Teylers Museum


During our previous visits to Haarlem, we’ve passed the entrance to the Teylers Museum, which stands on the Spaarn embankment, many times, but I’d never visited.

Open to the public since 1784, it was the first museum in the Netherlands. It was founded after the death of Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778) a successful silk merchant and financier who had a wide range of interests in the arts and sciences. In his will, Teyler left two million guilders (roughly 80 million euros) to establish a foundation, to promote theology, the sciences, and the arts.  In 1779, the Foundation’s first directors commissioned the young architect Leendert Viervant to design a ‘Books and Art Room’ behind the Foundation House (Fundatiehuis, where Pieter Teyler had lived). The result was the Oval Room, which is still the heart of the museum, although the premises have been expanded considerably since then. In fact, it’s rather like the Tardis. It doesn’t look so big from the outside but once you’re inside there’s a whole series of interconnected rooms and a whole new extension which, from the outside, you wouldn’t know were there.

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By Teylers Museum, Haarlem, the Netherlands, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, Link

It’s quite an amazing place. In many ways it’s an old fashioned museum with lots of exhibits, including fossils, minerals, coins and scientific instruments, many in glass display cases. There’s also two galleries of paintings and a large collection of drawings and prints by artists including Michelangelo, Raphael, and  Rembrandt. The building itself is also fascinating. We spent a couple of hours looking round but there’s really too much to see during one visit.

Visitors are provided with an audio guide which provides information on selected exhibits by entering a number. For this summer the audio guide also includes an introductory tour, a “radio play” based on Napoleon’s visit to the museum in 1811 which focused on the history of the museum and key exhibits.


We followed the “Napoleon tour”, which took about half an hour, and then had a more detailed look around, concentrating on particular areas of interest.

Just a few of the large collection of fossils
Humanoid skulls and bones
Fluorescent minerals
The large electrostatic generator. They had smaller examples to see as well.

The Oval room was one of the highlights. Originally this was the whole museum! It’s lit only by natural light that comes in through the skylights – so it’s probably best to visit on a bright summer’s day!


It was difficult to get a shot that really shows off the room, so I resorted to embedding a picture from Wikipedia which was taken from the balcony, which isn’t accessible to the public.

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By Teylers Museum, Haarlem, the Netherlands, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, Link (source: Wikipedia)

A painting in one of the art galleries shows what the room looked like in 1800, with the large electrostatic generator in the centre.

A large horseshoe magnet supporting 100 kg
An early electric battery
An astronomical globe

The two art galleries were also lit by natural light


The collection mainly features works from the Dutch Romantic School and the later Hague School and Amsterdam Impressionists.

Wintergezicht met Schaatsers (1864) by Johan Barthold Jongkind
De Molen (1899) by Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch
Twee dienstboden op een Amsterdamse brug bij avond (1890) George Hendrik Breitner
Trommelslaagster (c 1908) by Isaac Israels

Like many other galleries and museums in the Netherlands there was a temporary exhibition marking 250 years since the death of Rembrandt. It featured prints by the master and some of his contemporaries.


As usual, I was bowled over by the beauty and the amazing detail of Rembrandt’s tiny prints. One of them had been blown up and covered the whole of one wall. Even on such a large scale the detail was amazing.


And this was the real thing, which, even though it is the largest of his landscape prints, was not even as big as an A3 sheet of paper


The newest part of the museum, an exhibition hall and a cafe, were built in 1996 and are airy, cantilevered spaces on two sides of a “secret” courtyard / garden.


It was time for some refreshment!

the Dutch know how to make mint tea!

We’d spent more than a couple of hours in the museum so had a last look around before returning our audio guides and leaving the building to meet up with our son and daughter, who’s been spending some time together.

Teylers is an excellent museum and I suspect we’ll be paying a visit another time when we next visit Haarlem.

Cezanne Portraits at the NPG


The Thursday immediately after the Christmas break I had to go down to London for a meeting so we took the opportunity to have a short break in the Capital as there was a couple of exhibitions we particularly wanted to see. We were lucky in managing to book a room in the Euston Premier Inn for less than £60 – a remarkable bargain these days.

After my meeting in Southwark had finished late afternoon, I crossed the river and took the bus from near St Paul’s


over to Trafalgar Square to meet my wife in the National Gallery where she’d been spending a few hours. We went back inside for a quick look at some favourite paintings and the small exhibition of paintings by the Finnish artist Gallen-Kallela of Lake Keitele in his native country. No photos allowed but I downloaded this picture from the National Gallery’s website (under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons licence)


Lake Keitele (1905) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

The National Gallery’s website tells us

For the first time in the UK, this exhibition unites all of Gallen-Kallela’s ‘Lake Keitele’ landscapes. They are displayed side by side, showing the gradual shift of the composition, between naturalistic landscape and highly stylised, abstracted image. They also illuminate the various influences, Finnish and foreign, absorbed by this highly distinctive and versatile artist.

The National Gallery closes at 6 so we made our way out onto Trafalgar Square and past St Martins in the Field


round to the National Portrait Gallery which is open late on Thursday evening.

We had a look round taking in some old favourites – the Elizabethan gallery and portraits of some of my “heroes” including William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley and Humphry Davy – and some new discoveries before purchasing tickets for the exhibition of Cezanne portraits.

This is a major exhibition with 50 portraits by Cezanne, which has already been shown in the Gare d’Orsay in Paris and will later move on to National Gallery of Art in Washington.

As usual over here no photos allowed (how different it was in Australia where we could take photos even in paid exhibitions) but there’s a short youtube video showing highlights

The portraits are mainly of his family and friends with some of other people he knew – including workers from around where he lived, one in particular who posed for some well known paintings. There are also a good number of self portraits. Covering the whole of his career, it’s possible to see how Cezanne’s technique changed and evolved. Some early portraits, including one of his uncle Dominique, have been painted with a pallet knife rather than a brush.

One person who appears more than anyone else in the exhibition is Marie-Hortense Fiquet  his wife,  who he met in Paris when he was 30 and she was 19. He painted her about 30 times and a good number of these portraits are included in the exhibition.


Portrait of Madame Cézanne with Loosened Hair, c. 1883 – 1887, Philadelphia Museum of Art (source: Wikipedia)

It’s very interesting to see how his portrayal of her changed over the years. She doesn’t look particularly happy in any of them and the later portraits are far from flattering to say the least. What does it say about their relationship? He married her against the wishes of his family and stuck with her until he died so he surely can’t have hated her and in those days wealthy men could easily discard a wife or lover. It’s well known that he was a miserable so and so, so perhaps that was reflected in his paintings of her or does it just reflect how his art evolved.

If these portrayals are hardly “attractive” in the conventional sense, and Cézanne has been accused of  “cruelty” in his painting of his wife, with whom he had a difficult relationship, he would no doubt have painted her in exactly the same way had the pair been in the first flush of romance, such was his obsession with pure form and shape.   (Mark Hudson writing in the Telegraph)



Van Gogh Museum

I’m glad we’d bought our tickets for the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in advance via their website. When we arrived the queues were enormous and chaotic. But with a timed ticket we just had a short while to wait until our slot came up and then we were able to waltz past the main queue and into the museum.* Once inside it was extremely busy (not surprising considering the number of people queuing outside) and with people crowding around the most well known paintings, it wasn’t a relaxing experience to say the least.


It’s well known that during his lifetime Van Gogh was unappreciated, to say the least. He sold very few paintings even though his brother, Theo, was an art dealer and tried to push his work. Alas, it was to no avail. When Vincent died in 1890 Theo was left a large number of works, but he still wasn’t able to sell them. Theo died only a few months after brother so his widow, Johanna, inherited the collection. She became an evangelist for Vincent’s work, arranging exhibitions and publishing the numerous letters Vincent had written to Theo over many years. Gradually, Vincent’s work began to become appreciated and, eventually, he became the “mega-star” artist we all know whose paintings are now worth millions.

The museum has a massive collection of works by Van Gogh, donated by his nephew, Vincent Willem van Gogh, with some by his friends and contemporaries. In fact, it has the largest collection of Van Gogh’s works in the world – 200 paintings, 400 drawings, and 700 letters. The permanent exhibition provided a thorough overview of his development as an artist.

His early works were dark and sombre, typified by The potato eaters (1885)


It was when he moved to Paris that he discovered the Impressionists and turned to the dazzling use of colour producing those pictures for which he is most well known, such as

Bedroom in Arles (1888)


Sunflowers (1889)


and Almond Blossoms (1890)


The influence of Japanese artists being particularly noticeable in the latter.

All of the above, and many, many more, were on display in the museum during our visit. Although the hordes of visitors made it very difficult to stand and contemplate the paintings. The large number of works was also overwhelming and I was feeling almost dizzy by the time we’d worked our way through the galleries.

I’m not convinced that mega-galleries like this are the best way to display art. People rush through the museum ticking off the masterpieces, but I don’t think it’s possible to take it all in – it’s overwhelming. Several visits, would be needed to properly study and appreciate a lifetime’s work and the majority of visitors were tourists, many of whom would probably never have the opportunity to visit again.

The museum has an excellent website with lots of information about Van Gogh’s life and work.

(All pictures sourced from Wikipedia)

* the new entrance hall  was due to open on 5th September. Perhaps that will ease the congestion outside – but I  don’t think it will make it less crowded inside!

Musée Marmottan

The Musée Marmottan is one of our favourite galleries in Paris and it’s always one of the places we try to visit when we’re in the city. So it was on the agenda during our recent holiday. No photos allowed inside, alas, so the examples in this post have been clipped from the web.

A little of the history of the Musée from their website

Former hunting lodge of Christophe Edmond Kellerman, Duke of Valmy, the Marmottan Monet Museum was bought in 1882 by Jules Marmottan. His son Paul settled in it, and had another hunting lodge built to house his private collection of art pieces and First Empire paintings.

Upon his death he bequeathed all his collections, his town house – which will become the Marmottan Monet Museum in 1934 – and the Boulogne Library’s historical rich historical archives to the French Academy of Fine Arts.

It’s much smaller than the massive Musée d’Orsay (a visit there is exhausting – there’s too much to see in a day) but has an excellent collection of Impressionist paintings featuring a number of major works by Monet, including several waterlilies and “Impression Sunrise” (Impression, soleil levant) the painting after which the Impressionist school was named.


Impression, soleil levant” by Claude Monet – wartburg.edu. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Shortly after we’d visited the gallery for the first time the painting was stolen – on Oct. 27, 1985(it wasn’t us, honest!) – but was, thankfully, recovered five years later and so is back on display to been viewed and admired.

The Musée owns the largest collection of Monet’s works, including many from the later period of his life. It’s displayed in a room specially built for the purpose in the basement of the house.

They also own an excellent collection of paintings, drawings and sketchbooks by Berthe Morisot, a favourite artist of mine, bequeathed by her descendants. The paintings on display are rotated so I’ve seen different ones during our visits to the gallery. I don’t recall seeing the following picture, which I particularly liked, before.


Bergère couchée by Berthe Morisot (source Marmottan website)

As a woman, her opportunities for getting “out and about” were much more restricted than for her male contemporaries. She drew and painted what she experience during her daily life so many of her works were of domestic scenes and portraits in which she could use family and personal friends as models. In particular, her daughter Julie features in many paintings, which almost form a record of her growth and development from a child into a young woman.


Girl with Greyhound  (1893) by Berthe Morisot – Musée Marmottan. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

They also show temporary exhibitions. The current exhibition La Toilette et à La Naissance de l’Intime features paintings and some other works of women during the more intimate acts such as dressing, washing and other “bathroom” activities. Many of these works were clearly paintied for the “pleasure” of wealthy men in more repressed times. So in many ways it didn’t make comfortable viewing. Our time in the gallery was limited and I wanted to concentrate on the works by Morisot and Monet, so I didn’t spend very long in this exhibition.

The Marmottan is slightly off the beaten track in a well to do part of Paris not far from the Bois de Boulogne, but well worth the ride out on the Metro. We find that it takes a couple of hours to look through the permanent collection and there are not so many that you become overwhelmed meaning that you can spend time studying and contemplating the paintings.

2, rue Louis-Boilly, Paris

+ 01 44 96 50 33


Musée de l’Orangerie

Like London, there is a massive number of art galleries and museums in Paris. And like London the most well known like the Louvre and the Gare d’Orsay, are so large that it’s exhausting trying to look round. It’s guaranteed that you’ll be “arted out” before you see all but a fraction of their collections. So during our recent short break in Paris we decided to concentrate on some of our favourite smaller galleries showing Impressionist and Post Impressionist works. The first of these was the Musée de l’Orangerie, located in the south west corner of the Jardin des Tuileries.


Of course, “small” is a relative term. The Orangerie has an exceptional collection and we spent just over a couple of hours looking around. They have a good number of works, but not so many that you become overwhelmed meaning that you can spend time studying the paintings.

The ground floor is devoted to Monet with two, large oval rooms beautifully lit with natural light, displaying  8 large murals of waterlillies which were donated to the nation by Monet after the First World War. Both the paintings and the setting are magnificent and sitting contemplating the murals was relaxing. Although fairly busy, there weren’t too many people in the galleries getting in the way.




The lower gallery displays pictures from the Collection Jean Walter et Paul Guillaume which includes works by artists including






Marie Laurencin 


















and Utrillo




The Alte Nationalgalerie


The Alte Nationalgalerie is one of the museums on Museum Island in Berlin. It is home to a collection of  sculptures and paintings from the 19th century, many of them by German artists, not necessarily that well known outside the country, together with a number of French Impressionists works including paintings by Manet, Cezanne and Renoir and sculptures by Rodin (including yet another cast of “The Age of Bronze” – the fourth I’ve seen – and a cast of “The Thinker”).


They’re housed in a neo-Classical building, built in the style of a temple raised up on a dais, it was completed in 1872. Since then the interior has been renovated on a number of occasions and modified to suit the exhibits.



We had a few hours to spare on our last day in Berlin so decided to take a look round. We decided to concentrate on the Impressionist paintings, Rodin sculptures and other works on the 2nd floor and also looked around the first floor. After that, and all the other galleries and museums we’d visited during our short stay in the city, we were pretty much “arted out” so didn’t go up to the third floor – we’re not great fans of the Neoclassical and Romantic movements in any case.


They have a relatively small selection of Impressionist paintings. I was particularly interested in the Renoirs which had been painted over a number of years and showed different aspects of his work and the development of his style.


“Summer” (1868) is an early painting from his late 20’s. I didn’t recognise it as a Renoir when I looked at it as it is not that typical of the style of later portraits. It looked more like something painted by Manet.

And this group family portrait of  a mother and her children, “Children’s afternoon at Wargemont” (1884), is also not that typical of his style. It’s more “realistic” and a little “flat”


“Chestnut in Bloom” (1881), however, was a typical Impressionist landscape.


Of the other works on the second floor, I particularly liked the bleak Impressionist style landscapes painted by the German artist Christian Rohlfs (1849-1938)

“Chaussee nach Gelmeroda” (1893) (The road to Gelmeroda)


“Hugelige Landschaft im Spatherbst” (Hillylandscape in late autumn) (1900)



“Berkaer Landstrasse” (The Road to Berka) (1889)


He is better known for the Expressionist paintings from later in his career (1900 onwards) and was considered a “degenerate” artist by the Nazis. His paintings were confiscated and removed from State owned galleries.

I thought these “Roman Goats” (1898) by Ernest Gaul (1869-1921) were rather “Rodinesque”


On the first floor, I rather liked these portraits by Franz von Lenbach (1836 – 1904)


“Lady Curzon (Studie)” (1901/2)


“Theodore Mommsen” (1897)

But my favourite room in the gallery, on the first floor, contained Secessionist era paintings and sculptures. I particularly liked three paintings by Franz von Stuck


“Tilla Durieux als Circe” (Tilla Durieux depicting Circe) (1913) – a very attractive woman (an Austrian actress) – I rather liked the frame too.


“Die Sunde” (Sin) (1912)

and a self portrait which I neglected to photograph, but here’s a picture from Wikipedia

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The Courtauld Gallery

After I’d been to see the Becoming Picasso exhibition, I took the opportunity to go round the gallery and look round the  Courtauld’s own collection. I had visited the gallery before, but that was over twenty years ago so it was a real treat to be able to look around.

The trouble with the big galleries in London is that they have so many paintings it is difficult to know where to start and looking round can be exhausting. But the Courtauld has a a relatively small collection – much more manageable and I felt I could stand and look at the pictures without feeling the need to rush on to something else like I often do when I have the rare opportunity to visit Tate Modern, The National Gallery etc..

Their collection includes works from the early Renaissance up to the 20th century, but is best known for it’s Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. It includes works by good range of artists – Manet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Morisot, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Cézanne. They don’t have many pictures by each of them but the ones they do of are of very high quality.

Where do I start? Well some of the ones I particularly liked were  a Modigliani portrait of a woman – very typical of his work,

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a couple of Matisse Fauvists paintings and paintings by other Fauvists, a Patrick Heron abstract, an absolutely beautiful, simple, wooden Single Form by Barbara (similar to one displayed in Leeds City Art Gallery),

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Single form 1937 by Barbara Hepworth

a room full of Degas’, three beautiful Gauguin’s,

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Te Rerioa (The dream) 1897 Gauguin

a Van Gogh self-portrait (minus ear),

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Jane Avril by Lautrec, a Morisot, Manet’s Folies-Bergère

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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère 1888 Édouard Manet

and a room full of outstanding Cezannes.

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The card players Paul Cézanne

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Montagne Sainte-Victoire (c. 1887) Paul Cézanne

And more.

I was breathless by the time I’d finished and went round again, at least once more! I don’t think I’ll be leaving it another 20 years before I pay another visit .

French Masterpieces at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek are currently holding an exhibition of their collection of French paintings from 1850 to the beginning of the 20th century in the Henning Larsen Wing of the Gallery. It’s a great, modern exhibition space with plain, light coloured walls which allow the visitor to focus on the paintings. The exhibition occupies all three floors.

There’s a considerable number of paintings, together with some sculptures and carvings, with all the well known names, and a few less well known, represented. Although the majority of the works on display are by the Impressionists and Post Impressionists, there’s also some by artists who came before the Impressionists, but who laid the way and influenced them, such as Courbet, Boudin and Delacroix. The works aren’t grouped by artist, date or style, which is an interesting approach by the curator and made a refreshing change. As it says on the Gallery’s website –

The new arrangement invites one to take a pleasurable stroll through one of the most radical and visionary periods in the history of painting

My one criticism is that there was limited information on the paintings, just the artist, title and date painted. There were guidebooks on sale in the shop – one on the Impressionist works and a second on the Post Impressionists. But the English version of the Impressionist book had sold out. I was hoping I’d be able to find out more from the Gallery’s website after our visit, but the information there is very limited, which is a pity. Fortunately photography was allowed, and I’d taken snaps of those works I particularly liked.

The collection is very comprehensive, but not overwhelming. We were able to walk around at our own pace without having to fight through crowds of people. And we weren’t exhausted at the end. The paintings are, perhaps, less well known than those in the Gare d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery in London and MOMA in New York. But they are well worth seeing.

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The exhibition is being shown until 30 April 2013. Details here.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek


I know what you’re thinking. What’s a “Glyptotek”? That’s what I wondered.  Well a glyptotek is a collection of sculpture, from the Greek glyphein, to carve and theke, a storing-place (source; Wikipedia) and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is

a museum of the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean as well as Danish and French art from the 19th century.

in Copenhagen, opposite the Tivoli Gardens. It was founded to house the collection of Carl Jacobsen , the owner of the Carlsberg brewery which he donated his collection to the Danish State and the City of Copenhagen in 1888 on condition that they provided a suitable building for its exhibition.

As the name implies, there is a major focus on sculpture with a comprehensive collection of antique sculpture from the ancient cultures around the Mediterranean as well as works by Rodin, Degas and other French 19th Century artists. But they also have a collection of French Impressionist and Post Impressionist painters and works by Danish artists.

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Rodin’s Burghers of Calais

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Degas’ Little Dancer. Rodin’s The Kiss in the background.

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Like most museums and galleries in Copenhagen, it only opens at 11 a.m. We didn’t realise this and arrived about half an hour early and had to wait, with plenty of other people who probably made the same mistake until they let us in.  It was worth the wait. Their collection was excellent. We stayed about 4 hours before we were “arted out” and there was plenty more to see. Like many galleries, one visit isn’t enough.

There are two buildings linked by a Winter Garden where the cafe and bookshop are located.


You enter via he Dahlerup Wing, the oldest part of the museum,  which houses the French and Danish collections. The other building, the Kampmann Wing, contains the ancient sculpture and artefacts.

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It also contains an auditorium which is used for lectures.


The Henning Larsen Wing, a modern building with an accessible roof space, constructed inside the courtyard of the Kampmann Wing. It was a very modern, light and airy exhibition space on three floors.



View from the roof.

During our visit it was displaying the Impressionist and Post Impressionist works from the gallery’s collection in a special exhibition of French Masterpieces.

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This post has gone on long enough. Hopefully it gives a flavour of this excellent gallery. I’ll return to discuss the exhibits.

National Gallery of Wales, Cardiff

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I’ve just got back home after spending most of the week in Cardiff attending a conference. It was a busy week with no time available for sightseeing, which was a pity as I’ve not been to Cardiff for quite a few years and there have been a lot of changes, especially around the waterfront, since my last visit. However, when I arrived on Sunday I had a few hours to spare when I was able to call into the National Museum of Art which is located in  a single series of integrated galleries in the National Museum of Wales. Although considerably smaller than the National Gallery in London, they had an excellent, comprehensive collection of paintings, sculpture and ceramics that were displayed very effectively.

The collection includes a particularly impressive selection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist works drawn largely from the collection of French art bequeathed by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies. There is also an extensive display of Modern and Contemporary Art.

The Davies sisters were the granddaughters of David Davies of Llandinam, a wealthy industrialist who made his fortune from contracting, coal, railways and the docks at Barry. When their grandfather died they each inherited the very tidy sum at the time of £500,000. Although they hadn’t previously shown any particular passion for art, they used the money to amass a collection, including works by Turner, Corot and Millet Carrière, Monet and Rodin. By 1924, they had the largest collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in Britain. Between 1951 and 1963, they bequeathed 260 works to the National Museums and Galleries of Wales – including La Parisienne  by Renoir, one of Monet’s paintings of Rouen Cathedral, Rain, Auvers by Van Gogh

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and Rodin’s The Kiss.

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All on show today in the Museum.

Works of Modern Art included paintings by David Hockney (who’s been “flavour of the month” lately), Francis Bacon and sculptures by Reg Butler. I particularly liked a painting by Eric Zobole, an artist I hadn’t heard of before, entitled "Some snow and trees. It was very simple and effective. Unfortunately I wasn’t permitted to take a photograph, and it isn’t available to view on the Museum’s interactive gallery either due to copyright restrictions.

There was a good selection of works by Gwen John which I think I’ll come back to at a later date. And works by artists from the 20th Century including Barbara Hepworth, Kit Wood, Henry Moore, Eric Gill, Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier Brezeska, including this statue of a wrestler that reminded me of the Incredible Hulk!

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Earlier works (pre-Impressionist) are displayed in a number of galleries featuring “Historic Art”. Time was limited, so I concentrated on the Impressionist and more Modern works as I’m less interested in those from earlier periods. I did find time, however, to have a look at Titian’s Diana and Actaeon  that the gallery have on loan from the National Gallery in London. The painting is actually “on tour” and had previously been shown at the Walker in Liverpool (where we’d missed it!) and in Norwich. It’s being shown in Cardiff until 17 June. The painting is one of six large-scale mythologies inspired by the Roman poet Ovid that Titian painted for King Philip II of Spain.

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It was purchased by the National Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland in 2009 after a two-year fundraising campaign.

One of the highlights of my visit was the temporary exhibition of paintings and drawing by John Piper of The Mountains of Wales. It was excellent, including some beautiful, atmospheric pictures. I’ll be writing up a post on this in the near future.

A few hour’s wasn’t enough to take in all the works on display. It would need several return visits. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be a while before I get the chance to return.