Tuesday 26th September…a few days in London…

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After our evening with Nicola Benedetti we made our way using two buses to our good friends Malcolm and Ann who live in Sydenham Hill/Dulwich. The trip was enlivened by our continual referral to Malcolm’s extensive notes. He laid out for us in advance virtually every point of interest to be seen from the bus windows. When we stay Malcolm and Ann always let us have their bedroom on the top floor of their townhouse, and the outlook from the window

is incredibly rural as you can see above….these are Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods.

The next day Tuesday we eased into our trip by exploring around Dulwich itself. Our first destination was Malcolm’s old school Dulwich College, a fine institution, very wealthy with extensive estates, polite pupils and gowned Masters. The staff we met were all very helpful and showed us round the Hall (brought back memories for me of MGS…similar feel and smell), Library, some of the archives and the mocked-up study of Old Boy P G Wodehouse.

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Along the way to our next destination we first of all admired one of the several Banksy-style murals in Dulwich….very classy, amazing works of art…….

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We also drove through the tollgate on the Dulwich Estate,the last remaining tollgate in London

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We were going to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, but had time to visit the chapel attached to the almshouses first….this being the one day a week when it was open. Quite posh almshouses, and interesting chapel interior, all part of Dulwich Estate of course.

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We were going to the Singer Sergent exhibition of his watercolours but we also had chance to look round the permanent displays, which were amazing for a gallery of this size.

 

This was ‘the first UK show in nearly 100 years devoted to watercolours by the Anglo-American artist, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925).

Renowned as the portraitist of his generation, Sargent also devoted time to developing his talent in watercolour, undertaking several painting expeditions to Europe in the early twentieth century. Free from the constraints of his studio he was able to take inspiration from the places he visited – from the streams and glacial moraines in The Alps to the renaissance and baroque architecture he explored in Venice. Working en plein air, Sargent developed a distinctive way of seeing and composing, his subjects often appearing fragmented and disorienting – an expression of his personal, modern aesthetic.

Frequently dismissed as travel souvenirs, Sargent’s watercolours dazzle with light and colour, demonstrating a technical brilliance and striking individuality, offering an alternative perspective on the artist. This exhibition brings together 80 paintings from private and public collections, revealing Sargent’s idiosyncratic view of the world and the scale of his achievement.’

One of my favourites was a self-portrait of him painting en pleine air in the Alps, but they were all of interest. His boat pictures in Venice captured perfectly the movement and the light.

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Some paintings we recognised the location, some you couldn’t help but wonder what was his thinking. For instance on the sensuous painting of, I think, his niece which opens the exhibition, it seems to me that he was wishing to paint her nude…he seems to be lusting after her. Mind you I’m no art expert, so who knows?  Maybe Lachlan Goudie…..I was glad to see that he picked up exactly the same vibes. See his introduction to the exhibition on video here.

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I mustn’t forget to mention that the cafe attached to the gallery is excellent…wonderful pastries and cakes….just what you need at a gallery!

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On the way home we called in the local Dulwich pub, the Crown and Greyhound totally reminiscent of its era, and it goes without saying on a visit to Malcolm that we ended the evening with a couple of pints in his local The Dulwich Woodhouse where he is very well known indeed.

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