Portrait Miniature Gallery of the V&A Museum

The Victoria & Albert Museum is my go-to place for a regular culture jaunt. The ‘Portrait Miniature’ is my second favourite gallery of the whole museum, (the Jewellery is on top of my list), and I always spend a bit of time admiring these tiny paintings when I have few spare minutes in the museum. I was there recently for the London Design Festival and got to take some photos of my favourite portraits. Being able to depict someone’s image when the recreation is only a few centimetres high is simply astonishing. It isn’t a massive collection compared to The National Gallery’s but they’re some of the most fantastic miniatures dating back to early 1500s to about mid 1600. How the medieval artists were able to paint on tiny vellum and create pocket size jewels is simply mind-boggling.

They also have a section devoted on the material and techniques how these tiny paintings were done. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

This is my number one favourite miniature not only because the image has such amazing details but it’s also in a beautiful gold frame with emerald and other precious stones.

Note: A few years back I also blogged about the beautiful V&A Museum Cafe.

Van Gogh and Britain Exhibition

Tate Britain has a new exhibition with the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the country in nearly a decade. It’s in two part; the first looks at Van Gogh Experience in London, the art and literature and its role in his journey as an artist. The second explores the impact of his art and life in British artists up to the 1950s.

Van Gogh’s letter and sketchbooks

Van Gogh came to England at the age of 20 and lived in the country for nearly three years between 1873 and 1876. He worked in Covent Garden as an art dealer and at the time the city was so much larger than the size of any place that he had lived or known.

Some of Van Gogh’s personal collection, these prints were probably what he sold at the gallery and were popular in Victorian England

London presented him with a striking new reality; the city’s advanced technology, the transport, and it was already powered by electricity and the industrial revolution was at its zenith. England has a young Queen and a young royal family, the city was quite impressive, it was like the superpower and the center of the world. And for Van Gogh it was indeed the place to be. He admired Charles Dickens and was greatly influenced by the social reform agenda he promoted in all his writings. He wrote his family and friends, “My whole life is aimed at making the things from everyday life that Dickens described.” He truly immersed himself in English culture, enjoyed walking its streets, rowing at River Thames, strolling around Kensington Gardens, and enjoyed other English pastimes. He wrote his sister in 1875 and said, “How I love London!”

Wheatfield, 1888

The traditions of Victorian England also inspired Van Gogh. He enjoyed the modern ideas of Christmas — Christmas trees, gifts, and dinners — all of these came into trend during the Victorian period. (Few years ago I blogged about this tradition that Prince Albert and Queen Victoria started and now part of the British culture – here’s the link .) There was a novelty to it all that truly appealed to Van Gogh. 

Yellow Landscape, 1892

It is a pretty fascinating exhibit of more than fifty of his most famous works that were brought together from around the world including ShoesStarry Night over the RhôneL’Arlésienne, and two works he made while a patient at the Saint-Paul Asylum, At Eternity’s Gate and Prisoners Exercising.

Starry Night over the RhôneL’Arlésienne

The very rarely lent Sunflowers from London’s National Gallery is also included in the exhibition. Of all his works I’ve seen, this photo below is my favourite and it’s part of the collection presented at Tate Britain

Entrance to Voyer d’Argenson Park at Asnieres, Paris 1887
Entrance to Voyer d’Argenson Park at Asnieres, Paris 1887

Van Gogh gained inspiration from the surroundings, the art and culture of Victorian England, and his time in Britain was a life-changing experience for him that it greatly influenced the art he would begin making four years later.

Sunflowers, 1888

Many British artists have been influenced by Van Gogh and he remains popular even to this very day. A number of British artists like Harold Gilman ensured Van Gogh left a legacy in Britain. His use of bold colours and expressive brushwork were copied; the most popular was the sunflower painting and has been interpreted in various forms by British artists of every generation and fills the museums and galleries throughout the country.

A Pair of Shoes, 1886
Self portrait, 1888

As brilliant as Van Gogh was as an artist, sadly, he lived a very unhappy life and was in turmoil for years. He clearly tried to find something to satisfy himself — art, religion, whatever it was that he thought would fill the void in his heart. Sadly, he didn’t find an answer. He took it upon himself to end his life at age 37.

Worn Out, 1881

A question was asked in one of Tate Britain’s podcast as advertised when I visited the gallery, “Is there a link between mental health and creativity? Do artists have to suffer for their art’?” I haven’t listened to it because I know it’s full of atheistic and Cultural Marxist agenda. People would say something like, “Oh, he had mental health issues that’s why he killed himself!” That’s true he clearly had mental health issues but that’s just a manifestation of a much deeper problem. Many historians claim Van Gogh was a Christian based on his two year tenure as a preacher from age 25-27. Personally, I don’t believe he was a Christian. Even if he preached and became a pastor in a small Congregationalist church in Borinageto, a poor mining village in southwestern Belgium, it didn’t mean he was a Christian in a true sense of the word. In fact, he left the church after a couple of years and never got himself involved in any church activity until his death. His artworks in the later years of his life depicts a grim reality of how he felt inside — a dark manifestation of his spiritual condition. Indeed a true child of God even if he’s afflicted with mental or other type of illness, still look to God, and put his trust and hope in God. As for Van Gogh, he was obviously hopeless — an evidence, a true manifestation of someone who is not a true Christian, or a child of God.

Regardless of his tragic life, he’s unarguably one of the most talented artists the world ever had. I’d highly recommend this exhibition to any art enthusiasts. These art collection may never be brought together in England again. Exhibition ends on the 11th of August; don’t forget to book your tickets online to avoid the long queue, or simply get a friend who’s a member of Tate Britain to get you in. 🙂

Winston Churchill Exhibition and Memorial Garden at Blenheim Palace

Britain’s war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace, his family ancestral home, on the 30th of November 1874.  Churchill Exhibition is a dedicated exhibition to give visitors a real sense of the great war-time leader and most famous member of the Churchill family.  It was opened in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death. Continue reading “Winston Churchill Exhibition and Memorial Garden at Blenheim Palace”

Tour of the Somerset House

It was quite an experience to explore Somerset House.  I always associate this building with London Fashion Week (LFW) as it has been used as the main venue for this event since 2009.  I had no idea until a couple of months ago that this iconic building has a remarkable history and was once an old palace and home to three queens, Anne of Denmark, Henrietta Maria and Catherine of Braganza.   Continue reading “Tour of the Somerset House”

Victoria & Albert Museum Café

The V&A Museum is my number one favourite museum in London; it is a massive place with 145 galleries spanning over 5,000 years of art. The museum café is a unique place in and of itself; filled with artworks from floor to ceiling, and is the very first museum café in the world. It is a great place not just for a quick visit, if you’re only in town for a short trip, but also to hang out and meet up with friends for coffee or tea. It is located within the museum which allows the visitors to meander around taking in the collections from ancient China all to the way to Greek antiquities. The visitors can also marvel at the fine intricacies of Japanese art before moving on to see the evolution of women’s fashion. All this while also taking in the magnificent architecture of the remarkable museum building itself. Continue reading “Victoria & Albert Museum Café”

Banqueting House on Whitehall

Many years ago I started reading books about the iconic buildings in London not only because I love history, but I enjoy taking my visiting family and friends around town, and I wanted to be able to tell them about all these remarkable buildings that we pass by as we do the city tour. The Banqueting House on Whitehall is just one of those historic buildings in Westminster that was on my ‘must visit‘ list, and a couple of months ago I had the opportunity of finally visiting it for the first time. It is the only building remaining of The Palace of Whitehall that was destroyed by fire in 1698. Continue reading “Banqueting House on Whitehall”

Visit to Admiralty House: One of London's Historic Landmarks

It’s a shame that some of the most historic and architecturally significant buildings in London are closed to members of the public. One of them is Admiralty House, a building next to Horse Guards Parade on Whitehall. I have been curious about this building for many years. Every time I walk around Parliament Square and Whitehall I always think of three or four of my friends who could make an arrangement for me to visit this building. But I simply didn’t bother to ask anyone. Unexpectedly, last summer one of my friends phoned to ask if I was interested in visiting some of the government buildings that are closed to the general public. Of course, I answered ‘yes’ without any hesitation.   Continue reading “Visit to Admiralty House: One of London's Historic Landmarks”

Recent Visit to the UK Supreme Court

I recently toured the Supreme Court building for the first time, and couldn’t have been more impressed. I have been wanting to visit this building for years, not so much for its history but I must confess that the courts hold such a fascination for me. Becoming a lawyer was my childhood dream that’s why I took up Political Science in college (I actually did convince myself as a young girl that someday I’d be a ‘trial court judge’ — too ambitious, i know haha!). So I planned to go to law school, worked towards fulfilling that goal, and even passed the UP College of Law entrance exam but ended up studying business and international relations in Japan. Continue reading “Recent Visit to the UK Supreme Court”

The Only Surviving Extravagant Private Palace of Victorian London

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to visit Lancaster House, an historic building in London, a couple of weeks ago. The tour guide, an employee of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), took us around and after exploring the stately home I said to him, “Wow! This is a vibrant piece of living history. What a shame that the Crown Estate do not open this magnificent mansion to the public.” He explained that this is the only government building that’s used for conferences and other official functions, and as such it would not be easy to keep its door open to the public. I told him that if Buckingham Palace can manage to open some of the state rooms to the public during the summer months then surely the government can do the same thing when the FCO is resting from its gruelling diplomatic functions. Continue reading “The Only Surviving Extravagant Private Palace of Victorian London”

Blenheim Palace: The Grandest Private Residence that outshines the British Monarchy’s Homes

There’s more fascinating tale about Blenheim Palace than just being the birthplace and ancestral home of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  This place is steeped with formidable history and is far superior in grandeur and magnitude than any of the royal palaces in the country.   Continue reading “Blenheim Palace: The Grandest Private Residence that outshines the British Monarchy’s Homes”