London with Coffee # 4 and Who Looks at Art?

Hahn/Cock, or, as I call it, the Blue Chicken

Hahn/Cock, by Katharina Fritsch

I love art.  I love museums.  And I very much enjoyed visiting the National Gallery.

I saw the blue chicken outside at Trafalgar Square.

The blue chicken is actually called Hahn/Cock, and is a sculpture of a cockerel by the German artist Katharina Fritsch.  It was installed in 2013.

I immediately felt at home with Hahn/Cock.  I’ve seen countless bright modern sculptures at various sculpture gardens, and I enjoy their humor and incongruousness.

What could be more traditional than Trafalgar Square? I love the lions.  I sat on a fountain for a while in a daze.  I shouldn’t have been tired, but I’m still on American time.

Inside the National Gallery, I didn’t take notes on the art for once.  It was so crowded that I didn’t feel up to whipping my notebook out.

My only note?  At first I thought the Drunken Silenus Supported by Satyrs was wearing glasses.

The painting is attributed to Anthony van Dyck, and was probably executed in Rubens’ studio.

Drunken Silenus Supported by Satyrs, Anthony Van Dyck, c. 1620

Drunken Silenus Supported by Satyrs, Anthony Van Dyck, c. 1620

Silenus is just so fat and drunk, and the light was such that my weak eyes saw little wire-rimmed glasses.  I do have new bifocals, and they help, but I need brighter light than this. My friend Ellen Moody, the blogger with whom I went to the National Art Gallery in Washington, D.C., can vouch that I have to look close up.

And this was when it struck me.  Fat women don’t look at art.   Only thin women look at art (with, ahem, one exception).  And yet there are many fat women painted in art.  Even Juno, Venus, and Minerva are overweight in Rubens’ Judgment of Paris, 1632-65. Are fat women self-conscious in museums?

Judgment of Paris, Rubens

Judgment of Paris, Rubens

So who looks at art?  So many different languages!

I got the impression that most of us were tourists from elsewhere.  Thin Europeans looked at art.  Many thin Asians seemed very knowledgable about art as they looked at art.

Do some of us feel more comfortable looking at art than others?

Fat or thin, I’ve looked at art.

I wish I’d picked up a brochure (didn’t see any!) or bought an art book, so I could talk knowledgably about what I saw, but you’ll have to take it from me that a pop culture writer like me adores The National Gallery.

You are probably wondering what I did about coffee today.

I had a cup at a patisserie.  It was good.  I was in a hurry, so I gulped it down.  I still haven’t made it to an indie coffeehouse.

And then I got lost on the way to Foyles.

I love Foyles.  What a wonderful bookstore!  It’s very big, and as good as the LRB Bookshop in a different way.  Yes, I am afraid I bought some books.  I was even tempted to buy some nice editions of books I already have.  Isn’t that crazy?

I almost bought Sebastian Barry’s The Last Gentleman, but I have a rule that I can’t buy hardbacks.  It will be out shortly in the U.S.

Am I going to the Oxford Literary Festival, where, by the way, Barry is reading tomorrow?  Oh, you guys, I’d love to go, but I’m just so tired.  I very much admire the transit system, however, and know I could get there if I tried.

It was snowing at home, last I heard, and it’s just so wonderful to spend my “spring break” here.  A very beautiful city.

10 thoughts on “London with Coffee # 4 and Who Looks at Art?

  1. Nancy, I love the chicken! There are some wonderful exhibitions at the National Gallery. Heavens, I could spend days there. I am very much enjoying London.

    Cynthia, get on the plane and we can figure out the map togeether!


  2. Glad you loved Foyles! The books there are so lovely I’ve had the same temptation, just to have a new beautiful edition of something I already have. I can never get out without spending…..


  3. Really enjoying your London updates! I love the NG – always make sure to go and see the Arnolfini Marriage when I’m in London. The National Portrait Gallery, just around the corner, is well worth a look if you find yourself back at Trafalgar. Looking forward to reading more – and your further coffee-related adventures…


  4. I’m enjoying these blogs as much as the others. I love museums too. And the worlds outside them where people congregate. To Rubens women people today would call fat were beautiful,strong, healthy.

    Foyles stunned me. I didn’t know what to look at next — and the first time bought way too much. But you are supporting it, keeping it there by buying.

    I’m keeping up too. A bright moment in my day is reading these.


  5. Karen, would I have found out about Foyles without you bloggers? No. I love the store, but am wondering about all these books I’ve bought.:) Good God, I’ll have to buy another suitcase.

    Catherine, thank you! These museums are all remarkable. I missed the Arnolfini Marriage and will have to see it if I get a chance to go back. I have found out so much about London from your comments.

    Ellen, I love looking at the museums so much. It does make me realize we are lucky to have the Joslyn Museum in Omaha. It has a small but excellent collection, and I can see that now that I have seen London museums, too. I wish I could see everything… I just wish to God I could read the maps. It is confusing with the roads here. They change so fast: the same road will have two names.


  6. Lately I find that I’m buying additional copies of books I already own if I prefer the cover. Though now I have three copies of War and Peace by different translators and don’t know which one to read. Any preference?

    Buy another suitcase.


  7. Cynthia, I love War and Peace! I’ve read the Briggs and the Maude. Love both of them! Yes, different covers make all the difference. The bookstores are so good here that I feel I’ll never order from Amazon or B&N again. And then I’ll go home and realize we don’t have quite the bookstores there.

    Tom, the shipping sounds like a viable option. I have enough trouble with the suitcases I have. Thanks for the suggestion.


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