I went early to a Trustee meeting at the Garden Museum in order to have lunch at its excellent café, which has just, rather amazingly, been awarded a prize as the ‘Restaurant of the Year in a Cultural Destination’. This is not just best in the UK, but best in the world, beating the in-house restaurants in the new National Gallery of Singapore and the Broad in LA: a pretty impressive achievement for the two chefs who came to Lambeth by way of Padella and St. John Bread and Wine. The food is not cheap, but delicious:-
I have just been to the leaving party of Linda Lloyd-Jones, who has been Head of Exhibitions and Loans at the V&A for a mere 30 years – an unsung and under-recognised heroine of the V&A’s long rejuvenation. She arrived in November 1988. I don’t remember her arrival, but do remember working closely with her from 1990 as chairman of the Exhibitions Committee. When she arrived, there were no big exhibitions. They had been axed to focus on the display of the permanent collection. There were only about 800,000 visitors a year (now nearer 4 million) and no accountant was employed. She has worked quietly, invisibly and tirelessly to put big popular exhibitions at the heart of the V&A’s public programme. I greatly admire her creative tenacity and the applause she rightly received.
We went in to see our Klimt/Schiele exhibition, which I haven’t really had a chance to study. Klimt, so elegantly stylised, the President of the Secession:-
Schiele, the son of a stationmaster, with an early talent for drawing locomotives, enrols at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste and hates it. A beautiful ability to draw in outline:-
And with watercolour and gouache heightening:-
I like the comment that Schiele made about the extent to which he was influenced by Klimt: ‘I went through Klimt until March. Today I think I am entirely different’. Indeed.
We started up Bramante’s Staircase, commissioned by Pope Julius II:-
The Apollo Belvedere:-
The Three Graces (again):-
Venus and other antiquities in the Room of the Masks:-
The Room of the Animals (I am not confident of the naming of the rooms in the Museo Pio Clementino or, indeed, the works of art):-
The Sleeping Ariadne:-
Through to the Rotunda:-
Through to the Stanza della Segnatura and the School of Athens:-
We ended up in the Sistine Chapel. It’s so hard to retain a memory of the totality of the composition, particularly in the ceiling, the relationship of the individual figures to the larger lateral scenes above, the scale of the figures below, their sense of energy and authority, so surprisingly early (1508 to 1512) and so muscular and large if one compares them to the work of his contemporaries. No photography, of course. Just looking and trying, but failing, to remember the intensity of the experience.
We spent the morning visiting the sights of Rome, the objects of the Grand Tour and now of mass tourism.
Starting with the Colosseum:-
The Arch of Constantine:-
The Arch of Titus:-
Up on the Palatine, the detritus of Empire:-
Down into the Forum:-
The so-called Temple of Romulus:-
The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina:-
It should be sacred ground, consecrated by Gibbon and generations of eighteenth-century and later tourists, but I found it hard to view it, maybe too influenced by reading David Watkin’s book on the Forum, as much more than a complex archaeological site, excavated too radically and much of it reconstructed.
We walked down the Viale dell’Uccellaria, past the eponymous aviary:-
Down to the British School of Rome, founded in 1901 and now housed in a building constructed by Lutyens in 1911 for the International Exhibition of Art:-
We called in at Canova’s studio:-
And so back to the hotel:-
Hoping that S. Ivo might be open in the afternoon:-