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Friday, 20 March 2015

Days Out

Days out can seem like such an indulgence. Ever since I first started writing there has been this constant conflict - when I'm writing I always think of all of the other things which need doing and when I'm not placing words on the page I feel that I should be!

BUT as writers it is so important to put down our pens or close up our keyboards and make a conscious effort to get out and do the other things we love. It can only broaden our horizons and ultimately enhance our creativity. A day out can bring you back buzzing with ideas; it can add a richness and freshness to writing which may have been becoming a bit laboured from an overdose of attention.

On Wednesday I went to London. To be honest I often find London a bit stressful, too many people, too much noise and it takes too long to get anywhere. But this day was different. My daughter and I left home under gloomy cloud heading for the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery but by the time we emerged from the tube station at Leicester Square a lemony spring sunshine was brightening the buildings and lifting our spirits.

The exhibition focuses on Sargent's non-commissioned work so there is a freedom to his interpretation, an intimacy not bound by the constraints of fulfilling his sitters' expectations. One of the best known works in the exhibition is perhaps Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose. Words cannot describe it; the romantic fairy-tale quality, the way the light falls from the paper lanterns, the lushness of the grass around the girls' feet.

At the entry point to the exhibition there is a stunning portrait of Madame Ramon Subercaseaux, the wife of a Chilean diplomat. The lace on her dress is so exquisitely painted that you feel you could almost touch it and her hand rests lightly on a piano. Sargent was an expert at painting hands, depicting the skin tone, the light veining, the slenderness of fingers, the sheen of nails with breath-taking skill.

I have to admit that when I was much younger portraits didn't do much for me. I much preferred landscapes or paintings with something going on. But now I find the stillness of a portrait captivating. I am fascinated by the people immortalised on canvas, not just by what they want to project to the world but also by what they are keeping back. They stay with me and feed my curiosity.

Afterwards we took a stroll around the corner to the National Gallery to take a look at a few famous paintings; Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne with it's spectacular azure sky; The Arnolfini Portrait with it's fascinating detail, the luminous Bathers at Asnieres by Seurat and Sandro Botticelli's Venus and Mars. In front of Constable's Haywain a group of schoolchildren were talking about reflections and clustered around The Wilton Diptych a group of foreign teenagers were learning about Nativity Plays which they had never heard of. That National Gallery was buzzing! We are so lucky that we have all of this great art available to view for free.

So it was a great day out, not too stressful at all and we both returned home feeling that it was well worth taking the time out. If you love art and are able to get to London before 25th May do take a trip to the John Singer Sargent exhibition. It's an absolute gem.

Thanks for dropping by. If you have a favourite artist I'd love to hear from you.


  1. Lovely post, Alex - and great reminder about getting away and feeding mind, eye and ear!

  2. Thanks June. It can be easy to forget when you're working to a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise.