One of the biggest fires in history occurred in London in 1666. It destroyed 13,000 buildings, but this city was and is indomitable and 34 years later it was the largest one in Europe.
London has some of the world’s best tourist attractions. Certainly one of them is its National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. The 2,300 works of art on display inside include some of the most famous paintings in the world, and it truly offers a complete education in art history in about 60 rooms. As an incredible bonus, it’s free, except for special exhibitions in the attached Sainsbury Gallery. To my knowledge, the National Gallery is the only place in the world except for Italy where visitors can see 3 of Caravaggio’s 79 paintings still in existence in one building. The National Gallery justifiably brags, “From Leonardo da Vinci to Vincent van Gogh”.
Germany-born banker/collector John Julius Angerstein died in 1823 at the age of 88. The next year the government acquired his collection to get the National Gallery started. Another gentleman promised his collected works if a suitable place to display them could be arranged. What the government had amassed thus far was moved to Trafalgar Square in 1838 with no formal collection policy, which led to criticism. J.M.W. Turner, one of England’s most famous artists, left a number of his paintings to the National Gallery in his will with instructions about how to display 2 of them. Some of Turner’s cousins contested the will and, ironically, this led to a much larger gift of Turner’s works to the nation.
There’s almost always an outstanding temporary show in the Sainsbury Wing. Upcoming is “Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art”. If you’re visiting London between February 17 and May 22, 2016, this will be the hot show to see. Turner did some pre-impressionistic paintings that included fires, storms, and a new technology–the train, but Eugène Delacroix, basically a romantic painter in the French Grand Style, influenced the Impressionists too. A highly admired artist who claimed that a painting should be “a feast for the eye”, Delacroix died about ten years before Claude Monet turned to Impressionism. Perhaps Delacroix’s most famous painting is “Liberty Leading the People,” a graphic image of the 1830 revolution. Adults will pay up to £16 to see Delacroix’s passionate works and will have no regrets.