INSPIRED! | London, Guildhall Art Gallery

This tiny, two-room exhibition at the tucked-away Guildhall Art Gallery is surprisingly rich, and well worth a family visit. Each ticket comes with a beautifully written mini work booklet to help children search and reflect about the paintings and sculptures before them, from four hundred years ago to the modern day.

The exhibition is divided into four sections: “Music & Musicians”; “Poetry & Poets”; “Theatre & Theatricals”; and “Novels & The Popular Press”. Although, in practice, these sections completely overlap, particularly within the realm of opera.

For grown-ups and children alike, probably the most arresting work is the painting Clytemnestra (1882) by John Collier: it is remarkable to see, up close, how Collier captures the masculinity and wildness of the husband-killer, while also preserving the theatrical artifice on which the painting is based. For a similar crowd-pleaser, Daniel Maclise’s huge painting of The Banquet Scene in Macbeth (1840) deserves studying for all its finely observed details. For something completely different, Jaroslaw Giercarz Alfer’s slender bust of Chopin (1978) sublimely captures the composer’s reflectiveness and vulnerability.

It’s worth mentioning that the Guildhall Art Gallery itself is free admission: in fact, one or two pieces from the Inspired! exhibition are on display in the main, free areas, and there are even free guided tours available at certain times and dates, too. Consider your £8 ticket to this exhibition a donation to this hidden gem, and take the time to enjoy the gallery as a whole.

Showing 8 April – 11 Sep 2022 at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

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