Saturday, November 29, 2008

National Portrait Gallery - Victorians

For my Women's Question class, Dr. Paul sent us to the National Portrait Gallery to look at the Victorian rooms and compare the portraits to what we have learned in class. It was my first time to the Portrait Gallery (I have been to the National Gallery plenty of times though), and my first reaction was eh (add the shrug in your head). But as I continued looking I found the portraits more and more interesting. They may seem boring at first but they were an interesting glimpse into the personalities of the people being painted.

This portrait of Robert Baden-Powell, by Hubert von Herkomer, was one of my favorites. It is in the military room among the stoic and almost mean-looking portraits of other great military men. (I wish I had a bigger picture to show you but the NPG won't let me get any bigger than this!) Anyways, this portrait immediately caught my eye because he was so different from the other "tough-guys" in the room. Everything about this portrait is inviting; he has a sparkle to his eye, a kind smile on his face, and a relaxed pose that I loved. So I went over to investigate and discovered the reason why. Baden-Powell is the founder of the Boy Scouts! I would have gotten along with him well because I always wished I was a Boy Scout like all the boys!

Again, because of the copyright laws I couldn't find the exact portrait (the real one is in color), but another portrait I liked was Thomas Henry Huxley's portrait by John Collier. One of the most interesting elements of the work was the skull in Huxley's hand. He holds it so casually, but with confidence.

You might imagine why this portrait of Cardinal Manning, by George Watts, caught my attention. He is literally a living skeleton. It was a lot more dramatic in person, but I walked into the room and was immediately like, "eww." However, the more I looked the more I liked. His eyes have a spark of determination and strength even though his body has nothing left.
By looking at the Victorian Galleries I realized that the social ideas we have been discussing in literature are also reflected in the other arts. The Victorian Era was one of expansion, wealth, discovery, and reform, all of which are displayed through the portraits in the National Portrait Gallery.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The V&A: Life in Victorian England

The Victorian Era was an interesting one. It never fails to surprise me. Let me introduce you to a key figure in this era . . .
Queen Victoria herself! This is a bust of the young, still-pretty queen who gave the era its name. Under her rule and British Empire continued to expand, and with this expansion came a new way of life in England.
Exhibitions became a popular way to display the wealth and power of the Empire. The Crystal Palace (a model is shown above) was built especially for the "Great Exhibition" in Hyde Park. And yes, the building incorporated a full-grown tree within its glass walls. These exhibitions were the perfect excuse to show the new, grand, showy artwork that was being created during this period.
Aside from the ridiculously showy pieces of art, the Victorians also looked to other cultures for inspiration. This necklace is an example of the Victorians looking back to the classical world for inspiration.
However, Japanese art was also a big influence on the art of the era. This screen and magazine rack are influenced by similar Japanese models of the time. At the same time symbols began to change. Peacock feathers, which at one time symbolized bad luck, became the "cool thing" to do.
One of my favorite areas of the exhibit was the clothing section. The Victorian era was one of the expanding wardrobe.

To be a "proper" gentleman you needed a large closet. The proper man might change his clothes 6 or 7 times a day, depending on his activities. Clothing was not to be mixed.

For women, it was the wedding dress. Queen Victoria made the white wedding dress popular when she married Prince Albert in a dress very similar to the one shown above. Luckily, for us girls (maybe not so much for our fathers) the tradition of the beautiful, white wedding dress has remained to this day!
From this exhibit I learned that Victorian life was that of wealth and show. It was very important to keep up appearances, especially with so many cultures streaming into England at the time. The fact that the "sun never set upon the British Empire" is crucial to understanding the great change that came about in this era.

Hyde Park Chapel

It was interesting to visit the Hyde Park Chapel again. The first time I saw the Hyde Park Chapel was on Sunday, September 7, my second day on the program, and I visited it again yesterday. I can't believe the program is coming to an end! On thing that stands out about the chapel, which I learned the first week we were here, was that it was a World War II bomb site. After the war the Church bought the property and cleaned it up. In 1961, President David O. McKay dedicated the chapel as headquarters for the Church in London.

I have heard and noticed that the chapel is a major missionary tool even today. Set among the museums of South Kensington, many visitors see the chapel as well as the big "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" over the doors and decide to investigate. There is always a secretary just inside the doors to answer any questions, there is also informative plaques about the history of the Church as well as the Plan of Salvation. One of my favorite stories that I have heard about the Hyde Park Chapel was told to the program in a fireside by a visiting BYU professor. He told the story of a young man from the Middle East who had moved to London for work. During this time he did a lot of soul searching, he especially wanted to find peace with another religion. One night he had a dream about the chapel, though he didn't know it at the time, and knew that that church was the only true church. A few weeks later he visited the South Kensington area, saw the chapel and began taking the missionary discussions. Now he is back in the Middle East, living the Gospel with a small congregation of friends and family. It has been fun to see the impact one chapel can have on a whole city.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Today we were able to visit the Jewish synagogue, just one street east of the Center. I was a little confused about the time we were meeting to walk over to the synagogue so I ended up walking over with Sister Benfell. The only thing was we couldn't figure out how to get in.

We tried opening the front doors you see here but let me tell you, they are fake. Then a couple more late comers showed up and we moved to the side of the building, and finally to the back where someone let us in. Luckily we were only a minute late.

This big curtain was cool. Our tour guide just pulled a little screen and it whipped open to reveal a locked door where they keep the Torah. It was great to learn a little more about the Jewish culture. I know the basics but I love to listen and learn more because I feel such an attachment to the Jewish culture. I feel like it is our heritage and we are similar in so many ways.

Here is a better picture of the inside of the synagogue. The men sit on the bottom level and the women sit on the top floor. The stand you can see is where the Torah is read. Some interesting things that I learned today were:

The Torah is only used in public. People don't own their own copies at home. I guess I had never really thought about this because the Bible has been available for private use for quite a while. I don't think I can imagine a world without my personal scriptures. They are such an important aspect in my life.

The gentleman giving our tour also talked a little about the Jewish temple. Someone asked him what had to be done for the temple to be rebuilt and his response was that the Messiah had to come first. I had known all this before but it is always amazing to be to sit and listen to them talk about the Messiah when I know Him so well. Afterwards, I was talking to Hillary, who just returned from a study abroad in Jerusalem and I was asking her a little more about the Jewish beliefs on the Messiah. Her answer was interesting. She said that the Jews are all about action, following the law, etc. they are not a theological religion. And so, they just believe that a Messiah will come but they do not talk about who or what he will be like.

I loved the tour. It was nice to learn a little more about our heritage and also learn about how the Jewish traditions have changed over the years. I am so grateful for the truths I have been taught from my youth.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Little Venice

Welcome to my last walk post, sniff, sniff . . . well actually, it's bittersweet. I am thrilled that I don't have to fit anymore walks into the busy schedule here but it also means that the semester is coming to a close. I decided to visit Little Venice for my last walk because I had heard that it was a very fun area (it is rumored that JK Rowling owns a home in this area) plus it was super short and let me tell you, it's cold, cold, cold here!

Aside from the crazy construction workers who liked to yell cat-calls at me as I walked down the street . . . and back up the street only a few minutes later, it was a very pleasant walk. Little Venice has lots of canals, thus, "Little Venice." So let me give you a little tour of the water of Little Venice.

If there could be one theme from this whole semester it could be "good things happen on bridges." Think about it, it's so true. Every time we drive over a bridge or see one off in the distance someone has to yell it out. I love bridges, but mostly, I love what's under the bridge, water!
Paki and Panko the geese of Little Venice. They look "so serene" just floating around all day.

The glamorous side of Little Venice. This water spout is in actuality the one and only pipe that the Itsy Bitsy Spider climbed up . . . until the rain came down and washed the spider out. Luckily, it was a sunny day.

If I could design my dream street it would look like this. I don't know if I would pick one of these boats to live in, but I would love to be able to drive the ski boat right up to my front door. Ah, that would be the life!
This boat was awesome! It is a floating puppet show and I hear that the shows are actually pretty good.

One thing I love most in the world is seeing things reflected in water. This red boat created the prettiest, most vivid reflection on the water.

Mmmm, classic England, I love seeing the old churches everywhere, especially by the water's side.

I love water. If I could choose one element to become it would be water. It has been one of the biggest parts of my life since I was two weeks old. I could stare at water for hours and hours, or listen to a little brook bubble next to my tent, or hear the waves crashing against the beach, or swim all day long. Just look at the light playing off the ripples in this picture. Beautiful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pre-Raphaelites at the Tate Britain

Before I visited the Tate Britain I had pretty much decided that I did not like Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I don't know, there is just something about them that bugs me and I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it is because the women are so idealistic . . . but then so are the women in the other movements. I don't know, I just don't like the tone they give off and how they make me feel. And then I visited the Tate, and decided that . . . I still don't love Pre-Raphaelite painting. However, I did enjoy looking at some of the paintings and learning to appreciate some aspects of the art.

This painting is by Dante Gabriel Rossetti called Aurelia (Fazio's Mistress). This is the kind of work that I think of when I think of Pre-Raphaelite works. I think that it is so fascinating that they loved women's hair so much. We had an interesting discussion in class today about the importance of hair in this time period. Please note: blondes and redheads = angels, brown hair = sensible, and dark hair (like mine, I was used as an example in class) = the temptress, the skank, the dark and fallen woman. I usually identify a Pre-Raphaelite painting by the red, flowy hair found on the women. To me this painting is just a typical Pre-Raphaelite work that I don't love.

However, I do like this painting, Ecce Ancilla Domini, by Rossetti, though I probably would never put it in my house . . . it is good as far as Pre-Raphaelite works. What I like about this painting is the simplicity of the piece, a simple bed, two figures, a window, etc. However, the element I love most would have to be the color of the work. I love the simple white background with bursts of vivid blue and red and gold. The color drew my eye. I usually don't like halos either but they seem to work in this piece.
Although my visit to the Tate did not change my opinion on Pre-Raphaelite works, I really did enjoy looking at them and finding elements I did like. At times they seem cluttered but usually color was my one connection to the works I did like.

Sainte Chapelle

Before coming to England I had never been inside a Cathedral. I do remember driving through a small Mexican town a few years ago on the way to Chichen Itza but that's another story . . . Of course I have seen and heard of all these grand buildings and I was so excited to visit some of them after my arrival. And then something happened. They started to all look the same . . . GASP! I know, I know, it's blasphemous but what can I say? It's true. Even the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, you know, that really famous one? Looked like many other Cathedrals like it that I have seen. And then I visited Sainte Chapelle, or The Holy Chapel, just a short walk from Notre Dame. It was beautiful . . . unlike any Cathedral or church I have seen yet.
Here is one view of it. If you didn't already know, Cathedrals used to be painted . . . everything was painted. Luckily the paint has survived in this chapel. If you look closely you can see that everything is painted and is very colorful. But the most distinctive feature is the stained glass. This chapel is all stained glass with a little stone in between.

It felt like the moment I walked into the chapel I was in another world . . . like Narnia. In this world the light was colorful and magical and anything was possible.

I also loved the rose window in this chapel, even more than the famous rose window of Notre Dame. I think the thing I loved about it was the shapes within the window. The pattern is more detailed and light.
If you are ever in Paris make sure to fit Sainte Chapelle in your schedule, it doesn't take long and it is well worth the experience.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mayfair Walk

One of my favorite things about the Holiday Season is the atmosphere, especially around major shopping areas. A lot of the Christmas movies we see are based in major cities, Elf (one of my favorites) takes place in New York where Buddy helps out a big department store, Miracle on 34th Street also takes place in New York with the Thanksgiving Day Parade and all the big, fancy department stores, etc. It has always been a secret wish to be a part of the "Big City" Christmas rush and this walk actually helped satisfy a little bit of that desire. When I found out that the walk was based in one of the biggest high-end shopping areas in London, I was all for going and being a part of the atmosphere. Even at home, one of my favorite parts of Christmas shopping is the window displays. Back in the "olden days" . . . you know, the ones when ZCMI used to exist? I loved going downtown with the family and looking at the window displays, or just Christmas displays . . . so here are a few from London.
Here is a display from Liberty of London store. Next time you get a really nice coat or a designer dress check the tag for Liberty of London fabric, a lot of the designers use their fabric.

I loved these Christmas wreaths/snowflakes. I just wanted to sing "Let it Snow, let it snow, let it snow . . ." and it actually did yesterday. It's freezing here!

This is a display inside Banana Republic. It's kind of hard to see but I just love the red and the shine of the season, you can get away with so much!
Accessorize has decorated all of their stores with Rudolf and Santa and snow, snow, snow!

This street was so fun! There was a long line of snowmen and snowflakes hanging all the way down the street.
Leave it to Swarovski to add a little "Bling" to the holidays. The snow in the window is, of course, crystal.

This display is difficult to read but it says: "Uncover the Season's Secrets." I liked this one because it was all paper, cut and designed in fun ways.

But this one was my favorite! I'm sad that I couldn't get a good picture of it but I just stood in front of the window and laughed. The girls on the walk with me thought I was a little wacko. The two trees in the front actually tipped into the center (to hide the elf) and then tipped out to reveal this picture. Since you can't see it too well, let me explain . . . the center is a elf tied up with tinsle and Christmas lights, he has an ornament stuffed in his mouth and a star on his head. Let me tell you, it was a good one!

Westward from the City: Theatre Walk

Are you ever walking through town and realize that you have no idea what time it is? Frantically, you look at your wrist only to find that you have forgotten your watch . . . This situation is one that all of us run into at some time in our lives, but hopefully you will be in a place where you would be able to find the time easily! After visiting Paris I realized that London doesn't have as many clocks as Paris; however, I set out on this walk to prove that I could find out the time anywhere in London.

The Hall of Justices, this building is awesome! I saw it from down the street and fell in love with it because it looked like a castle . . . and what do you know? There was a giant clock visible to all!

This great clock is in the great market of Covent Gardens. It was absolutely crazy today but the clock was a constant reminder to everyone shopping in the area that the shopping day was getting shorter and shorter.

This clock was just on a random side-street . . . but hey, all the passers-by on this street would have no problem with discovering the time if they happened to forget their watch on this fine frigid day.

The steeple of St. Martin-in-the-Fields is visible from a great distance and a great aid on days like today.

This clock stands in the great Leicester Square, reminding all the premier goers what time the movies start . . . too bad the princes forgot to watch this clock. If they had maybe they wouldn't have made the premier for the new Bond movie begin two hours late!

Time is extreemly important in the film industry. This picture shows just a few of the times at the movie theater today.

Luckily, this clock was close to the tube stop so that we could make sure we are on time to our next walk!

But we walked into the tube station a little later and the thoughtful tube system happened to show the time and post the next trains coming to the station.
Unfortunately, time is important in life and if you fail to plan, or follow your schedule, just plan to fail.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


There are so many great things about studying in London. Not only do we get to talk about a famous piece of art in class and then go see it in the gallery, we are also able to experience all different kinds of art forms and usually from some of the best artists and performers in the world. On Tuesday night we were able to see Aida as a group . . . not the musical mind you, the opera. Now, from what little I knew and had heard of the opera, I wasn't all that excited. Who wants to go listen to opera for 3 hours? But I was interested to just try it out . . . maybe I would end up loving it?

We saw the performance at the English National Opera which means, luckily for us, that the opera was performed in English . . . if you were lucky enough to understand what they were trilling. For the inexperienced opera viewers, like myself, they also included supertitles above the stage so we could actually understand what was going on and once I read the lines I was able to make out what the singers were trying to say.

Although I discovered that opera is not my favorite form of entertainment, it was an amazing spectacle. To be able to see so many people on stage and the amazing set and costume design was a lot of fun.

And the opera singers look quite as I always imagined them to look . . . robust women and barrel chested men.

One of my favorite parts, actually, one of the only parts without singing . . . imagine that . . . was a dance scene where they had acrobats and more modern dancers come out on the stage to celebrate the Egyptians' victory over the Ethiopians. This elephant was part of that scene, it was really amazing. And yes, they did drop gold confetti all over the stage. Like I said, the opera is a spectacle and I am so glad I was able to experience it at least once in my life.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Holland Park Walk

The Holland Park walk was amazing, it was nice to explore our area a little more. The neighborhood is beautiful and quiet . . . and right in the middle of everything, the perfect combination. From the very beginning of the walk color was the thing that struck me. Although the houses are beautiful, it is interesting to see how each one is individualized to reflect some of the owner's character.

This royal blue house stuck out from among its brown-bricked neighbors. I love the contrast between the blue and the crisp white.

A pastel wonderland . . . these houses were cute, all lined up in a row.

This Indian Red house was bold but not too bright.

If I had to pick my favorite house on this walk it would be this modern blue-gray house. I loved the combination of the red wood, green accents, glass and the blue.

Once we got into the park we got to enjoy the last of the fall leaves. It has been windy the last few days and most of the leaves are now all over the ground. This tree still had most of its leaves.

I would call this color "British-Maze-Garden-on-11 November-Green" most of the flowers were gone but it was still beautiful.

Aren't peacocks so amazing. I just love their color combinations!

And, last but definitely not least, Holland park decided to celebrate me by creating a big letter "H" for Hansen out of flowers. Isn't the red and white just perfect? Go Utes!