Monday, March 11, 2013


Daffodils in Hyde Park!  Signs of spring.
Well, it is now colder here than in Ottawa.  Burr.  I was not prepared for this.  Since it wasn't raining, I decided that it was a good day to do some walking (not realizing how freezing it was out).  Also, I do not have a down jacket with fur trimmed hood with me in London.  The daffodils were still out in force in Hyde Park.  Apparently the English daffodils don't wait for warmth or sun, if they did, they'd never grow.

I started at the Marble Arch, walking through Hyde Park and then down through Green Park and to Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth Gate into Green Park

Wellington Arch

Australian War Memorial, names of battles are visible from far away and then disappear as the names of individuals appear when you move closer, due to the way the letters are carved.

Canada Gate at Buckingham Palace.  

Canada Gate, not sure how we managed to get our name on something so classy. 

Buckingham Palace, no sign of the Queen.

Victoria Memorial at the start of the Mall 

After Buckingham Palace, I walked through St. James' Park which is full of various types of waterfowl.   This park was first enclosed by Henry VIII as a personal hunting area.  The pelicans are the main attraction, and I saw some very excited children running around looking for them!  There is also a tiny Swiss cottage which was deliberate attempt to oppose the majestic palatal buildings lining the park.

The fabled pelicans in St. James Park.

Swiss Cottage in St. James Park.  Some kale trying to grow under the mesh despite the frigid weather....

Brussel sprouts in the cottage garden, not sure that they need any protection from the waterfowl.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for Danny.
 After walking through all those parks, I was freezing.  I made a detour into the Churchill War Rooms gift shop, just to warm up.  Earlier this week the temperature was 10-15 degrees, so my guard was down.  Then it was over to Westminster, I didn't go in but did wander around some cloistered areas in the back, not sure if I was supposed to wander in there, but no one stopped me.
Westminster Abbey.
 Another stop to into the Westminster gift shop to warm up...and then Big Ben and the parliament buildings.
Big Ben!

Fancy Horse Guard, looking serious.  Sign on his right cautions that horses may bite.
 After walking up Whitehall, the street lined with bureaucracies, not a pinstriped functionnaire in sight this Saturday.  I then arrived at Trafalgar Square, where I revived myself with chocolate.  Always a wise idea.
Refreshing myself with hot chocolate and chocolate croissant.  

Considering the weather, I decided that indoor activities would be a good idea, so I checked out the National Gallery, conveniently located on Trafalgar Square.  It was impressive, so say the least.  I try to pick my favourite painting whenever I go to an art gallery.  Here are my choices for today, with clever captions from the National Gallery who are much better art critics than me.

Bathers at Asnieres, Georges Seurat
The National Gallery Description is below:

Asnières is an industrial suburb west of Paris on the River Seine. The present work shows a group of young workmen taking their leisure by the river.

This was the first of Seurat's large-scale compositions. He drew conté crayon studies for individual figures using live models, and made small oil sketches on site which he used to help design the composition and record effects of light and atmosphere. Some 14 oil sketches and 10 drawings survive. The final composition, painted in the studio, combines information from both. 

While the painting was not executed using Seurat's pointillist technique, which he had not yet invented, the artist later reworked areas of this picture using dots of contrasting colour to create a vibrant, luminous effect. For example, dots of orange and blue were added to the boy's hat. 

The simplicity of the forms and the use of regular shapes clearly defined by light recalls paintings by the Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca. In his use of figures seen in profile, Seurat may also have been influenced by ancient Egyptian art.

The Fighting Temeraire, Turner

The 98-gun ship 'Temeraire' played a distinguished role in Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, after which she was known as the 'Fighting Temeraire'. The ship remained in service until 1838 when she was decommissioned and towed from Sheerness to Rotherhithe to be broken up.

The painting was thought to represent the decline of Britain's naval power. The 'Temeraire' is shown travelling east, away from the sunset, even though Rotherhithe is west of Sheerness, but Turner's main concern was to evoke a sense of loss, rather than to give an exact recording of the event. The spectacularly colourful setting of the sun draws a parallel with the passing of the old warship. By contrast the new steam-powered tug is smaller and more prosaic.

Turner was in his sixties when he painted 'The Fighting Temeraire'. It shows his mastery of painting techniques to suggest sea and sky. Paint laid on thickly is used to render the sun's rays striking the clouds. By contrast, the ship's rigging is meticulously painted.

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