
I'm sitting here waiting for the Courtauld Gallery to open. I've never been here before but it's supposed to be quite good. Apparently it has some real art inside — the kind of stuff that actually took some skill to paint. This is the gallery that all the tourists miss. They do the National and the Tate, and then jump back on the plane and go home. If you ask them about the Courtauld then they'll go what? Where is that? Never heard of it!
They've switched the fountains on now. That's a nice sound, isn't it — water falling on the cobblestones. They're quite big too — about two people tall. They go straight up like a rocket and then fall down at the top. All of the kids immediately make a beeline for them, and dance around the edges like they're dicing with death. Don't let it touch you, says mum, or you'll die! Too late. They have been touched by the poison and no amount of washing will get that water off.
Onto the gallery now... At first sight it seems a lot like the National. It's the same kind of art that's on display there. Only it costs more money to get in, and there's a lot less of it. So my first impression is this: go to the National, which is free. And only come here if you love the art.
The only pictures that I recognise (bearing in mind that I am no lover of art) is that busty barmaid in a Parisian bar, who isn't as beautiful as I remember from my school days (maybe she has aged, like Dorien Gray), and that one of Van Gogh with his head all bandaged up. He looks surprisingly content, considering that he's just chopped his ear off.
Then it's upstairs to the Cezanne's and Matisse's. And we're not just talking about one or two pieces here — they've got ten big canvases by Cezanne alone. I'm starting to think that their Impressionist collection is better than the National's. I don't recall the National having as many by each artist. I think they need to hire some more security guards, or start putting the pictures behind bullet proof glass, because all they've got at the moment are some portly old guys in squeaky shoes.
After that it starts to go downhill, methinks, with the more modern works by Kandinsky and Ben Nicholson. That's when they give up on the skillful stuff and just do playschool paintings.
And that's it! It's not the biggest gallery in the world, but it's crammed full of big names. And if you like your Impressionists, then you should definitely give it a go.
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