Art Galleries and Museums

"The most perfectly and roundly ill-done thing I ever saw produced in art," John Ruskin

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Victoria and Albert Museum

Come on a tour of the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone in 1899. It was to be one of the greatest museums of art and design, born out of the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851 - the idea of Prince Albert to improve manufacture and design in Britain. Exhibits came from all over the world, including one of taxidermy from Germany showing dead cats having a tea party; and frogs holding up umbrellas and brushing their teeth with miniature tooth-brushes. About six million people attended the exhibition, which was held in the Crystal Palace (an enormous glass and steel structure) erected in Hyde Park.

Today the museum houses more than 2.3 million objects in its permanent collection. They include, as Ruskin said, "The most perfectly and roundly ill-done thing I ever saw produced in art". If you want to find out what this is, take a tour with me...

The museum is renowned for its fabulous fashion galleries, tapestries, sculptures and objects from all over the world. In the spectacular Renaissance Galleries, find one of Leonardo da Vinci's note books on display. The British Galleries take you through rooms that have been carefully removed from (subsequently demolished) grand London houses to show how the design of British homes has changed from the 1500s to the 20th century. There are also Indian, Chinese and Islamic galleries to explore.

Sir Roy Strong, a former director of the museum, described it as an "extremely capacious handbag", as the more you take out of it, the more it has to offer...

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Natural History Museum

Combine a tour of the Victoria and Albert Museum with the Natural History Museum. You could also dip into the Science Museum, as all three are just a stone's throw from one another.

At the Natural History Museum you can see a fragment of moon rock. After the final mission to the moon by Apollo 17 in 1972, President Nixon gave fragments as goodwill gestures to 135 countries including the UK.


Also meet Guy the Gorilla, who was found in the French Congo and arrived at London Zoo on November 5, 1947,  hence him being called Guy after Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament on November 5, 1605. When Guy the Gorilla died in 1978, he was controversially stuffed - find out how. The first night he arrived, Guy was found clinging as a baby would to his tin hot-water-bottle. He was so gentle he would hold song birds and examine them as they flew into his cage and let them go. Find out how he died aged about 70 years in gorilla terms...

See a complete skeleton of a dodo, bringing the magic of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to this sadly extinct creature.

Want to organize your own custom tour? Get in touch with me today.

 

Art Galleries and Museums

'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains.' Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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The British Museum

The British Museum grew out of the mostly natural history collection of Sir Hans Sloane, as a generous bequest to the nation on his death in 1753. Today the museum has about eight million objects in its permanent collection, with about 80,000 on display at any one time. I have specialised in this museum as I have guided at corporate events here on their exhibitions and also taught Blue Badge Guide students here on the prestigious course.

On a highlights tour, you can see the Rosetta Stone - probably the most famous artefact in the whole collection - which was crucial in helping us to rediscover how to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. The oldest datable hieroglyphs date back to around 3,400BC. Also in the Egyptian sculpture galleries you can see the bust of Rameses II (also known as Rameses the Great). He was known as Rameses the Great for many reasons, the main one being that he built more temples than any other pharaoh. The imminent arrival of the bust in 1818 lead Percy Bysshe Shelley to write his famous poem Ozymandias (actually one of Rameses's many names). On the first floor there is the world-famous collection of Egyptian mummies.

If we travel to Assyria, you will see the Winged Bulls (Lamassu): magical gateway figures set to guard the citadel. At the base of these huge statues, you will find some cuneiform script - it vies with hieroglyphs to be the oldest written script in the world. If they find an older piece, it may win this title.

Many other famous pieces can be seen at the museum, such as the Parthenon sculptures from Athens, Greece; and the mysterious Sutton Hoo ship burial in the British Galleries where we try to piece together the identity of the Saxon king...


If you have seen the highlights and want something different, we could tour the India and China galleries; the Mexico and Africa galleries; or the mind-blowing skills of the Islamic arts.

Combine this tour with a Bloomsbury Literary Walk, a tour of Covent Garden, or another gallery or museum of your choice.

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National Gallery

The National Gallery was first opened in 1824 in a house in nearby Pall Mall; it relocated to the current William Wilkins building in Trafalgar Square in 1838. Since those early times, both the building and the collection have grown.

In the galleries you will find early art from the 1300s through to the early 20th century, including works by artists such as Monet and Van Gogh.

The Renaissance collection is extensive, with works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian - along with famous pieces by Caravaggio and Diego Velázquez.

I will bring these works to life for you and give you insight into the lives of these artists and what inspired them. In this gallery you will mostly see European art. Tate Britain is where you will see the equivalent in British art up to the 20th century.

Take this tour with a walking tour of exclusive Mayfair or my Theatreland Tour in Covent Garden. You could also combine it with a tour of Westminster or another gallery or museum of your choice. An extremely convenient and excellent combination would be to take a tour of the next door National Portrait Gallery with great modern portraits, but also portraits of the Tudors and Elizabethans such as Henry VIII and his ill-fated Queen Anne Boleyn, or Elizabeth I in all her glory (though her teeth were described as looking like battlements through her love of sweetmeats and marzipan).

Want to organize your own custom tour? Get in touch with me today.

 

Art Galleries and Museums

"Darnation, Silly,Silly, Pose." Attributed to John Singer Sargeant

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Tate Britain

Tate Britain focuses mostly on British art up to the 20th century. For works from the 20th and 21st centuries, you will find an extensive collection at Tate Modern.

At Tate Britain you can see some of our great British 18th-century artists such as the satirical painter William Hogarth, who described "the line of beauty and grace" in his thesis on the serpentine line and its use in art; or George Stubbs, one of the greatest equine painters of all time. There is also a wealth of beautiful paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood including Dante Gabriel Rossetti. One of his works is depicted here in tile form in Pimlico station, near Tate Britain.

There are also great works by sculptors such as Henry Moore who worked with natural stone to follow its shape, creating his wonderful pierced figures.

The gallery also features great American artists who settled in England, such as John Singer Sargent whose painting of two little girls hanging lanterns in a garden entitled Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose was retitled - thought to be by the artist himself - Darnation, Silly, Silly, Pose. He apparently often gave his works daft nicknames! His portrait of Ellen Terry is dazzling in her green-beetle-wing dress as Lady Macbeth. Alongside these paintings you can see work by James Abbott McNeil Whistler.

A combined tour of Tate Britain and Tate Modern can make a great gallery day out. Alternatively, visit the National Gallery.

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Tate Modern

Visit Tate Modern alongside Tate Britain; there is a Tate-to-Tate boat service that transports you between these galleries - a fun way to travel indeed.

Tate Modern has a never-ending and constantly changing collection. It is quite hard to keep up with it even as a guide, and during change-over periods I may need a little notice for this tour...

Exhibited here you will usually see Monet's Water Lillies; Dali's Cannibalism, or perhaps his Lobster Telephone; many paintings by Picasso; and Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals, painted shortly before his tragic death.


Please note as mentioned there is no guarantee as to what will be hung on the day we go.

The tour can be combined with one of Shakespeare's Southwark and Borough Market, for a bite to eat.

Want to organize your own custom tour? Get in touch with me today.