The title for today is from when I ran into my friend outside of a Costa on Camden Road about an hour ago. It's Saturday, so logically we should be sleeping in or doing anything but something related to Museum Studies, but she was on her way to the V&A and I'd just gone to Tate Britain to see an Impressionist exhibit.
At least we know we're on the right career path.
I haven't done one of these in a few weeks; I did an author Round Robin because it's Christmastime and both Nicholas and The Christmas Lights center around the holiday (that's the only plug I'm going to give, but it's in my contract to do so). In short, these weeks before term one ends have been filled with a lot of me getting bruised at Kung fu, me not getting enough sleep, and writing lots of papers. It's also been filled with laughter-induced tears, dancing/singing/performing for the buses outside the picture window in my flat's kitchen with my flatmates on Thanksgiving after we drank vodka and umeshu, and acclimating to the sudden and very bone-invading cold that is a London winter.
Today, I took a break from all that. I rolled out of bed at eight, dressed in my new faux fur-sleeved sweater that looks like I should be buying art instead of looking at it, and hopped off a bus near the Millennium Pier shortly after 10:00 when Tate Britain opens. Apparently I entered by a side entrance, because at first I was largely surprised at how small the Tate looked. The columned facade (see gallery bellow) was festooned with Christmas lights, and my fingers played with my purse as I tried not to sprint up the steps.
I've never paid for an exhibit before; that's for rich old people. Or people with a stable job, at least. And, after showing the guy at the desk my student ID and Art Fund card to get a discount and then half the fee off, I saw that my preconceived notion mostly fit when I entered through the doors of Impressionists in London: French Artists in Exile 1870-1904. For a little while, at least--within fifteen minutes the rooms filled with a lot more people my age. We were not allowed to take photos, something I immediately riled against. The room still smelled like new paint; people who had at least three decades on me filing past works by Tissot, Monet, Pissaro, Sisley, etc. Some older men stepped aside or gestured me forward when I neared the wall; I couldn't tell if this was because I was significantly younger and they were happy I was interested in art, because I was dressed quite fancy, or simply because they were being polite (I'd like to think it was because I was dressed sharply and they thought I was some member of the art elite, but probably not).
The Impressionists in London exhibit is huge, to put it mildly, and I did not pace myself. I thought it was going to be one big room: it comprised eight exhibits. Below are two of my favorite pieces; from Wikipedia Commons and ArtUK, respectively. The first is titled A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge by John Everett Millais (not to be confused with Jean Francois Millet. Very similar sounding name, totally different guy.) Also a long title, but I'd written a paper on the Pre-Raphaelites and on Millais specifically around sophomore year of college, which constituted of me staring at his painting and going, "How do you do that with a brush and some paint?" It's really something beautiful and hyper-realistic and terribly romantic, and I'd forgotten all about it until I spotted it out of the corner of my eye and had to force myself not to stomp or jump up and down. I think I did whisper, "Oh my God" or "Holy crap" or something similar.
The second, and actually right beside A Huguenot in the gallery was Les Adieus: The Farewells by James Tissot. Tissot wasn't very well known to me but I definitely remembered this painting, because it too is detailed. I also just really love the expression on the guy's face. It's very lovely and soft. I definitely recommend looking them up to see them in full detail, because wow.
I finally did exit the exhibit (after wondering if it did truly end or if I had to set up camp and live next to Monet's studies of the Thames for forever and eternity), and a guide led me to the Pre-Raphaelite section of the museum. (The PR Brotherhood was composed of English painters who focused on intense detail and color, and drew heavily on Italian and religious art.) The Tate runs on a sort of timeline where the dates are gilded on the floor, but I was very overwhelmed and sort of confused. So the guide led me there and told me the story of how the Tate used to be a prison but they wanted everybody out, so they handed each prisoner £5 and sent them on a ship to Australia, and that's how the country was populated with Europeans. He got really amused by my facial expressions.
He showed me to the 1840s room (I think that was the date) where the gallery was set up like an old salon (paintings all over the walls, almost covering the entire surface). I found countless paintings I'd learned about and had not planned to see, so it was very overwhelming. I also don't think I blink very much while in art museums (an attractive trait, I'm sure) so my contacts got really dry and gave me a headache. There was a lot more to see, but I gasped all around the room and then took my exit, waiting outside and watching the Thames before my bus came. My return to Camden took me through Trafalgar Square and along Tottenham Court Road, which are always exiting to look at. I bought coffee that tasted like gingerbread, met my friend, and here I am. I'm going to rest today and get back to academia tomorrow, but know that I am very, very happy. It's been a very good day.