On this weeks installment of Museum of the Week, my class took me down to the iconic Trafalgar Square to The National Gallery! The National Gallery is home to paintings galore by any and every famous artists you could think of. The class itself was based around the idea of the building itself, and how it showcases British values to all of those that enter. I think the most interesting thing was the fact that the museum was recently hosting a short exhibit consisting of Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and Raphael. Those are really pieces that you cannot see often, so getting to see them was really incredible.
The National Gallery was founded in 1842, and it includes about 2,300 paintings dating as far back as the mid 13th century to 1900. I think the most interesting thing I learned about this gallery was the fact that when it was built, the city hated it. Many people very much disliked the architecture of the main building and went off about it in critiques. The gallery itself was built with a lot of cost saving measures, so the columns in the front were taken from an estate that was being taken apart. Many of the statues that adorn the front of the building were also taken from other architectural structures throughout the city. They wanted it to be cost effective, and sometimes that means cutting corners that make it a little less popular. When I first walked through the square and stood before this massive building, I thought it was absolutely beautiful, and everyone in my class agreed. Funny how ideas of aesthetics changes over time.
Although this class is amazing in the fact that we get to go all over the city and experience rich history and art, it goes into a lot of detail over how museums are institutions in society. Because of this, much of this weeks class had to do with the construction of the building and all the different measures that go into getting people in the door. Although I don’t have pictures, there is an entire wing of the building that was built more recently on the left side, that had to imitate the rest of the building exactly. This extension also had to blend in with the rest of the area which transitions to brick buildings as you walk further to the left. It was very cool to see all the measures they had to take to really allow this wing to blend in to the rest of the city smoothly. Although the new wing was controversial and took a lot of planning to create, it worked out nicely and allowed the museums to expand.
As for the artwork itself, the museum is home to many beautiful pieces. My personal favorites were in the impressionist rooms, the colors and styles really speak to me. There really is something for everyone at a museum like this, and it is worth going to just to check out the architecture and artwork that describes our progression through history.