February 10, 2012

A Quick Trip to London

Sometimes quick trips that come up without much warning are much more fun than ones that have long been planned for.  So when the opportunity to go to London for a long weekend presented itself I didn't have to be persuaded that it would be a good idea.

Of course, I hadn't anticipated that I would be there for the snow event of the season - a whopping two inches of the white stuff that managed to curtail half of the flight activity at Heathrow Airport and was the talk of the town!  The reality is that no one seems to have salt or a snow shovel so the sidewalks and streets quickly became a slushy, slippery mess, but the sight of Green Park covered in a blanket of snow on a Sunday morning was magical indeed.

Even though I missed the Super Bowl the year the New York Giants were playing, I felt fortunate to be in England on the actual day of Queen Elizabeth II's sixty year anniversary as monarch.  Born and raised in Canada, I grew up singing "God Save the Queen" every morning in school and am an unapologetic fan of the monarchy.  Of course, my example has always been this Queen who continues to serve her country and subjects indefatigably with as much devotion in her Diamond Jubilee year as when she assumed the throne in 1952.  Accession Day 2012 was an appropriately sober preamble to the festivities scheduled throughout the Commonwealth culminating with The Central Weekend, June 2-5, in London.

Unfortunately it was an odd between-exhibitions season for the London museums.  I just missed the blockbuster "Leonardo da Vinci:  Painter at the Court of Milan" at the National Gallery and was not quite in time for "Abstract Masterpieces in Parallel" at The Courtauld Institute of Art.  I was able to see the re-creation of the Russian avant-garde monument "Tatlin's Tower" still standing in the courtyard of the Royal Academy (see above) although the installation was supposed to have been dismantled at the end of January.  And I was also able to visit the hugely popular exhibition celebrating England's most beloved living artist, David Hockney, also at the Royal Academy.

"David Hockney RA:  A Bigger Picture" focus' on the artist's depiction of landscapes with an emphasis on very recent works.  Although born in West Yorkshire and very much a British artist, Hockney is also adored by Americans for the years spent in California and New York.  The time spent in the United States inspired both early and later landscapes, the Grand Canyon (see above) and Yosemite respectively, both painted in a massive scale appropriate to the vistas.

Now in his mid seventies, Hockney has returned to his roots but with a decidedly 21st Century slant.  His most recent works are studies of his local surroundings - the trees and forests of Woldgate, East Yorkshire - drawn by the artist on his iPad then printed and mounted on stretchers like paintings (see above).  The repeating images are fascinating and allow a complete study of the subject with an immediacy that painstaking drawing and painting cannot.  A massive 32 canvas oil created especially for this exhibition anchors the gallery and provides a deeply personal view of Hockney's private landscape.

Other highlights of this whirlwind visit would have to include a fabulous couple of hours at the National Gallery viewing masterpieces from the 13th to the early 20th Centuries, the solemn high mass in the beautiful Victorian space of St. Paul's Knightsbridge, a small but excellent exhibition entitled "Arp is Art" at the Luxembourg Dayan Gallery on Savile Row, attending the evening Impressionist and Modern Art Auction featuring paintings from Elizabeth Taylor's collection at Christies, St. James's, and shopping the after Christmas sales in Mayfair!  It has been a fun few days here in London and a nice break from the February doldrums.  Cheerio!

1 comment:

Jess said...

"Of course, I hadn't anticipated that I would be there for the snow event of the season - a whopping two inches of the white stuff that managed to curtail half of the flight activity at Heathrow Airport and was the talk of the town!"

Even the rumour of a single flake of snow seems to be reason enough to cut flights and train timetables in half, whether or not said flake ever materialises or not. But even so, I love it when it snows. The December before last, my mum and I booked ourselves into London serviced apartments and we had a weekened in Covent Garden. (I don't know if you've been there, but it's lovely, my favourite place in London.) We didn't do much, just wandered in and out of the shops, got through a lot of mulled wine and chestnuts and listened to carols, but it was such a lovely weekend. All that was missing was snow. I don't think we'd have necessarily wanted it to lay, but just having snow falling for a while would have made the atmosphere absolutely perfect.

But anyway, it's good that you got to see the David Hockney exhbition, even if you missed the others. You may have found it difficult to get tickets for the da Vinci exhbition anyway. I tried to book online, but I'd left it much too late, and some people queued up for four hours and still didn't manage to get tickets.