I can summarize my post in three easy words: I loved today.
In general, I love art and museums. Tate Museum and its serendipitous 19th century people and places tour was simply wonderful. I love Pre-Raphaelite painting – before the tour I sat on a bench in that part of the museum for at least twenty minutes, soaking it all in. My favorites are the “Past and Present” series by Augustus Leopold Egg and “The Awakening Conscience” by William Holman Hunt. I love the depths of these paintings; they get me thinking for hours on end.
The tour guide was incredible, and I really appreciated her attention to detail and her bookmarking the Victorians with John Constable and Henry Scott Tuke – it helped place the Victorians and the Pre-Raphaelites in context within the changing landscape of British culture.
I have to say, though, the Victoria and Albert Museum was the highlight of the day and certainly of the trip so far. Let me highlight my bias before I continue: I LOVE Queen Victoria. I’ll never get enough of learning about her, Prince Albert, their children, their scandals…. whether it’s non-fiction, historical fiction and television series, movies…. seriously, I’ll take it all in. Victoria was such a strong woman that changed the face of the monarchy and the crown. My love for her is one of the reasons I decided to be a Victorianist.
That being said, I obviously loved the direction our tour took. I could go on and on, but I’ll go through some highlights (pictures in a gallery below):
- The breathtaking painting of the Grand Exhibition
- The model of Crystal Palace (seriously, can we talk about the genius use of the mirror?!)
- The sheer, heartbreaking difference between paintings of Victoria around her Coronation and after Albert’s death
While I do love hearing about the influences (both ways) between Britain and India, I will always have a preference toward Victoria and Albert.
These museums didn’t particularly show the dark underbelly of the Victorian Era (though some paintings arguably do), but understanding the higher end of Victorians, in particular the royalty, can actually help form a more complete understanding of all social classes of the time – what they don’t have, what they strive for, and what they might not ever be able to achieve. The Queen was a role model for women like the Lorimers, Prince Albert fought for many causes, including slavery, which Mayhew covered … the connections are endless.