Thursday, October 11, 2007

Drawings from the National Gallery

Each Wednesday this month, after attending the lecture on drawing in the Diversity of Drawing series, I'm taking the opportunity to draw in the National Gallery. Yesterday I drew
  • a small slice of interior in the National Cafe - while having my tuna sandwiches and apple muffin and cup of tea!
  • the piano tuner - tuning the grand piano after the lunchtime Myra Hess concert and before the evening one.
  • a painting called "A vase of flowers" by Paul Gauguin. You can see the original here.
I did the lunchtime sketch in the other self-service part of the National Cafe where people eat sandwiches or have afternoon tea.

In the middle there is one of those marble top bars with a glass screen running down the middle and stools either side on which people perch and read papers or have animated conversations.

I picked up a view of the centre looking beyond into the service part where I was sat last week. A very dapper gent sat down to read his paper just where I needed somebody and I started sketching - only for him to be obscured by a couple of women having a 'private' (heads close together) conversation. The funny bit was they saw me sketching and I could have sworn they moved their seats just so they could get in the sketch - but I sketched round them!

The Piano Tuner
10" x8",
pen and ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

From time to time the National Gallery runs concerts to commemorate Dame Myra Hess DBE, the concert pianist who organised lunchtime concerts at the National Gallery throughout the second world war.

While I was drawing I heard a guide behind me comment that all the great pictures were removed from the National Gallery during war time and so they created the Picture of the Month scheme...
...the pianist Myra Hess gave daily recitals in the empty building to raise public morale at a time when every concert hall in London was closed. In 1941 a request from an artist to see Rembrandt's Portrait of Margaretha de Geer resulted in the "Picture of the Month" scheme, in which a single painting was removed from Manod and exhibited to the general public in the National Gallery each month.
Wikipedia - National Gallery
This is a very fast sketch as I can't draw for long standing up. I knew I could go back and draw the archictecture again but if I ever wanted to develop this that I needed to get a good sense of the size and posture of the piano tuner. I added the coloured pencils when I got home - in just two colours.

Later on, I sat drawing the Gauguin but was able to hear a little bit of evening concert which was next door. It contained pieces called 'Last letter home' (which commemorated the fallen in Iraq) and 'Quartet for the end of time'.

Copy of Paul Gauguin's A Vase of Flowers (1896)
8.5" x 11", coloured pencil in daler Rowney sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I do sketches of paintings with the hope of understanding a bit more about the artist and how they worked. Now I'm not an oil painter but you do see the effects of layering colour when looking at a painting for long enough. Plus you see so much more colour when looking at it straight on as opposed to in a book or on a screen. Now with limited time to work on this I got the proportions wrong plus I didn't have the right green (a malachite shade) with me for the leaves so added that later - and now the colours don't look right on my screen but do in my sketchbook!

Finally - I'm nonplussed as to why the management of the National Gallery have yet to resolve the strike action taken every Wednesday at 5.00pm by some gallery staff. It's now been running for well over a year!

I learned yesterday that management apparently have no knowledge in advance of which galleries are going to be closed by staff walking out. This is hugely frustrating for visitors who can only get to the gallery in the evening. People can make journeys to see a particular gallery only to find it has been shut. Other galleries in London seem have grasped the advantage to both gallery and the public if they manage to open more often at times suitable for people who work and have started to open late on more evenings each week. The National Portrait Gallery - right next door - is one example.

Personally I really don't understand why they don't stagger hours and have some days as early opening days and early shut and others as late opening and late shut.

There are an awful lot of managers and staff in a variety of public service organisations who have found they've had to get to grips with the changing expectations of the public as to access - and I'm really not sure why the managers and staff of the National Gallery should apparently be an exception. Whatever the rights or wrongs of this situation surely it has gone on for long enough? It's time to get it sorted.



  1. Love your version of Gaugin's flowers and also like the 2 National Gallery sketches. I find drawing interiors particularly difficult, and I am impressed by how you have captured the feeling of grandeur and space in the Piano Tuner sketch. And well done with the cafeteria one; I sat in there and tried to draw, but the noise and heat was just too much for me.

  2. Thanks Marie-Dom and I know what you mean. That bit can get very crowded at times, especially at lunchtime. I guess after the main lunch hour and before the tea-time rush is a good time to go as I did.


I always check identities and ALL links in comments for spam.

Due to excessive attempts to introduce spam via comments on this blog, I've introduced a regime where all comments with links in the ID or text to the websites of hotels/resorts/tourist destinations will NOT be approved and are deleted. The websites of repeat spammers are also reported to Google.

Nice, sensible people who are not new to blogging probably don't need to read my Comments Policy