Trafalgar Square is an outdoor frenzy of people, fountains, and performers. Behind the flowing fountains and constant commotion sits the regal, quiet and prestigious National Gallery. At peak hours the museum hosts a crowd, but there is still a surprising degree of respectful silence within the gallery space. Unfortunately, my time inside was brief, yet also wonderful.
During my last weeks abroad, a research paper hung over my head. On one particularly studious Thursday afternoon, I finally closed my laptop with the urgent realization: When else can I visit the National Gallery? With only days left, this may be my only chance. Who cares about editing this paper—it’s a sin not to see some of the great masters. So as though I was running late for an important meeting, I packed up my notes and bounded down the stairwell to the front door.
Like reflective mirrors, the gallery seemed to expand infinitely. I couldn’t believe so much talent could be housed in one place. I loved how one could be walking along, reading off the names of obscurity, and then suddenly the next painting would be a Rembrandt, Caravaggio, or Ruben. I wonder if curators purposefully make gallery-going like a scavenger hunt. While I could have easily stayed the entire day, I had given myself only an hour before closing time. At 5:55pm I departed with a bittersweet longing to stay and a bit of jealousy toward Londoners: they have so many forms of inspiration at nearly every place in the city.
Photo from the Turner Collection at the National Gallery