Cultural Experiences and Art At London’s National Gallery


by Affia Keys

This weekend I decided to flex my interest by visiting some of London’s finest museums. Friday I went to the national gallery, Saturday I took a break when really I should of gone to Tate modern as it was international woman’s day (upset I missed that) and Sunday I trekked the galleries of the British Museum.

Honestly it has been years since I went to a museum however I remember as a child on school visits the fascination I would find looking at the different sculptures and paintings. Although at the time I did not fully grasp what these historic paintings and statues meant I subconsciously was aware of its importance and knew I wanted to go back.

Fast forward to this weekend and although it has been years, the lure of culture and art could not be ignored anymore. I know as a budding writing and aspiring journalist museums are the best place to get ‘cultured’ information but for me it was a place for me to go so solidify my facts.

I am so confident in my theory that black people were the first race on earth and to me I have always believed all the traditions we enjoy, the cultural habits we live by were all derived from black culture.

Walking up to the national gallery requires visitors to walk through Trafalgar Square, a prominent location for tourist to marvel relax and take in some of the iconic scenery of London. One of the main tourist attractions of the square is the four large lions. You will always see tourists posing or children using the statue as a climbing apparatus as you travel past the square. Usually I did not take much notice of them until my visit to the gallery which meant I had to walk past them.

My thoughts as I walked up the steps to the gallery were these lions statuses have been imitated, I had seen this strong reference of a lion before. As lions did not originate from London I knew it had been copied from somewhere else. Countries such as Asia and Africa were renowned for centuries for using large animals at the front of the gates to temples and or palaces. It was reminiscent of the Assyrian palaces.

Inside the national gallery is beautiful, The gallery is free to enter and is open daily which pretty much means you can walk around as you please. Although you are unable to take photographs inside the gallery. The paintings hung on the wall are the original versions, they look classic and beautiful, it made me want to reach out and touch a couple but obviously you are not allowed and I did not want to disturb the historic work or damage the paint in anyway.

The Renaissance artists blew my breath away with their mere skill of painting oil canvases, the use of light and dark contrast shades symbolism and intricate small details you would have to look twice at to ensure you did not miss a hidden message from the painter.

I walked the gallery for at least a couple of hours, where I took a multimedia tour which allows you to hear the synopsis of over 1000 paintings in the gallery. What I found a little uncomfortable and awkward at times was the lack of racial diversity in the photos, I did not expect to go in and see black art however I did expect to see maybe one black person in the paintings. If I did see a black person they were either a maid or servant. At the times in which the paintings were drawn ranged from the 12th-18th century. Since the last two century of this periods was during slavery maybe I was right not to expect to see any black people also it possibly could have been painted after the time the black Moorish people were expelled from Spain.

I also noticed that the shapes and silhouettes of the artists in the paintings matched those of the Greek statues once I went to the British Museum. The Romans in particular worshipped the Greeks and they believed the Greek language and art form to be the correct version therefore it was used heavily in the paintings of the Europeans.

Here are a few of my favourites below;

One image that stood out in my mind was that of William Feilding he was an English Naval officer and courtier. The painting of Feilding in the gallery shows him standing large in the centre wearing a red suit looking at to him would have been a perculiar bird in the tree. Feilding was said to have been a traveller and spent his time travelling around India, you then see a small indian boy wearing a turban and looks as if he is educating Feilding about what it is that is in the tree. This to me shows the levels in which Europe was on compared to Asia and Africa, Europeans were scared to leave and travel Asia calling Feilding a mad men for even wanting to go however the people on these lands were smart. They would give the European travellers gifts and share knowledge making them much wiser and a better fighter once they would return to their native European country. It is just such a shame that peoples kindness always gets taken for weakness as the story only got worse for the darker skinned people after there.

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