Milda Adomaityte

My visit to the Courtauld Gallery…

Being a student in London is pretty amazing, especially, if you’re into arts and culture. Also, if you are blessed enough to be a student at King’s you get to experience many aspects of cultural London (many of them free of charge)!

For example, King’s students get free access to such places as the Somerset House, including Courtauld Gallery, which we got to visit as part of the Cultural Experience award last week.

I have to say, the visit exceeded my expectations. I have visited many galleries in various cities before but I don’t think I ever realised what it means to appreciate art the way I was taught to do in this session.

While studying at KCL, I walked past this magnificent building hundreds of times but I never got to enter it (we all know how busy we tend to be when it comes to planning extra-curricular activities such as visiting a gallery).

I only needed to see the gallery once to fall in love with it and I’m sure I will be back very soon!

As it is stated in the gallery’s website, the visitors can enjoy an extraordinary art collection that includes Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces. What is not mentioned, though, is that the gallery itself, as a building, could be called a masterpiece. From the staircases to the ceilings – there is much to appreciate.

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In the beginning of our Courtauld Gallery visit we climbed the stairs and gathered around the piece called “A Bar at the Folies Bergère”, which was painted by Édourd Manet in Paris in 1882. We were told to just look at the painting for one minute, without trying to draw any conclusions. Interestingly, we weren’t allowed to read the description placed next to the painting; it made me realise that that’s exactly what I always do – I read the description before I even take a look at the piece of art, as if I’m not good enough to appreciate the piece without learning something about it first.

We were learning to look at the objects in the painting without making any interpretations. I found it very interesting that our minds are so used to drawing conclusions that it is difficult for us to name an object without assuming what role it plays in the painting. For instance, when we were asked what do we see in the painting, instead of answering “a woman”, “a bottle”, we replied “a waitress”, “alcohol” etc. I think this might be the first time I looked at the piece of art for so long without reading or asking questions about it, and it felt great. Although it was difficult at first, I was able to appreciate the painting: it’s shapes, it’s essence.

Manet once said “I paint what I see, and not what others like to see”- I believe this is how he would have wanted people to look at his art.

For more information about the Courtauld Gallery visit http://courtauld.ac.uk/gallery

“A Bar at the Folies Bergère” by Édourd Manet

“A Bar at the Folies Bergère” by Édourd Manet

 

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