Thursday, 26 May 2016

'Bathers at Asnières'

When I am in London, I often meet with Nu at the cafe in the National Portrait Gallery. It's big sister The National Gallery, is only around the corner, but as it faces Trafalgar Square this free public space is far too crowded with tourists, to be used as a meeting point.
I have always wanted to walk alone around The National Gallery; the crowds spoil it for me, as it literally does my head in when the zombified masses amble past and in front of grand master after grand master without really looking at them.
Under a week ago, I bit the bullet and visited the gallery again and found myself  standing in front of George Seurat's Bathers at Asnieres only a few minutes after entering.
The painting is dominated by a slightly hunched, morose looking young man resting his arms in his lap. He is gazing out at the water lost in thought and I recognised him the moment I saw him.
For it was the spit of The Prof as a very young man.


No matter how successful the Prof becomes in his busy academic world. No matter how much international research he develops, or how much he shapes his own University when he eventually becomes Dean.
It is nice to think that in one world famous painting, he will always remain strangely immortal 

42 comments:

  1. That is one of my favourite paintings of all time. Several times in the past, I stood in front of it and absorbed its peaceful ordinariness, marvelling at the patient pointillism. A moment captured like an insect in amber.

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  2. I wandered the National Gallery not long ago and, embarassingly, I don't remember this painting at all. And I was in the Impressionists too! Anyway, I'll keep an eye out for it next time. It's so amazing how paintings capture slices of life from an earlier time -- much as photos do today.

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    1. You missed it probably due to the crowds which often mask the paintings...thats why i would love to walk around the gallery when it was deserted

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  3. I expect that your portrait will always remain in the attic...

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  4. I wonder if The Prof will thank you for telling us this. Poignant though.

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    1. He loves a blog just about him, very occassionally

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  5. A wonderful observation. I now feel the urge to seek out people I know in famous paintings!

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    1. I dare you to find me x

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    2. You are a living art form John!

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  6. The National Gallery is always on my list when I'm working in London. Most often I go in simply to look at Leonardo's cartoon of the Virgin and St Anne with the infant Christ and St John the Baptist. It never fails to take my breath away. You're actually looking at something he really drew with a piece of charcoal - you can see the inspiration at work. I look and then leave refreshed. Similarly, if I have the time I'll dash into the British Museum just for the Parthenon Marbles.

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    1. Is there a best time to go?

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    2. Any time is the best time to spend with Leonardo. I never notice the crowds when I'm in the presence of genius!

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  7. We saw Van Gogh's Starry Night recently. Couldn't get a good look for all the tourists taking 'selfies' with it.

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  8. I wish I could walk through museums all by myself in the middle of th night. So glad you can still get drawn into that painting and sit for a minute with the young professor.

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  9. I think the famous paintings are famous because they evoke the same feelings from other people. I could stare at some of them for a long time. Nice that you see Chris in this painting.

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  10. The round shoulders of a scholar even then!

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    1. His father has the same ones too!

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  11. I love your blog, I love all of your fur babies, I love the Prof...but at this particular time/post... I have just realised we don't even move in the same hemispheres... and I still love your blog... but now I feel a bit thick :\

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    1. We translate to all countries

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  12. I was recently in London (my 1st trip) and had to by-pass Trafalgar altogether - the people were crawling around the square like an anthill. No thanks. And because I was so disoriented by the swarms of tourists, I took a wrong turning & missed both the National Portrait Gallery & the National Gallery altogether. :-(
    Lovely thoughts about the Seurat. You won't soon forget that.

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  13. The Prof has certainly changed a bit from his boyhood self.

    The bowler-hat man and the dog are taking a keen interest in him. Maybe they're pondering his rather unflattering haircut.

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  14. I hear how proud you are of his accomplishments when you write about him, its very touching. X

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  15. I love that Chris looked like that. It gives me a warm glow. I purchased an art deco bather just now on the way to the train and then saw this. Strange.

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  16. Puts one in the mood for a Sunday stroll in the park - with or without George.

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  17. How wonderful to love someone like that.

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  18. The painting fills me with happy thoughts, but Prof does look morose. Just jump into the water already!

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  19. Going to live in London as an 18 year old - first year at university, living in hall of residence in the west end - I went to the National Gallery a couple of times a week. As an adult, living on the other side of the pond, I had a job for 10 years or so which took me to London every month or two. (Don't even start talking about my carbon footprint) I tried very hard on each visit to go to the National Gallery - sometimes it was only for a 10 minute visit, sometimes I had the luxury of an hour visit. The joys of walking through a room and glancing at paintings. The joy of heading to sit in front of "my" painting for 20 minutes or more. The painting which I Chose 40 years ago and finding my eyes start to water (must be the jet lag or the dust in the air!). the joy of sitting in front of my partner's painting (which is actually better than my painting but that is becuase he didn't make the choice at the age of 18).

    Someone once said that one should treat galleries and museums as public parks - enjoy them dip into them. We are lucky that so many fabulous museums and galleries are free. One doesn't feel the need to "get one's money's worth" - just nip in for a few minutes and give a small donation, or a larger donation, in my case, when that jet-lag and dust kick in.

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    1. I think next time, i will do just that... Just for a few minutes possibly just after opening time !

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  20. A few years ago I had to renew my passport by going to London. I had to drop the papers off in the morning then wait all day so I went to the National portrait gallery & really looked at the paintings, taking my time. It was wonderful x

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    1. I too love the portrait gallery ....its often less crowded

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    2. I made a mistake... it was indeed the National Gallery where I whiled the hours while they processed my passport - wonderful.
      I took the kids to the National Gallery when they were young. I suddenly realised that Joe was being told off. I had to explain somewhat embarrassed that he'd recently seen The Thomas Crown Affair...

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  21. There is such love in your words.

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  22. I love paintings like this because they show everyday life as it was lived at whatever time the painter captured the scene. I usually stroll past the well-known Religious paintings and concentrate on lesser known scenes - not usually such a crowd around them. This will forever more be known as "The Prof's" painting !

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  23. Well, maybe Seurat and The Prof are living in a parallel universe and you are the observer, John.

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  24. I love that painting and spent many pleasant visits staring at it while visiting in London.

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  25. I love. Seurat and I love being alone in a museum where no one has to wait for me while I soak up every bit of everything I see .. My first visit to Lonfon was a museum a day, in Paris the same thing.
    I admit that as fabulous as the Met in NYC is, smaller museums appeal to me more.
    Although I will never turn down a day at the D'Osay
    BTW... Greetings from my new home..Florida USA

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  26. I love this too. A large print of this painting was in my school library where I used to spend hours dreaming and reading. Our school was on the banks of the Thames and as sixth formers we were allowed to sprawl on the grassy banks. Happy days. It is a shame London galleries are so crowded nowadays. I had the Barber Institute of Fine Art on Birmingham university's campus almost to myself the other week and the Pallant House gallery in Chichester is never busy mid-week and often the best places to look at art are NT properties if the lighting is right.

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  27. I started out with the wish to apologize for my being a tourist, spoiling your Picadillyoutlook and disturbing your finearttouring, but I realized that you might travel over here one day and join the stampeding crowd heading for the sea, the smoked fish, the Jazzfestival and the cottages with strawroofs, hindering all normal life. If you do, we would be even. I never got to Picadilly though, daughters had better shopping in mind. But with the art gallery and that really lovely painting you brought the most striking declaration of love into this blogpost!!! That was kind of touching and quite a different line of writing after all those code Brown and sleepless nights. You are quite a character, John. I believe you both are. Sure is great fun reading about your adventures anyway and understand the love of that beautiful spot with its remarkable history.

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