Episode 339 – Running Through The National Gallery

If you’re ever tempted to do this – rush through the National Gallery in 30 minutes en route to another activity – don’t.

Or, if you are 100% sure you won’t ever get back to it, maybe do.

It was raining. We had 45 minutes until our timed entry to the Playhouse Theatre/Kit Kat Club for “Cabaret”, and it was only a 10 minute walk away – and we were in Trafalgar Square right in front of the National Gallery, which has free admission.

The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, under rainy skies.

We realized quite quickly that we were not going to be able to do justice to the gallery, because it had hundreds and hundreds of paintings on display that were worth spending time with, so instead I focussed on those that were familiar to me from years of drooling over art books.

The very first hall we entered, in which we could happily have spent our entire half hour… but we didn’t, of course.

Poor Ted. He patiently, as always, endured 30 minutes of “OMG, here’s (insert artist name or painting name here)! Take a picture of this one!” until unfortunately the gallery announced that it was closing. We didn’t make it to the Picasso I’d hoped to see, or the Michelangelos, but we nonetheless saw many wonderful works of art.

Saints Genevieve and Apollonia, 1506, by Lucas Cranach the Elder. This lovely and yet quietly gruesome painting was once part of a pair of shutters for the altarpiece of Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony. Saint Genevieve hold a candle she miraculously relit when the devil blew it out. Saint Apollonia hold the pincers with which her teeth were extracted under torture!!

Two paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger, who also famously painted portraits of Ann Boleyn and the Tudor Court of Henry VIII. Left: A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling, 1526-8. Right: Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selves, “The Ambassadors”, 1533.

Equestrian Portrait of Charles I, 1637, by Anthony van Dyck. The second photo gives an idea of how truly huge this painting is.

Portrait of a Young Man, 1550-55, by Agnolo Bronzino, one of the Florentine artists in the court of the Medici.

Portrait of Frederick Rihel on Horseback, 16h3, by Rembrandt.

Four Officers of the Amsterdam Coopers’ and Wine-rackets Guild, 1657, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout.

Immediately recognizable as a Thomas Gainsborough by its similarity in style to The Blue Boy. Mr and Mrs William Hallett, “The Morning Walk”, 1785.

One of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, 1916 . I’ve seen Water Lilies in various galleries around the world, and am always impressed by the size of the paintings – they’re really large, around 2 metres (6 ft) tall!

The galleries themselves are works of art, with domed skylights, marble floors, sculpted marble pillars, and vibrant colours that gorgeously highlight the works of art hung on them.

“Ted, Ted, it’s a Seurat!” Bathers at Asnières, 1884, by Georges Seurat.

Another instantly recognizable artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. This is The Umbrellas, painted sometime between 1881 and 1886.

It may not have the visceral impact on me that seeing “Starry Starry Night” at the MoMA in New York City did, but van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” (1888) still pull me in. Apparently he painted his 4 sunflower canvases to decorate his house in Arles; this one was hung in the guest room in anticipation of the arrival of his friend Paul Gaugin.

There was SO much more. If we return to London, we’ll come back to savour the galleries at a more civilized pace.


  1. Well, in case you were wondering… I’d have picked the “Sunflowers” for my page – you could have had the “Water Lilies”!

    Brings back fond memories…

    Liked by 1 person

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