Saturday 27 May 2017

Drowning in Blueness: the Wallace Collection

I wanted to look at pictures, either in the National Gallery or in the Wallace Collection. This last was a haven of coolness, even of gloom, yet it was deserted, except for discreet knots of American ladies looking at snuff boxes in glass cases. To this day I can retrieve the sensation of walking over the hot gravel of the courtyard, my head hammering from the unforgiving glare, and the sensation of dignity which descended on me as I made my way up the stairs. Ahead of me were the great Bouchers, masterpieces neglected by most visitors but to me of the same order as the astonishing weather, which, if I turned my head, I could see through the dusty windows. In comparison with the pictures the sun suddenly seemed tawdry, exhausted. ... I turned back to the pictures, to the effortless immaculate soaring of the figures in their spectacular universe. The throbbing in my head died away, as did all bodily sensations, as I stood at the top of the stairs, drowning in blueness.
A Family Romance, ch. 4

Intent on a spot of Brooknerian tourism, I visited the Wallace Collection this morning. I haven't been there for many years, but was once a regular. I knew the place when the central quadrangle, now glazed over and a very posh cafe, was a wilderness of weeds and broken statuary. I may even have visited the Wallace Collection before I read about it in Anita Brookner. Or perhaps not.

The hot gravel of the courtyard...

...snuff boxes in glass cases...

...the great Bouchers...

...the [not so] dusty windows...

Of course, the Powellian Poussin:

And the corner of a Rubens landscape, such as George Bland in Brookner's A Private View might have fantasised about:

And several rooms of paintings by Greuze, Watteau and others. Brookner Rooms, I'll call them:

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