We got off to a rather rushed start this morning. We overslept and when we woke up realized we had only an hour to meet our friends in Catford. There was nothing for it but to telephone, apologize and then… rush!
We changed buses here in Princes Street, opposite this rather imposing building, once the Midland Bank, also known as Nos 27-35 Poultry, the old name given to the street when the poulterers used to live here. It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1924 and completed in 1939. It is now Grade I listed building, so it should be safe for a while yet.
At London Bridge station we bought baguettes and coffee for breakfast and took a train to Catford. There we met our friends, took two more buses and finally arrived at the place shown above. The photo shows the garden of the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Dulwich Picture Gallery was founded in 1811 as England’s first public art gallery. You will find an account of its history here. Admission to the main gallery is £5 but there is usually an extra charge to visit special exhibitions.
We had indeed come to see a special exhibition, Norman Rockwell’s America, subtitled “The best-known and most beloved American artist of the 20th century”. Critical opinion on Rockwell has always been divided and there is no doubt that Rockwell is a “popular” artist in the sense of appealing to people who, setting aside over-sophisticated artistic pretensions, enjoy his humorous and tender-hearted pictures of ordinary folk, executed with superb draughtsmanship and colour.
Photography is not allowed in the special exhibitions (though it is allowed in the main galleries), so I cannot show you any of the Rockwell pictures that we saw but you will have no difficulty finding examples on the Web and you may already know his works.
The cooler decor of the side galleries makes a pleasant contrast with the more exciting colour of the main gallery. As well as paintings, the Picture Gallery has on display some items of furniture. In the above photos, the chairs around the perimeter of the room are exhibits, not to be sat on!
If you go into the Picture Gallery by the entrance that is most visible from the road, this takes you past the cafe to the gallery shop and from there into the main gallery. One of the first things you will see as you enter the gallery, is this beautiful French mantel clock, dating from the 1720s but still ticking away and showing the correct time. If I could take one item home with me, it would be this!
On leaving the gallery, we walked into Dulwich Village and enjoyed a meal at PizzaExpress. On the way we passed the Old Grammar School or, as it is spelt out by the inscription over the door, The Grammar School of the College of God’s Gift at Dulwich.
The College was founded in 1619 and the Grammar School was added in 1841. In due course Dulwich College separated from the grammar school and is today “an academically selective independent boys’ school in south London”, as you will see from its Web page. The Old Grammar school is now the office of the Dulwich Estate.
There is obviously an interesting history behind all this but I have as yet to follow it up.