Saturday, March 11, 2017


Good, on-time flights, business-class travel, and good airline lounges with all the Coke Zero/Diet Coke and still water I could want.  It's hard to ask for more from a travel day.

That said, this travel day lasted about 18 hours, so I'm going to attend to life and then crash for what I hope will be a very long sleep.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Heading home tomorrow

Today's highlights included some lovely time in the British Museum, a little wandering in the shops of Covent Garden, and a fun and ultimately touching musical based on a movie, The School of Rock.

In the morning, I get up way too early to begin the long trek home.

I will force myself to stay up late tomorrow night, endure the dreaded spring forward, and hope to awaken Sunday feeling more or less like I'm in the right time zone.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The three highlights of a wonderful London day

Touring a lot of the Impressionist section of the National Gallery and getting to see half a dozen Van Gogh works, including the remarkable Sunflowers.

Watching raptly The Old Vic's production of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, in which the entire cast, notably stars Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire, and David Haig, were superb.  This time around, I found the ending particularly touching.

Eating and enjoying a world-class dinner at The Ledbury, a restaurant that deserves every accolade it's received.

Wow, what a day.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Quick highlights of another grand day

I keep failing to do detailed blog reports, because between mostly vacationing and having to cram in multiple hours of work, I find myself late at night, the blog in front of me, and a choice between filling it or getting a good amount of sleep.  This trip, I'm choosing sleep.

A few highlights from today will have to suffice.

I spent hours renewing old artistic friendships at the Tate Britain and touring its extensive David Hockney retrospective.

I enjoyed the best tikka masala sauce I've ever tasted at a little place round the corner from here, Strand Tandoori.

I also sampled, for the second time this trip, some of the best gelato I've had anywhere, courtesy of La Gelateria.

Another fine day.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wow, what a day

It's after three a.m. here, so I'm going to keep this very short.  Today was a very powerful day indeed.  I'll explain more in future entries, but I spent a lot of time in the Tate Modern, to interesting results; saw a fun and moving play, The Girls; and had a late and absolutely wonderful dinner at L'Atelier Robuchon.

I ended up having to put in a few hours of work, but otherwise, the day was perfect.

More in future entries.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Pleasant surprises at the National Portrait Gallery

I am not now and have never been a fan of royalty.  I found the part of European history where I was supposed to memorize the order of the English kings and queens to be more annoying than fun.  So, though I have wanted to tour the National Portrait Gallery here, I entered it with some trepidation.

I left rather pleasantly surprised.  To be sure, the bulk of the portraits are of royals, and most of them left me cold.  What I ended up quite liking, however, were many of the paintings of literary and scientific figures, as well as some of the sections that brought key moments in history to life.

For example, I was happy to get to study John Taylor's (we think) portrait of Shakespeare, which I've of course seen many times in reproduction.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Equally pleasing to see were portraits of John Donne

and Ben Jonson, looking more than a bit harried.

Whether you're a fan of royals or, like me, more in it for other historical figures, I recommend spending a few pleasant hours in the halls of the National Portrait Gallery.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Go to the Leighton House if you can

Today, for no particular reason other than my affection for the work of Lord Frederic Leighton, I visited the Leighton House Museum.  I had done no research and had no expectations of anything more than a tour of the house.

Oh, what a lucky man I am!  Upon arrival, I learned that the museum was hosting a show, which ends April 2, called "Flaming June: The Making of an Icon."  The title of the show betrays its main focus, the painting Flaming June, which is arguably Leighton's most famous work.  What the title does not make clear is that as part of assembling this show, the museum not only gathered tons of his sketches for this piece, it also assembled for the first time since 1895 all five extant paintings that Leighton planned to submit for the 1895 summer exposition!  (I say "planned" because at the last moment he pulled one painting and substituted another, and no one knows where the substitution currently is.)

This means that the last time these five paintings hung together was in his studio on his April open house day prior to the exposition!  I lucked into the first chance to see these pieces together since 1895.  At the exposition, they were scattered in different areas.  Only in his studio in 1895 and now in the house museum have they hung together.

I cannot show you photos of the paintings, because the house rules forbid photography, but I can list them for you here in the order in which they were hanging, from left to right:

  • Candida
  • Lachrymae
  • The Maid with the Golden Hair
  • 'Twixt Hope and Fear
  • Flaming June
All five are technically brilliant, examples of the painter at the height of his talents--though working with severe angina the entire time he was painting them.  Candida and 'Twixt Hope and Fear did not, however, touch my heart the way the other three did.  Lachrymae broke my heart with its sorrow.  I fell instantly in love with the utter and complete focus of the reading Maid with the Golden Hair.  As for Flaming June, well, it deserves all of its accolades, a stunningly romantic vision of a woman exhausted and embracing slumber.  

In addition to the paintings themselves and the many sketches for aspects of Flaming June, the museum also managed to snag the unfinished Clytie, which is astonishing in person, and Whispers, which also deserves its fame.  

The house itself is another treat, a sumptuous, art-filled treasure trove.  

I could go on and on, but I am quite drained by today's experiences, of which this was the primary and most moving.  I was quite undone by the emotions Leighton's paintings aroused in me.

If you live in London or will be visiting before this exhibition closes, I cannot recommend it too highly.  I genuinely feel privileged to have seen it.


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