London with Coffee # 5 & Art

In Manhattan,  Diane Keaton says Van Gogh is overrated.

She pronounces it Van Gog.

Keaton is hilarious as an intellectual journalist.

At the National Gallery, I found myself skipping over the Van Gogh, though of course as a child I loved him and had a print of Van Gogh’s Chair.  I was more interested in other 19th-century painters like Monet, Manet, and Pissarro.

Such a good collection of Impressionists at the National Gallery.

I especially love Monet’s paintings of snow, because I am at home with snow.  It snows and snows and snows where I live.  Here is “Lavacourt under Snow.”

Monet's Lavacourt under Snow

Monet’s Lavacourt under Snow

And here is “Snow Scene at Argenteuil”:

Monet's Snow Scene at Argenteuill

Monet’s Snow Scene at Argenteuil

The colors are lovely and light after the dark paintings of the 16th , 17th, and 18th centuries.

STARRING VIVIEN LEIGH:  A CENTENARY CELEBRATION AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY.  The trip to London is my mother’s legacy, and Vivien Leigh was her favorite actress.

And so it is appropriate for me to see these photos of Leigh.  Gone with the Wind was my mother’s favorite book and movie.

Vivien Leigh in "That Hamilton Woman"

Vivien Leigh in “That Hamilton Woman”

Of course I know Leigh as Scarlett, but the photos of Leigh in other movies were even more intriguing:  as Cleopatra in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra, as Lady Hamilton in That Hamilton Woman, and as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire.  Oh, Blanche!  What a brilliant movie that was!

So sad to be beautiful and mad.  Poor Vivien!  I remember reading long ago about her madness.  And did Laurence Olivier take care of her, or not?  There are always sad stories about mad women and their husbands.

My mother never went to a museum in her life.  Well, that’s probably an exaggeration, but close.  She had a bachelor’s degree, but she loved pop culture.  She could have been a pop culture critic.    Ladies’ Home Journal, movies (I saw every movie in the ’60s except Darling, which, inexplicably, I was not allowed to see), movie magazines, TV (we loved the fall edition of TV Guide), and musicals (we’d go to community productions).

The apple does fall far from the tree.  No human beings were ever more different than my mother and I.

I love museums, but even I admit you can have too much of a good thing.

There was so much to see at the National Portrait Gallery.  But this is all I have room to write about today.

COFFEE.  I had a cup at a bookstore:  excellent.

I went to Oxfam, a lovely bookstore, but the Virago Online Group who met in London last weekend seems to have wiped them out temporarily.  I had almost everything in the fiction and poetry sections, and I know that’s just not possible…:)  So maybe I’ll go again before I leave.  Oxfam is a favorite with everybody.

Foyles, however, is the best bookstore in the world.  (Well, I haven’t seen all of them.)

And I was out in the London rain today.  Very light, very easy.  I know you have floods here, but this was a spring rain.  And now I understand why English people go for walks in the rain.  At home it’s always a deluge.  So lovely and mild here (so far).

9 thoughts on “London with Coffee # 5 & Art

  1. Oh, it all sounds so lovely. I think I would have gone mad if I had finally gotten to Oxfam and couldn’t find anything. Are you not going to the Persephone shop?


  2. I’m sorry we cleaned out the Oxfam….. It *is* a lovely shop (I go every time I visit London). We have branches all over the country – the one in my town is pretty good; the one in Chelmsford is excellent. They’re kind of taking over from ordinary second hand bookshops. Glad you like our rain and you’re having a nice visit. And, yes, Foyles is a wonderful place!


  3. Go see the movies Caesar and Cleopatra and That Hamilton Woman. Claude Raines (charming) is Caesar and Olivier (also charming) is Hamilton. They just don’t make movies like that any more. I certainly hope that your mother got to see them.


  4. Cynthia, actually I forgot about the Persephone bookshop. A very long time ago I belonged to a “private” (then how did I get in?) Persephone email group, but couldn’t keep up. I am constantly cancelling my emails! My feeling is that I shouldn’t go to any more bookshops at all.

    Karen, it’s a beautiful city, a beautiful country, and the Oxfam bookshops are such a good idea. I used to imagine they were used clothes shops with books, like the Good Will and Salvation Army in our country. These are REAL bookshops. I did go past an Oxfam clothing shop somewhere. God knows where!

    Oh, Nancy, I’d love to see these movies. When I get home I’ll make a point of it. I’ve never seen a movie with both Leigh and Olivier.


  5. How I love those paintings of snow. At the same time I’m glad it’s not snowing in London. In the UK there are more bookshops than the US: British people stayed far more loyal to cement-and-mortar bookshops and did not use their credit cards on the Net in the same rapid way US people did — or so I’m told.


  6. Ellen, I’m glad it’s not snowing, too. These two paintings spoke to me, even though it’s the wrong season.:) Interesting about the UK’s attitudes towards books. If I lived here, I would certainly buy books at these stores. The used bookstores seem to be on a par with those in the U.S., and I must admit I just visited a few at random and don’t even remember their names, but I’ve been utterly amazed by the new books stores.


  7. Kat, your sojourn in London has been a vicarious pleasure for me to read. The National Portrait Gallery was closed when I was there several years ago because some madman went in and slashed the new portrait of Princess Diana!


  8. Oh my God, I saw that portrait of Princess Diana! I guess that thing could happen. I think more of art theft. I’ve read so many novels about art theft. One by Katharine Weber, and something by Peter Carey (though I can’t remember if that was an actual theft).

    I’m sure most people see more in London than I have. but tourism is tiring and I’m used to country vacations!


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