I was lucky enough to have seen the Royal Academy of Art’s landmark exhibition of Charles I: King and Collector when I was in London this past January. (Okay now it’s time for a little back story). When I was living in London two years ago studying for my masters, I read an article online about how the curators of the RA were planning on bringing back the majority of King Charles I’s art collection for an exhibit, and for it to launch the year of the Royal Academy’s 250th anniversary. Charles I possessed a LEGENDARY collection, and is known for being the most passionate art collector of the Stuart Kings, and is also credited with changing the artistic taste of the nation when he brought Anthony van Dyck from Flanders to London to be his court painter.
Having studied this period of art history in my classes, having already seen some of these incredible paintings in London and New York, AND having my trip to London coincide with the opening of the show, was nothing short of serendipitous! I shared this experience (even the initial article reading two years ago!) with my best friend Ann, whom I met in London through our course, and I couldn’t have imagined a better companion to have enjoyed this exhibit with. We saw truly remarkable and acclaimed works by some of the most famous Old Masters in history, which included Titian, Rubens, van Dyck, Bronzino, and so many more. We finished our visit with some tea and cakes, obviously!
What I love so much about art history is studying or being lectured on a work or a movement in a class, and then being able to see said work in person, most often in a museum. And when I do finally see it, whether it be the day after a lecture or several years after, I have that “aha” moment almost every time, and it is such a great feeling! I had multiple “aha” moments during my visit to the Royal Academy, because we had studied so many of the works and artists that were featured.
Whether you’ve studied the history of art for many years, or consider yourself more of a novice, I would definitley recommend that anyone go and see the exhibit! I have been to several exhibits are the Royal Academy, and they are all curated so they everyone from scholars to tourists can enjoy them and learn from them. The RA offers an audio guide, which is another suggestion for everyone to get, which explains further the paintings and its history. Allow a your visit a few hours to accommodate for crowds and queues, plus you don’t want to rush out of there either!! This exhibition was nearly 400 years in the making, and who knows when another one like it will come around!