The other day walking in the subway station, I saw a big poster ad for a Toulouse-Lautrec show at a museum at Somerset House. Being me I thought, Robert Carr's house still survives what with all the scandal and all? But no, different Somerset. And it's not really the same house, I think, so much as built up in the same place with the same name.
Still, it's a Tudor era palace (or was), started by the Duke of Somerset (Carr was an Earl, I think?), then taken over and used as a house for Princess Elizabeth (before she was Queen Elizabeth), and then by Stuart queens. Eventually the navy took over, and now it's this big museumy complex thing. And way cool.
What you may not know is that I really, really like Lautrec's works. I do. Even though he's practically still alive and everything.
So I put it high on my list, as in, let's do this in the morning, because Monday's are free. So that's where I started my morning this morning.
And it was very good. The Lautrec exhibit was just wonderful, and put together very well with lots of good pieces and helpful descriptions.
And as I was walking through, I thought a lot about how very lucky I am to be in London right now when this specific exhibit is happening. Let's face it, exhibits like this get put together and sometimes travel, but only to pretty big cities. And I don't normally live in a big city.
I do live only a few hours by car (and I have a car in the US) from a couple of big cities, though, and I bet they do have good visiting exhibits. And it's my own damned fault that I haven't gotten to know those cities well (or even at all). With my horrid sense of direction, I'm lousy at finding my way in new cities. (But I can follow a transit map!) I really should, though, just get a friend or three together and visit shows just to do it. (Then I saw that New Kid has a post up about a Chron article about someone visiting a small town on a campus visit, and I hope I wasn't being as obnoxiously condescending.)
The museum had a fair bit of other stuff, including one of the really great Van Gogh pieces with his ear bandaged, a Picasso that was stunning, and so on.
As I was walking through that part, I saw a familiar face and thought, hey, I know that guy! (Well, "know" in the sense that I've seen the painting before.) It took me a moment, and I realized it was a portrait of Castiglione. (The Wikipedia page shows Raphael's portrait.)
But, I thought, shouldn't that be in Italy? But I went closer, and learned that it was a copy by Rubens (gosh, maybe I'm getting him confused with Rembrandt? I think by Rubens.)
I don't know if it's Castiglione or Raphael's talent (or Rubens' talent in copying Raphael), but since I've seen that picture, I've always thought the Castiglione would be an incredible person to have met or had a conversation with over dinner (well, were my Italian better, anyway). There's just something about the eyes and the way they work in his face.
After visiting the Lautrec exhibit, I went on to an exhibit about the Tudor palace and the barge, and they have an 18th or 19th century naval barge on display there so that people can see what a barge for important people travelling on the Thames would have looked like, and it was so fancy! So now I have that in mind when I think about Wolsey or H8 going down to Hampton Court Palace.
Then I was going to walk to the Embankment station, but along the way I found this little Embankment park, and stupidly decided that I'd walk to my second stop of the day, the Imperial War Museum. Now, I'm ashamed to say that I could get lost in my own closet, so of course I didn't find the most direct route. (I'm not really sure there's a direct route anywhere in London.) But I finally made it, had some lunch, and looked at WWI and WWII stuff until I had had enough of war stuff and came home. I'm not much good for tanks and such, though I'd be more interested in armor and such. I did see a rifle that was presented to (and used by) Lawrence of Arabia, and I went through the Children in War exhibit, which was pretty good. I couldn't bear to go through the Holocaust exhibit. I get too emotional (and have been to a couple Holocaust museums) and I just didn't have the energy to do that today.
And now. Now I am refreshed a bit, and rested, and about to go out for night life! Yes, I'm heading to the theater to see A Woman Killed with Kindness! (I know! I'm excited!)