Walking through central London, we look towards Piccadilly as we cross the Haymarket, and there they are: the magical Christmas Lights suspended across the road. White bright, shaped liked antlers, and proclaiming this particular area of London: St James’s. As we gaze up the street, a double-decker bus turns onto the road and transforms the view into an iconic vision of nighttime pre-Christmas London. Out comes my camera in a flash…and click.
A friend says this photo brings back nostalgic childhood memories when his Mother would take him as a young boy to London to see the lights and look in all the shop windows. Photographs have that power of recall.
Powerful images are what our afternoon and early evening are all about. The Rembrandt exhibition of Late Works at the National Gallery catches our attention and we spend one and a half hours towards the end of the December afternoon viewing the works of art.
In an age of instant, mobile phone camera generated images, we catch our breath looking at the detail, size and scope of Rembrandt’s masterpieces, trying to comprehend the extent of his talent and skill in capturing texture, light and emotion in paint and wondrous colours.
The poster for the exhibition shows a portion of his painting “The Jewish Bride”, painted about 1665 just a few years before his death. Rembrandt lived from 1606 to 1669. This exhibition covers the period of his life from 1650 – 1669.
We slowly make our way around the exhibition, headphones clamped over our ears, listening to the commentary about key works of art among the 91 on display. The paintings of faces, including the self-portraits, their complexions and eyes and the paintings of richly textured fabrics resonate with me. “An Old Woman Reading”, oil on canvas painted in 1655, particularly catches my eye.
To spend time lost in the contemplation of art in this way is a great joy and escape from the rest of the world.
We decide that when we come to the end of the exhibition we will head straight to the National Gallery Dining Room for a glass of wine with something to eat and take the time to decompress from this experience.
The food menu is comprehensive and contemporary with selections such as quiche, soups, salads, grilled sandwiches and many other options. We decide to have their plate of Artisan Cheeses, selecting Berkswell (sheep) and Tickelmore (goat) cheeses with apple chutney and crackers. These are good.
We examine the wine list, which is varied and all reasonably priced. There are no English wines on offer but English beers and ciders are featured.
The flagship menu offering for the exhibition is called the Rembrandt Special featuring a grilled sandwich and a glass of their red or white house wine, priced at 10 GBPounds.
I decide to try the white house wine, a Vin de Pays d’Oc, 2012, which I find overly acidic for my palate. My husband chooses a Pinot Grigio, Alisios from Brazil, 2013 and that is more to our liking: refreshing and with mineral flavours. This Brazilian Pinot Grigio, which is sometimes blended with Riesling, is a new experience for us. We like it and feel resuscitated after our wine and cheese interlude.
We step out of the National Gallery and to our surprise find winter darkness has already descended. We entered a different world for a time. Coming across those white bright Christmas lights as we cross the street intensifies our experience of London magic.
References: The National Gallery www.nationalgallery.org.uk/rembrandt