The National Gallery is not one of my most regularly visited Galleries in London. I think in my head I’ve given it a stigma, that as somebody who has never really studied art and painting the exhibitions may ‘go over my head’. A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a private view of Goya: The Portraits on Wednesday evening. Before then, I’ll admit, the name Goya was just something I had seen advertised on tube stations across London due to another recent exhibition of his work at the Courtauld Gallery. My grandparents had been to that exhibition, they liked it, so ‘why not’ I thought, ‘I’ll go along’.
I’ve become so used to going to galleries like the Tate Modern and Estorick Collection and seeing modern art, that when I first walked into the exhibition my initial thought, at risk of sounding naïve, was shock at how old the portraits I was looking at actually were. To have something in front of me which was painted in the 1700’s, stood the test of time and was still in remarkable condition and of exceptional skill was mind blowing and I spent the next 45 minutes wandering around the exhibition with my friend, my eyes flicking from painting to exhibition guide and back again, eager to find out the story behind the person in every single portrait.
The way the exhibition is laid out charts Goya’s stages of professional and personal life from portraits of Spanish aristocracy, commissioned by noblemen, to affectionate and personal images of family and friends and frank self portraits.
For me, not someone well versed in the Old Masters, I was taken back at how much I enjoyed this exhibition and it’s certainly given me the confidence to attend the more traditional art institutions London has, such as the National Gallery, much more in the future.