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Top 5 Paintings in The National Gallery, London

Monday, August 10th, 2009

For art fans planning to spend a few days in London, the art galleries cannot be missed.

Enormous, packed full of important work and absolutely free (apart from special exhibitions), you could spend days doing little else than wondering around them and admiring the work on show. However, if you don’t have much time in the capital but want to see the most important works of art, then your best bet would be to head to The National Gallery where you will find the following treasures.

1. Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh

Oil on canvas, 1888

Van Gogh’s four sunflower paintings are amongst the most famous works of art in the world, and The National Gallery has one of them. Painted using an impasto style, the thick brushstrokes bring out the texture of the flowers vividly. It was painted to decorate the room of his friend Paul Gauguin, who he was living with at the time. The collection of paintings are said to represent the cycle of life, with some of the flowers being in full bloom and some dying.

2. Cupid Complaining to Venus, Lucas Cranach The Elder

Oil on wood, about 1525.

Acquired by The National Gallery in 1963, this masterpiece depicts Cupid complaining to Venus after having been stung by a bee. It is thought that numerous versions of this painting were completed by the artist, but that this is one of the best. The National Gallery claims it is a “moral commentary”, which is based on Idyll 19: The Honey-Stealer, by the poet Theocritus.

3. The Hay Wain, John Constable

Oil on canvas, 1821

This painting of an area along the River Stour in Suffolk, England, depicts a traditional rural English scene, even though the artist painted it in his studio in London. Constable failed to sell it in England at the Royal Academy when he finished it, but it received great acclaim in France, and was even awarded a gold medal from King Charles X. It is without doubt one of the finest British paintings in the country.

4. The Fighting Temeraire (tugged to her last berth to be broken up), JMW Turner

Oil on canvas, 1839

This is a depiction of HMS Temeraire, a ship which fought in the Battle of Trafalgar, as it is towed away to be turned into scrap. Turner enjoyed painting ships near the Thames Estuary, and the artist gave the painting to The National Gallery in 1851. In a national poll in 2005 it was voted the greatest painting in a British gallery.

5. The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (also known as The Burlington House Cartoon), Leonardo da Vinci

Chalk on paper, mounted on canvas, 1499-1500

The Virgin and Child with John the Baptist, and the Virgin and Child with St Anne, were two common themes of Florentine art at the time of the painting, and here they have been represented together. One of the things that makes the work typical of the artist is St Anne pointing up to the heavens, a device which also appears in a number of his other paintings. Cartoons were often lost or destroyed after they had been transferred to the panel, making this an especially rare and unique part of the collection.

Top London National Gallery Hotels:

Photo of Trafalgar Square and The National Gallery, London, by Andras Jancsik

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2 responses to “Top 5 Paintings in The National Gallery, London”

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