A quick overnight trip to London was planned for early May to coincide with the Ernst & Young Vincent Van Gogh and Britain exhibition at the Tate gallery (running until 11 August 2019). This is turning out to be quite a Van Gogh year for me!
Our arrival in the Big Smoke was greeted by a very heavy and persistent downpour - good old England. Of course I didn't have an umbrella! Following Google maps to the Tate we stood at the entrance, a bit soggy, but full of expectation and hope.
We hadn't done too much research into what the exhibition would include in order to heighten the element of surprise, and as we dried off in the restaurant over a nice cup of freshly made herbal leaf tea, we downloaded the exhibition guide for further information. Coats and bags (still soggy) checked in to the cloakroom, we entered the exhibition at our allotted timeslot, e-tickets at the ready.
Not knowing what to expect, we walked through the various rooms, marvelling at the work on display, reading every information panel and wondering when it would end - it was much larger than we had imagined and contained many works that we hadn't even considered we would see.
Above: images of Van Gogh's work on display, from early Dutch style to Impressionism
I have to admit that I surprised myself as I took a sharp intake of breath when I rounded a corner into another room and caught my first sight of Starry Night Over the Rhone.
It was a bit bigger than I imagined, and the colours more intense than any book, poster or reproduction could reproduce. The thickness of the paint glistened in places alongside the bright yellow constellations. The gold frame added to the overall shimmering effect.
We continued around, retracing our steps at times to enjoy other pictures once more, and to loiter for a bit longer in places (strategically placed benches helped to get lost in particular paintings and study the work, techniques and passion involved).
A trip to London is never quite complete if you haven't done other touristy things, so a flying visit was made around the rest of the Tate to rediscover some Turner canvasses and Henry Moore sculptures, and a scoot around the Natural History museum and V&A museum the following day before heading back to the tranquility and clean air of the West Country.
Aside from the quantity of pictures on show, my highlight of the whole Van Gogh exhibition was the Starry Night Over the Rhone, not least because of my reaction to it. I believe that if something created by another person - art, music, dance, lyrics, poetry - can take your breath away, then you hang onto that feeling and embrace it. It's a little bit like love at first sight, and we could do with more love in this world.
"It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to.... The feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures." - Vincent Van Gogh