Courtauld Gallery review
When people sit at home planning their itinerary they usually pencil in an hour or two for a gallery (they have to squeeze in a bit of culture), but it's usually the National or Tate Modern. That's enough art for most people. They don't want to overdose on it. But if you're seriously into paintings then here's a tip from me: the best ones to visit are the National Gallery, Courtauld Gallery and Tate Britain (and Buckingham Palace if it's open). The V&A and Wallace Collection are worth a visit as well, but chiefly because of their decor and museum exhibits. The only problem with the Courtauld is that you have to pay to get in whereas the others ones are free, but if you're into Monet's, Manet's and Seurat's then I'm guessing you can afford it.
The ground floor begins with some religious pieces from the 14th and 15th-centuries. Lots of Mary. Lots of Jesus. Lots of altar pieces and paintings of the crucifixion. All very delicate and beautiful. When you head upstairs you can see some even more impressive pieces showing scenes from the Bible -- huge paintings by Botticelli, Caravaggio and a room full of Rubens. They're almost like stills from a movie: here's the day Jesus did this, and here's Doubting Thomas doing that. I wonder if anybody has tried to string together a complete set of pictures showing every scene in the Bible? You could probably do it. That might make a good book: the entire Bible portrayed in famous paintings.
Then you move onto the 19th-century and famous names like Gauguin, Monet, Manet and Cezanne. If I'm honest I don't understand why people love Cezanne so much. If he was around today then he'd struggle to sell his stuff in a charity shop because where's his skill? I can't see it. And those pixelated scenes by Seurat just look like a gimmick to me. That's his shtick. Everyone needs their own shtick, and he's the little dots bloke.
The most impressive thing about the Courtauld is not the number of famous names on display, but how many they have of each. I mean, how much is a single Rubens worth? Or a Gainsborough? And the Courtauld has a roomful of both! Then you wander into a room with a Van Gogh in it, and a Picasso, Canaletto, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. For a relatively small gallery they sure do pack a punch.
Their most famous painting is probably Van Gogh's Self Portrait With A Bandaged Ear. That's the one he did after he sliced a piece of his ear off. He was always complaining in life that he never sold a painting... well, yeah, maybe you should have checked your subject matter, mate. Even your mother wouldn't want to put that on her wall: a picture of her nutty son after he hacked his ear off.
The rooms upstairs are full of modern art, but I'm not going to talk about those. I'm sorry, but I'm just not. You can get away with showing that stuff at the Tate Modern because the building is full of it, but when you've just strolled through three floors of paintings by Rubens, Renoir and Vincent Van Gogh then a few blotches and spots on a canvas just don't compare. If people stop talking about this stuff then hopefully they'll stop painting it.
What do you think?Please leave a comment
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