Located in Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery started out as a humble collection of 38 paintings bought by the Government. But now, it houses over 2,300 paintings including masterpieces by Michelangelo, Leonardo, Turner, Monet, van Gogh and more… and I had the pleasure of visiting the gallery.
The art on the whole was breathtaking. For a lot of the paintings, you could see the level of skills these artists had to create art with so much detail and depth. Take for example Jan van Huysum’s ‘Glass Vase with flowers’. Whilst it may have only been a still life of a glass of flowers, the way Husyum conducted the oil paint in such a photorealistic way really is astonishing, especially at a time when art materials weren’t as developed as they are today. Again, Gainsborough’s ‘The Morning Walk’ was also a brilliant example of the level of skill these artists had. For this piece, it wasn’t so much realism that caught my eye, but instead the use of soft, feathery brush strokes, mimicking the softness of the wedding dress in the background. I think this was a great artistic choice. Monet’s slightly thick layering of paint in ‘The Water-Lily Pond’ was a great move again in my opinion as it added a textural element which helped bring character to the piece, and is something I definitely want to reflect in my own artwork.
However, the lack of diversity, both of the artists and subjects, was discomforting. I don’t recall seeing the work of many female artists at all. And as for POC, in paintings the only depiction of them seemed to be of them playing roles like servants. Many say it’s the board for the museum to blame.
So should you go? Well the museum seems to essentially just showcase traditional, older styles of art which may be impressing, but also dull for some, and the lack of diversity is frustrating. But perhaps it’s best working out what you think for yourself because the great thing is… it’s free to visit!