On Sunday, I took Luca to the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I’ve been a Sargent devotee since I did my Masters degree in Boston where I spent many happy hours at the MFA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (I also spent much time at International House of Pancakes eating 3 eggs and 3 pancakes to set me up for a long day of literary criticism, but that’s another story).
Over the years, I’ve been to more than a few art shows with my family, and here is what I learned:
For Hanan, ‘seeing’ a painting is literally that. Generally, if she catches a glimpse of it while doing a lap of the gallery, she’s seen it. While this is efficient – even the mammoth National Gallery can be covered in 10 minutes – it leaves me somewhat unsatisfied.
For Ethan, looking at paintings is just a strange thing to do. Paintings are old, they’re not interactive, and they can’t be viewed at 4k resolution on a screen (well, not while you’re in a museum). So what’s the point?
So when I suggested the Sargent visit, I admit I was slightly relieved that Ethan needed to revise for his GCSE exams, and Hanan felt she should stay home with him.
Luca and I floated through Sunday morning London, pointing out landmarks and we made it to the gallery early. Rather than join the waiting queue (‘keenies’ said Luca with disdain) we stopped for a hot chocolate. I love the relish with which 12 year olds eat whipped cream.
The show was exceptional. A series of intense portraits, some life like, others more impressionistic. But all of them felt as if they captured a moment of the soul of their subjects and also a very specific time and place in history – when achievers and the wealthy often sat for portraits after finishing whatever they were achieving. Quite a change from the selfies that Luca and I took.
By the time we got home, Hanan had found plenty of time in her morning to prepare my next To Do list. At the top was ‘Finish new movie script before Cannes’. I asked if she meant this Cannes Film Festival, which starts on Wednesday, and where we are headed for market screenings of Despite the Falling Snow. Sadly she did, so I would write more, but you understand, I have a script to finish….