March 12, 2013
We’re somewhere near Oxford in an old farmhouse, long since converted to residential and quite nicely at that. Some friends we made in Paris, now 8 years ago, are now in Asia somewhere, wandering about. They asked if we like to sit in this old house while they are gone. They have a cat who is, in human terms, at least 962 years old, weighs no more than a mouse, and meows in a most loud and annoying way no matter how often you feed her. On the other hand it is a beautiful place in a lovely area where the Thames is 100 yards wide or even less not far from here. We have use of their car, which greatly facilitates matters. It is a few miles to the nearest Underground station and from there 45 minutes or so to the center of London. We have already been.
We went this past Sunday to the Courtauld Museum http://www.courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/index.shtml.
This is a small museum located in Somerset House, a fabulous building. The museum also is an art school founded by Samuel Courtauld. He and Count Antoine Seilern bought much of the art. I went there mostly to see the fine collection of 19th century French painting. There are some fine examples of Gaughan, Renoir (and a lousy one or two), the fabulous A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Manet,
and a new acquisition, the lovely Portrait of a Peasant Woman by van Gogh.
There’s also this fine Degas, Two Dancers on a Stage:
After lunch in the Eastend, where the English was considerably harder to understand at least where we ate, we went to the National Gallery for the 4 p.m. lecture. We saw 5 paintings in an hour that covered the development of the portrait from the confines of the religious in the 15th century (they knew about perspective but did not care much about it) until the 18th century when it because a significant source of income for some painters.