Modern Ballet, National Gallery and Regent St Christmas Lights

One thing that is fun about living in London is you never quite know what you will see as you walk down the street or turn the corner.  The other day, I was walking back to my apartment and two police motorcycles went zipping by with their lights flashing but no sirens.  Then, another car with flashing lights went by at a very good clip.  Behind all of them, was an official looking, black Rolls Royce, followed by more police cars and motorcycles.  It must have been royalty and why do I say this?  Well, last Saturday when I was at the Lord Mayor’s Show, I was told that when royalty has a police escort, they do not use their sirens and if the need is there, then they use a whistle.  Just a little more dignified, maybe?

The other day, I was walking over toward Westminster Abbey and as I got closer to Parliament square, where Westminster is located, I heard church bells.  It was 1:15 and I thought that it was to announce the quarter of the hour.  However, these bells kept pealing and pealing.  It was very inspirational to be walking around this stunning beautiful Gothic structure with the steeples pointing toward heaven, surrounded by a crystal clear blue sky and sunshine.  I just started saying thanks for a moment that I would treasure for a long while!

Finally, you will never quite know when you will see a horse clip-clopping down the road.  The other night in rush hour traffic, by Buckingham Palace was a police on a horse and the other afternoon, I heard the familiar clopping sound and turned to see a very impressive horse drawn carriage.  It turned out to be tourist, which until then, I didn’t realize you could get a tour in a horse drawn carriage.  This morning, I had just gotten up and was fixing my coffee when, again, I heard the familiar clip-clop.  A quick look out my window and I saw 6 mounted policemen riding horseback down a busy road.  It looked like one or two of the horses might be pulling some kind of artillery.  That is possible as I live next to the Royal Hospital which is not only a hospital, but also has housing for over 400 veterans and a war museum.

I saw another ballet at the Opera House on Monday night.  It was very spur of the moment.  A new friend, Leila, invited me to go with her and a couple of friends.  It was three separate, modern pieces.  As I have said time and again in this blog, I am not a big fan of modern anything.  So, attending this was “stepping out of the box” for me and to a certain extent, I did enjoy it.  For the most part the music was pleasant and the dances were choreograph pleasantly.  Still, I like a “story” like one that is told in the traditional ballets of Swan Lake, Snow White, etc.

The three performances were Viscera, Infra and Fool’s Paradise.  I think Infra was my least favorite because of the technical music in the middle of the dance.  However, that was followed by a beautifully haunting piano solo.  Although I loved the piano solo, I really disliked the technical music…if you can even call it that…it sounded like machines running, not music.  The dancers were wonderful.  I really believe that dance is not only an art form but an athletic event with grace.

When I commented that I didn’t really understand what the dancers were trying to convey, a lady said “It isn’t about a story or understanding but he emotions that you feel watching it.”  I am going to take that idea with me whenever I see anything having to do with modern art “what emotion does it evoke?”  Maybe I will learn to appreciate this form of art better.

Although it was overcast, the weather on Tuesday was unusually warm for November 13th.  It was the night for the lighting of the Christmas lights on Regent Street, a major shopping street near Piccadilly Circus, a famous roundabout in London.  I decided to spend the afternoon at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, near Regent Street as well.

It was my first time, on this trip, to visit the art museum which houses the national collection of western art from the 13th to the 19th century.  I walked over, which took an hour, from my apartment.  It was a nice walk taking me by Victoria station, Buckingham Palace, down the Mall, through Admiralty Arch and out to Trafalgar Square.  The square was named after the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar in which the English navy was victorious over the French during the Napoleonic wars. of   In the center of the square is a statue of Lord Nelson surrounded by four, stately lions.  I have always loved these statues and had to stop and click a couple of pictures of them.  The National Gallery is located right behind this square.

Since Impressionist art is my favorite, I decided to visit just those rooms.  I started in the “pre-impressionist” room that introduced the Academy painters from the Ecole de Beaux Arts.  A couple of the artist, contributed to the impressionist period; Delacroix freely used color more so than other artist of his time and a German painter, Menzel, (1815-1905) who in his later years became more impressionistic in his painting style.   In his earlier years (around 1839), his paintings were very true to form and represented exactly what he saw.  In his later paintings, his subjects were less linear and flowed more.

A painting in this gallery particularly caught my eye.  It was by a French painter, Paul Delaroche (1795-1856).  It was titled “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey” (1833).  The story of Lady Grey is she reigned as queen of England for nine days in 1553.  She was found guilty of treason and beheaded at the Tower of London at the age of 17.  The painting showed two ladies nearby watching as Lady Jane was led blindfolded to her execution.  The subject is gruesome but what I especially liked about the painting was the jewelry that one of the women was wearing.  It looked real, like the rubies were actually shining in the gold settings and the pearls around her neck would be real, if touched.

In the next gallery was the impressionist work of Monet and a few other impressionist.  Gustave Caillebottei (1848-1894) painting Bridge at Argenteuil and the Siene (1883) caught my eye.  The colors were especially crisp, almost like a color photograph.  The Monets dominated the room and my full attention, though.  I especially loved his “Snow Scene at Argenteuil” (1875).  It was one of 18 paintings painted by Monet based on a heavy snowfall in Argenteuil during the winter of 1874-1875.  In his winter scenes, he uses mostly whites, blues and grays with a splash of accent color.  In the case of this painting, he used splashes of red, pink and gold on the church steeple.

When viewing a Monet, it is really important to stand back and look at the painting to truly appreciate the subject.  He had a couple of paintings on exhibit that I couldn’t really see the subject, according to the title, until I had stepped back for a better view.  The reflection of the weeping willows in a pond or the Japanese bridge over the lily pond that was obscured due to heavy foliage in the painting.  It wasn’t until I stepped back that I actually saw those images.

The other three galleries which I visited were Pre-impressionist with George Seurat, who explored new techniques and introduced pointillism.  He felt that the eye should blend the colors, rather than the artist’s brush.  They had several Van Goghs, from the post-impressionistic movement, which I really enjoyed! I really liked his paintings Long Grass with Butterflies, Van Goghs Chair and his Sunflowers.

It was a great day at the art museum and was topped off by watching the Christmas lights on Regent Street turned on.  It was sponsored by the BBC Classic radio station and the entertainment consisted of a very handsome and talented opera singer, Noah Stewart, a church choir singing Christmas carols and the little girl in the popular play, Matilda.  The lights were switched on by 40 members of the British Olympic and Paralympic team.   It was a fun event to attend and really got me excited about Christmas!

Waiting for the lights to be turned on.

The lights were switched on!

Christmas lights on Regent Street.

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