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One of the reasons I think London is so awesome is its free art and free museums. Sure you have to pay for exhibitions but there is just so much great stuff out there for free. Look at the National Gallery for instance. You have some brilliant works there and it costs nothing to go see them. And that’s what I did this afternoon. It’s a great feeling to know you can come back several times and can concentrate on just a few rooms per visit. Today I did rooms 43 and 46 – the Impressionists in the first, and Degas in the second. (I also browsed around in room 32 for a bit just taking in the colour and large canvasses and the bold images, just to contrast with the paintings I’d seen before).

My favourite painting of the day was Renoir’s Gladiolas in a Vase (none of the photos below are mine, click photo for source).

Gladiolas in a Vase – Renoir

This reminded me a little bit of the Dutch style of still life paintings I’d seen at the Rijksmuseum last year. Look at the detailing. He even painted those fizzy flowers in the front – I don’t know what they’re called. You have to see the original. It’s spectacular. Look at the balance despite the lack of symmetry. And the colours. Lipsmackingly beautiful.

And the other I liked was The Umbrellas. Again by Monsieur Renoir.

The Umbrellas – Renoir

What I like about this painting is that despite the chaos of the background and the sea of umbrellas, your eyes are inadvertently drawn to the little girl, her mother (who is not even looking out). But I am distracted by the lady on the left. I try to imagine the painting without her. Would the eye then be drawn away into the background. Why is she there?

Passing out of the rooms I was struck by the gigantic Adoration of the Shepherds. It is stunning. I suppose the photographic equivalent of achieving this result would be to vignette the edges and increase shadows, and increase the exposure of the main object in the centre for indeed the Baby Christ is the one in focus in this painting. Everything is about him here, everybody is turned toward him (except the little creature at the bottom and a couple of the angels) and a light exudes from him. The eye is guided very easily in this painting.

The Adoration of the Shepherds – Reni

All in all a great visit. The National Gallery itself is such a beautiful building, even more so from the inside. It’s lovely staircase, the ceiling, every room, the walls, the lights. Stepping out, people are clicking pictures of the Big Ben in the distance or of Nelson’s Column just in the front.

I returned home by bus. Even though it was a different route, I realised it was the same bus I’d taken in the afternoon. How do I know? The same full can of mirinda rolling about on the upper deck.

At night, I watched a very heart-warming movie, called “Up“. An animated story of a retired widower who floats away in his house using thousands of helium balloons to South America, all the time missing his dead wife, Ellie. Tears, tears, tears. I’m such a sobber. Boo hoo.