Thursday, 28 October 2010

Paintings, Pumpkins, and Parks

This week is half-term, what the English call fall break. That means no school for Benedict. Given the opportunity, I took him to the Courtauld Art Gallery to see their small but important art collection on Monday. There is no entrance fee to the museum on Monday between 10am and 2pm.

While their collection spans several hundred years of European art, their Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection is especially superb. The museum takes up a small portion of the large and impressive Somerset House, a neo-classical palace built in 1550 by the Duke of Somerset (and Lord Protector of the son of the late Henry VIII) who, unfortunately, was executed before he could move in. Located near Waterloo Bridge, its address is on the Strand and its rear abuts the Thames. Recently it was used as a set for the film 'Sherlock Holmes', an appropriate location because, as Dr. Watson tells us in 'A Study in Scarlet', it was in a hotel on the Strand where Dr. Watson lived prior to meeting and sharing rooms with Holmes on Baker Street.

We spent only 45 minutes in the gallery. As mentioned, the collection is fairly small while a young man's attention span for such abstract pleasures is short. Besides, due to the free admission the number of people in the museum by 11:15 began to distract from the enjoyment of the art.

This Degas painting of Two Ballerinas is a
companion to the painting of the Three
Ballerinas we saw in Scotland.

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Edouard Monet

Autumn effect at Argenteuil by Claude Monet

Self-portrait with bandaged ear by Van Gogh

The Conversion of St. Paul by Rubens

That afternoon the Kilfoyles came over for a pumpkin carving party and dinner.
Sarah, Benedict, and John busy at work.

Cleaning out the innards.

Sometimes moms are scarier than jack o' lanterns.

Franz and Jim discussing the influence of Halloween on
philosophical and literary studies. (Actually, Jim is shuffling
and about to deal Uno cards. We're not THAT obsessed.)

The next day, Tuesday, proved to a chilly and wet day. A perfect day to meet Susan and John in Kensington Park to allow the boys to frolic at the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Playground.
But first we had to explore the park a bit. Here's the gang at the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain, which is in Hyde Park adjacent to Kensington and really resembles a concrete brook more than it does a fountain. All this is part of the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Walk. All this Diana stuff is here because the late Princess of Wales lived in Kensington Palace.
And here they are appreciating an art installation of stainless steel sculptures created by Anish Kapoor.

There are several of Kapoor's sculptors in the park on temporary exhibition guarded by young uniformed men to prevent people from touching or getting too close. Not a problem for this piece sitting peacefully in the Round Pound. Too cold and drizzly for anyone to wade out there.
Finally, the playground. On a nicer day it would be crawling with children. Susan and John have been to the playground, which is pretty big, when scads and scads of kids and their parents choked the passageways and fought over the equipment. Good for us that almost all Londoners and their kids preferred indoor activities this day.

The center piece of the playground is this grand pirate ship.
Our last bit of pilgrimaging took us to the opposite side of the park from the playground where we enjoyed this wonderful statue of Peter Pan. Note all the characters crawling up to join Peter at the top.

By this time we were near the Lancaster Gate Underground Station on Bayswater Road, the same road our bus took on Sunday. Susan and John took the bus to their home near Waterloo Station, and Benedict and I took the tube home, after a detour to Wimbledon where we promptly got back on the tube when it was obvious that the Tennis Centre was a bit too far from the station to visit that day.

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