LONDON – One of the great things about London is the art museums. There are plenty of them and they provide opportunities for you to get some culture, even if like me, you don’t always understand what the art is saying. I highly recommend the Tate and National Portrait Gallery. Both are free to the public. I recently went to the Royal Academy of Art to see the Manet: Portraying Life exhibition which has been a huge success with the public.
Tickets are £15 but you should also pay for the headphones which costs £4. Sure you can walk through the gallery and read about the exhibition, but the recording offers insight from the curator of the exhibition as well as commentary from a few other art pundits.
You know the other thing about exhibitions is the viewer. The trip to the Royal Academy felt like such a civilised affair. It was quiet although busy. No children in sight. Plenty of tweed and men in silk scarves.
I certainly came away from the experience with a greater appreciation for Manet. Did you know that he was born into a prosperous family? He didn’t have to live by his art and this gave him some freedom to choose his subjects and his own style irrespective of convention.
I thought it was very interesting that his portraiture collection coincided with the coming of age of the photography. He even sat for his own photographic portrait and compiled a family album.
But another interesting fact is that he married a Dutch woman , Suzanne Leenhoff (in 1863), who had an illegitimate son (born in 1852) with an ‘unknown’ father. She came to Manet’s home in 1849 in order to teach his two younger brothers the piano. They became lovers, of course, and she became pregnant. BUT!! And this is the very French part of the story, it is rumoured, that Manet’s father, Auguste, was possibly the father of Suzanne’s son Leon…
I loved Manet’s use of swathes of black. A great example is his painting, Berthe Morisot (top left), which has now become the face of this exhibition.
It’s funny, after all that French culture, I decided to head to my favourite French cafe, Paul’s, for a cup of hot chocolate. It’s the best in London. You know, this was a great way to spend a morning in London.