John Constable was a British painter in the early 19th century, known for his beautiful landscapes. Perhaps his most famous painting is The Haywain, a luscious depiction of the English countryside along the River Stour in a small village called Flatford. This painting, along with several other Constable works, hangs in the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square.
Last week, four of us enjoyed a great hike to Flatford to visit the site that inspired the setting of The Haywain. After taking the train to Manningtree, about one hour outside of London, we followed signs that took us through a marsh and past some fields filled with sheep. Eventually we reached the small village of Flatford, where the National Trust owns several properties, including the cottage depicted in The Haywain. Today, the scene looks like this:
The 7 mile walk continued on a loop, eventually taking us to the picturesque little town of Dedham. The weather was perfect, and we really experienced some of the beautiful English countryside that inspired Constable.
And our day wouldn’t have been complete without some tea and scones as we finished our walk!
The enormous Barbican Centre complex is only about a 10 minute walk from our flat, so yesterday I finally checked it out.
After this area was destroyed during the Blitzkrieg, the City of London Corporation started to plan and build this enormous complex in the 1960’s, when the Brutalist style of architecture was popular. Officially opened by the Queen in 1982, it is one of the largest arts venues in Europe and includes residential and commercial properties.
Currently at the Barbican, there’s an interesting installation by a Chinese conceptual artist, Song Dong. Entitled Waste Not, it’s an exhibit that includes many of the items his mother frugally saved during her difficult life in China.
Having suffered poverty and uncertainty as a result of the Cultural Revolution, his mother never threw away anything, including bottle caps and old toothpaste tubes.
Dolls and stuffed animals were displayed upside down or sideways, perhaps to show the exhaustion and turmoil in Song Dong’s mother’s life.
Reminded me of those hoarding TV shows! By encouraging his mother to use the items as part of an art exhibition, Song Dong was able to help her find meaning in her collections. Thought provoking exhibit…. What is our connection to the things that clutter our lives? Maybe the next time I’m overwhelmed with clutter, I’ll just think of it as art.
In the evening, I returned to the Barbican to go to a BBC Symphony Orchestra concert. I heard an amazing young pianist, Jan Lisiecki, perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, and the orchestra performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 after the intermission. Because I bought my ticket at the last minute, I decided to get a seat in the center, 2nd row. I was about 6 feet from the soloist. Interesting perspective – good views of the conductor’s ankles and the underside of the piano, but also enjoyed seeing the intensity on the musicians’ faces. Don’t think I’ll ever sit in seats like that again, though! Also, I always seem to get stuck next to people who need a lesson in audience etiquette! Please… Never take off your shoes during a concert, especially if your feet smell. I wonder if it distracted the musicians. Also, no chatting during performances, especially when you are only 6 feet from the soloist! End of rant.
I’ve heard about yarn bombing, where knitters and crocheters engage in graffiti-like activities around different cities, covering all kinds of things with yarn. Today, I came across an art gallery that featured works by a crochet artist called Olek. Originally from Poland, she is now based in New York. Stepping into this gallery was like entering a psychedelic landscape where everything was covered with yarn.
Can you see the girl sitting at a table with a telephone? My knitting seems so ordinary in contrast!
Across town, I saw some more unusual art. Have you ever heard of a chewing gum artist? Ben Wilson creates small paintings on old chewing gum. He has several works outside the Royal Academy of Art. Just look down on the sidewalk!
And finally, I saw some more of the Faberge Easter Eggs around town, including a giant gilded chocolate egg in Fortnum and Mason’s window and one call the Fantastic Peter Faun in a bookstore.
The Faberge Easter Egg Hunt has started. Artists have decorated over 200 eggs to be auctioned off for charity. As I wandered around Sloane Square today, I stumbled upon 4 of them. My favorite was the Peacock. The weirdest was the black egg with 3 legs inside the Peter Jones window. Eh??
- Hunting giant Easter eggs in London (thriftyabroad.wordpress.com)
If a thing loves, it is infinite.
What is it about cemeteries that makes them so interesting? My father loved to visit the cemetery in his hometown, looking at the graves to see who had died since his last visit. “How morbid!” we always teased him. Well, Michael and I were a little morbid last weekend, visiting one of the London cemeteries.
The weather has been so mild lately. Michael needed to work on Saturday, so we walked to his office, passing through Bunhill Fields on the way. This cemetery was created about 1685 and accepted burials until around 1850. It was known as a place where “Nonconformists”, generally non-Catholic Christians who did not follow the Church of England, were buried. Most cemeteries in central London have been converted into parks and have little evidence that they are burial grounds. Not Bunhill Fields. Although it was redesigned in the 1960’s, it still retains its character as a burial ground.
A few famous people are buried here, including Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, and William Blake, a noted English poet and visual artist.
I think I first really heard about William Blake (1757-1827) when Anna and I read Skellig by David Almond in our mother-daughter book group. One of the book’s characters is a fan of Blake’s poetry and quotes lines from his poems. But Blake was also an illustrator and engraver. I like his illustration of Titania, Oberon, Puck, and the dancing fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
And this Blake print of Isaac Newton was the inspiration for a sculpture just outside the British Library:
Blake’s grave at Bunhill Fields is unmarked, but there is a memorial stone, which is located next to an obelisk memorial to Daniel Defoe.