CULTURE VULTURE 09/28/2008
 

yesterday i went out to England's National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, London -- the home of over a thousand paintings spanning from the 1500s to 1900.  i have to admit that it wasn't as exciting as going to a modern art interactive exhibit like the stuff at (for example) the Heyward Gallery or the Tate Modern, though.  there's only so much a person can take of staring at giant, overly dramatic oil paintings of religious motifs.  only so many "virgin and child" depictions, chubby Christ childs and creepy representations of the dead and/or bloody, wounded Jesus Christ. 

i'm not meaning to be offensive to the religious people out there -- it just gets boring after about the 40th picture.  i don't even know how many of them showed St. Jerome with the lion that he pulled the thorn out of, but there were a lot.  good grief.  there's no better way to make someone under-appreciate a thing than to bombard them with a massive collection of that same thing room after room.

the 1800s stuff provided little more comfort.  i know a LOT of folks dig the Impressionists, and i do recognize the significance of the movement, but again, when i stand in a large room literally filled with Manet's garden-scapes, all i can think about is how the man had double cataracts and how maybe he painted the way he did because the dude couldn't SEE properly. 

i'm sorta kidding, but not really.

some of the highlights of the museum (in my humble opinion) are Van Gogh's "Chair" and "Sunflowers."  in fact, thinking of Van Gogh, i must mention that the Gallery's gift shop was selling a stuffed kid's doll of Vincent Van Gogh and amusingly his left ear is detachable with the help of a little piece of velcro.  accurate, but pretty funny, i thought.  you can have regular Van Gogh or crazy Van Gogh all in one fun toy.

i felt like my memory hasn't entirely deteriorated when i came upon a painting i recognized from way back in high school Western Civilization class.  it was Jan van Eyck's "The Arnolfini Marriage."  i remember i always liked how dark and evil-looking the husband was portrayed compared to his bride, and how people say the little round mirror on the wall behind them has the teensy tiny reflection of van Eyck's image in it.  i've included a copy of this painting above for your reference.  i also like how the bride looks pregnant, when in fact the bulge in her dress was really just the fashion of the day.  yeah RIGHT  ;-)

anyway, a day of culture is always a good thing.  in stark contrast, outside the Gallery on the large area of Trafalgar Square there were numerous street artists layed out on the ground drawing in colored chalk on the cement with boxes sat out to collect "donations" from passers-by.  when the country's National Gallery was free to get into, i found it hard to want to make a cash donation to a guy drawing a yin-yang on the ground.

ah, the plight of the struggling artist.