Aussie Steve wrote about “10 unsung London attractions” for the Sydney Morning Herald and Aussie John, friend and fellow traveler, sent the list right before Ruth and I went to London. We made it to 9 of the 10, and I’ve blogged about all but Museum of London Docklands and Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Ruth and I went to Dulwich on a hot Sunday morning by taking the train from Victoria Station to West Dulwich, about a 20 minute journey. The trip was free since we had bought highly recommended Oyster Cards, the best and cheapest way to get around London, at Heathrow upon arrival.
It was a pleasant 10 minute walk from the station to Dulwich. We passed tennis courts, dog walkers, estates, and an upper class school and were at the Gallery about 45 minutes before it opened. We had time to sit and watch local life stroll or sip coffee, and I judged the scene very civilized, the England of long ago.
The Dulwich Picture Gallery was very English also with the paintings hung European style, as in clustered on walls from eye-level upwards. It was an impressive collection of respectable upper class paintings–nymphs and gods, elegant ladies, religious themes, Roman figures, etc.–many done by recognizable names–Gainsborough, Raphael, the inevitable Rembrandt. Dulwich also brings in excellent temporary shows like the current “An American in London: Whistler and the Thames” until January, 2014.
All of the art looked like it was hung long ago and never moved, which wouldn’t surprise me to learn is true since Dulwich is the oldest public art gallery in England. It will celebrate its 200th birthday in 4 years.
Dulwich’s architect was Sir John Soane. There’s a Soane Museum in London at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields near the wonderful Hunterian Museum. Ruth and I visited Soane many years ago and I found it kind of creepy, like getting a behind the scenes tour of a long-abandoned mortuary. Soane collected 75,000 objects–art works, architectural drawings, plaster stuff–and much of it was on display. I suspect that the Soane Museum would be quite a different experience today since “opening up the Soane”, a restore and improve project, is underway and scheduled for completion in 2015.
In our hour in Dulwich I closely studied Charles le Brun’s macabre “The Massacre of the Innocents”, the lovely Linley sisters, and a too cute, doll-like portrait of 4-year-old Queen Victoria (above). All in all, Dulwich was a 4 Compass experience.
And speaking of macabre, writer Steve McKenna, being an Aussie, included a bit of trivia with his Dulwich prompt. In 1980 Bon Scott, lead singer of AC/DC, was found dead in a car at age 33 on Overhill Road a few blocks from Dulwich after what Wikipedia called “a night out in London”. Highway to Hell indeed.