LONDON: Paintings I Liked In The National Gallery Part 1

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


The National Gallery, London is located in Trafalgar Square and was founded back in 1824. This gallery houses over 2000+ paintings within the time range of the mid-13th to 19th century. On this day, there was a concert of sorts going on at the Trafalgar Square itself, so there were lots of people (I didn't get to take a photo!! but it's okay because there was just simply lots of people). 



I've loved art for as long as I can remember. From filling in coloring books, to joining art contests back in grade school and high school, doodling on my notebooks in college, and now painting with watercolors during my spare time, anything related to art will always get me excited.


Then again, just as with the British Museum, this is definitely a place I would love to keep going back to, just because there's so much to see. Also, there is no entrance fee, except for special exhibits. At the moment they are having the The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Monet & Architecture.


See the dome when you look up

I had to accept the fact that it was impossible for me to see everything inside the gallery, so I just let myself walk wherever my feet would take me. If I were to encounter a painting that was included in the "30 Must See Paintings", then that would be an awesome moment! But I didn't want to put any pressure on myself to see all 30 either. 

A Young Woman Standing On A Virginal by Johannes Vermeer (1670-2)


The woman seems to be playing a virginal. I have to admit that I had to google what virginal meant, and I saw that it is quite similar to a harpsichord. She is in a room and is surrounded with paintings. At first I thought that the one nearby the virginal was also a painting, but then after visiting a few more museums, I remember that virginals often had designs on them. Most notable would be cupid, on the right side of the wall. It may depict either faithfulness to one lover, or preserving purity until marriage. 

Bacchus & Ariadne by Titian (1520-3)


We see here Bacchus god of wine and Ariadne, daughter of King Minos, falling in love at first sight. I actually like it, because it's like, it was a chance turn for Ariadne, while for Bacchus he looks like he's about to fall. This may be a classic example of falling in love at first sight. I, too, felt it deeply as I stared at this painting. 

Bathers by Paul Cezanne (1894-1905)


Look and think, look and feel, because they go together. Cezanne is fond of sensations, both physical and mental. Seeing this painting made me think of how these women may have felt, having their backsides seen, but then I learned that bathers was a theme and was commonly painted by the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists. 

Other observations here would be that there is no body of water on the painting (although in his other paintings, water is present), and it seems that the bodies of these women are more of shapes simply painted together. 

Bathers at Asnieres by Georges Suerat (1884)


This was a big painting! Somehow it got cropped. I tried to find the original photo, but it couldn't be found. But anyway, have another Bathers painting. It is important to note that there is a factory at a distance, while there are workers who are bathing at the same river where the factory is probably dumping all the waste. During this time, Seurat hasn't invented pointillism yet, though one can tell that he was already leaning towards it. 

Bathers at La Grenouillère by Claude Monet (1869)


Honestly though, it was the boats that caught my attention at first. But then once you look closely, there are actually Bathers at the other side. It looks to me like a cool painting, with the other side filled with cheerful bathers. I like the cool colors and the ripple effect on the waters.

Samson and Delilah by Peter Paul Reubens (1609-10)


Excuse my pale and  sleepy face. I didn't get enough sleep at all. Haha!

We all know the story of Samson and Delilah. This painting seems like a pretty good depiction of what happened: Samson sleeping and resting on Delilah, one of the Philistine men cutting his hair while the others stood guard by the door, and Delilah silently looking at Samson's sleeping face. 

Some observations here would be how the light played out. The light clearly focused on Samson and Delilah, and what was going on while the hair cutting was ongoing. I've also noticed that Samson's hair here is quite short? But maybe it's because they're almost done with cutting his hair? I'm not too sure. 

Self Portrait at the Age of 34 by Rembrandt (1640)


This was how they took selfies from way back then; it was through self portraiture. No wonder there are many titles of paintings that start with "A Portrait of A Young Man/Woman...". But of course, what I'm amazed at is obviously, the accuracy of the paintings. During the Golden Age in Holland, paintings were not widely accepted in churches for decoration, so artists would resort to painting still life, landscapes and portraits.

Rembrandt painted this during the height of his art career. Etched on the painting is the word 'conterfeycel' which means portrait in Dutch. I'd like to think that he painted self portraits of himself for publicity's sake as well, so that we'd know how the painter actually looked like during his time. 

Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh (1888)


This painting of Van Gogh for me was very vibrant up close. Seeing this in person was simply awesome. I knew right away when I entered the room where his works were exhibited that it was undoubtly his, and partly also because this was the room where basically everyone was! Haha. 

After failing at everything, Van Gogh decided to be an artist at 30. He painted these sunflowers for Gauguin, because Gauguin was going to live with him Arles at the South of France. Out of excitement, he decided to fill Gauguin's room with all these sunflower paintings. 

An observation would be that the sunflowers in this painting have already dried up. Much can be assumed that life is much like flowers; vibrant, blooming, and filled with zest one moment, then gone the next. Such is the brevity of life. It is a memento mori, or rather, a reminder of our own mortality. 

It gets me sad whenever I think of Van Gogh and how he remained unrecognized during his lifetime.. if only he knew how much joy his paintings would bring people now in the present.

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger (1533)


No one knew who these two men were, although they later on learned that they are actually Frenchmen. The man on the right reminded me a bit of Ferdinand Magellan, maybe (lol Spanish)? Because he looks like an explorer and there's at least two globes in the painting. 

But apparently his name is Jean de Dinteville. He was a young French ambassador and would be sent to London, back and forth. He missed sunny France, although he came at a time when Henry the VIII and Anne Boleyn were expecting a baby, so he had to stay in London longer. It was through his interactions with Holbein the painter that his spirits were kept up and probably made his stay a bit more bearable, because at that time he would fall sick multiple times.

The other man on the right is Georges de Selve, and he was the Bishop of Lavaur. Jean and Georges were friends. 

I liked the details of this painting. The creases on Jean's clothing are very visible even through this photo. Another detail which I was really curious about would be the distorted skull in front of it. When viewed from the right side angle, it would show another clearer perspective that indeed it is a skull. They say it is a symbol of mortality. 

This was probably the first painting in which Holbein painted a full-length portrait of two men. 

The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck (1434)


The painting that invokes a lot of questions instead of revealing answers. Do watch this 3 minute video on the many details of this painting. 

The Entombment by Michelangelo (1500-1)



The Toilet of Venus by Diego Velasquez (1647-51)


We see the back side of a woman, and she knows we're staring at her through the mirror that cupid presents her with. She is quite secretive, as her face is also not clearly seen through the mirror as we hoped it would be. Curves play a big role in this painting, as can be seen in the woman's body, and it is notable to say that her body has no brush strokes at all; just purely spotless and clear. It makes us wonder whether the woman is actually human or a goddess. 

They say that the face reflected on the mirror invites us to imagine, to fill up the details, of what her face could be like, or rather, what could the most beautiful woman look like for you? Everyone has a different notion of beauty, after all. 

This is the last surviving nude of Spanish painter Velasquez, and is considered to be the most famous nude in Britain. 

The Fighting Temerarie by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1839)


Turner was a child prodigy. He was able to exhibit his first watercolor work in the Royal Academy by the age of 15. However, this painting was painted when he was 64. He knew about ships and shipping, which is why most of his paintings are related to life out at sea. 

There are no people inside the ship, as it is being towed back home. The Temerarie was a fighting ship, and was coming back from the Battle of Trafalgar, which was a naval battle between Britain and France. The British won against the French navy and Spanish joint navy. This was a painting of the last few moments of the ship, wherein it was going to be used a supply ship for a period of time, then eventually disintegrated so that the materials could be used for other things. 

Looking at this painting made me feel calm. I think that seeing the light reflected on the water produces that calm effect. It's like, it's telling you that it's time to rest. 

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All in all, I got 13/30. Not even half haha! But that's because I saw a lot of other paintings that were just as interesting as well (actually all of them are). I'll write about them on Part 2 of my visit to the National Gallery :)

Aside from the brief descriptions on the walls, I consulted as well with the National Gallery's Youtube channel because they would upload talks on the paintings which are filled with a lot of context and insight. Most of them range from 20 - 30 minutes, and it's as if you're attending the talk itself. Do watch them when you have the chance. 

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Which one for you is most interesting? Do let me know! 

Thank you for reading, dear reader!


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24 comments

  1. I could be in museums all day just admiring the paintings! I love viewing them! Thanks for sharing this post. I want to visit that place some day!

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    1. Same here. I definitely hope you get to go here and see everything :)

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  2. Love that you got to see the Rembrant self portrait and Van Gough! Love both of them!

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    1. Those two are my faves! :) it was great to see them up close.

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  3. This was one stop I didn't get to on my London trip. I've added it back onto my bucket list for next visit! Love your pictures and viewpoints on each work of art

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    1. Yes! Definitely do visit. It's worth it especially if you love art. And thank you :) Thanks for dropping by!

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  4. Samson and Delilah paintings was familiar to me because I have read the Bible . Even though I couldn't visit these galleries that I really want to ,Your post brought so much warmth to my heart

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    1. I hope you get to visit some day :) and thank you, it means a lot to me knowing that this post made someone's day!

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  5. I remember learning about "The Arnolfini Portrait" in my honors history class in High School. It was so cool to see it in real life later that year on a trip to London! You found some good ones!

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    1. It's great that you got to see it ♡♡ It's kind of like history textbooks coming to life right in front of me :') Thank you for dropping by, Marcie!

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  6. That looks like such a fun museum to visit!

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    1. It definitely is, and so much to learn too. :)

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  7. Wow this place is so beautiful, how awesome you got to see this! I wanna go!

    VAlerie

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    1. It's beautiful indeed. Both the paintings and interiors are something to admire. :)

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  8. I've always wanted to visit. Thank you for the preview!

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    1. Thank you for dropping by, Izzy! Hope you get to go soon :D

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  9. These are so beautiful. I love going to art galleries, I actually grew up in Chicago and spent many days people watching and writing in the Art Institute. Recently, we were able to take our children to Paris and visited the Louvre. I could've spent all day in there!

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    1. Looking at art and walking around art galleries is definitely a great way to spend the time. A day isn't enough to see everything, but it's definitely a day worth remembering, and worth coming back to if ever you're in the area. Thanks for dropping by, Christina!

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  10. My husband and I enjoy international travel. When in London I'd love to stop by the National Gallery and spend the afternoon just walking around admiring all the amazing treasures!

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    1. That's great! I do hope you get to visit some day :) Seeing all the great masterpieces in person is definitely worth your time.

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  11. I definitely need to stop by this gallery if I'm ever in London! I could honestly look through museums all day, they're such a great way to pass time.

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    1. I agree with you! :) I hope you get to visit soon ♡♡

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  12. I like Bathers at Asnieres by Georges Suerat.

    xx

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    1. Same here :) it reflects modern day issues of our generation.

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