Saturday 17 May 2014

The Dulwich Picture Gallery & The Horniman Museum

In late April I was running around trying to meet a whole bunch of deadlines... and when they'd all been met I had a celebratory Nice Day Out in London.

I started my day with a visit to Tate Britain, wanting to see the Richard Deacon exhibition before it finished. Richard Deacon is one of those artists where I'm not sure whether I really "get" the art but I love the pieces as beautiful, interesting objects, so I was glad to get into the exhibition half price with my Art Pass and to be able to see them up close.

After viewing the Deacon exhibition I found myself (to my surprise) quite delighted by Phyllida Barlow's huge sculptures. They'd left me a bit cold when I read about them in the paper but "in person" the scale of them is quite magical. I then re-visited some of my favourite bits of the Tate's collection - I find their current information-light display quite frustrating to explore but the paintings... man, the Tate has so much great stuff in their collection.


Next I got the Tube from Pimlico...


... to Brixton, then caught the train from Brixton railway station...

... to West Dulwich. I'd come to visit the Dulwich Picture Gallery which is one of the places I can get into free with my Art Pass (hurrah!). One of the things I'm really enjoying about the Art Pass is that as well as being able to get into places for free / for a discount (which is, of course, great) it's meant that I've been visiting some new-to-me parts of London, which has been hugely enjoyable.

Dulwich is a lovely, leafy place and its Gallery was, apparently, London's first public art gallery. The building was designed by Sir John Soane, whose house I visited earlier this year, and hosts some big exhibitions, as well as a permanent collection of 17th and 18th century paintings.

I especially enjoyed the portraits and all the elaborate gilt picture frames. I also spent a very long time staring at this incredibly detailed painting by Jan van Huysum - I love all his pictures but this one really charmed me. The birds nest is particularly wonderful.

Oh and there's a smart cafe and nice gardens to sit in, too.

My next stop after visiting the Gallery was the Horniman Museum and Gardens (after which I'd planned to go home a slightly different route, catching a train from nearbyForest Hill station). You can get a bus between the Gallery and the Museum, I think, but I'd decided to walk it instead so I headed off, following my Google Map directions.

My walk took me past the chapel and almshouses of the Dulwich Estate...


... then on through Dulwich Park which is really rather nice.

It was a perfect day for a stroll through the park, wandering along the winding paths and admiring the trees and flowers... though I really should have taken a map of the park with me as I got a teeny bit lost!

There were lots of kids happily racing around on hired cycles, and paddling the boating lake in boats, but there were also lots of quieter spaces and there's a lovely wooden walkway that you can take across part of the lake.

I got really lost after leaving the park but eventually got myself pointed in the right direction and finally arrived at the Horniman Museum.

I had a well-earned sit down and a very tasty (slightly late) lunch in the sunshine next to this fabulous conservatory.

Then I wandered around the Gardens. The Museum is on a hill with the Gardens spread out below it. There's an open meadow area, a nature trail, a sunken garden, a garden planted with medicinal plants, a "sound garden" where you can play instruments...

... and a bandstand where you can get a great view of London (in theory! the weather had sadly turned quite cloudy by then).

There's also a delightful "Animal Walk" with rabbits, goats, sheep, alpaca, and other lovely beasties. I had no idea this was here so it was a very nice surprise to turn a corner and discover it!

The museum was founded by Frederick John Horniman whose collection of objects grew so large that it took over his house, so he moved out and turned it into a museum. There's a really interesting mix of collections to explore: anthropology, natural history and musical instruments.

I spotted lots of fascinating objects throughout my visit (like a "mermaid" and a charmingly overstuffed walrus) but I especially enjoyed the gallery looking at the collection's history and some of the ideas behind collecting... oh, and the wonderful little aquarium in the basement.

The Museum and Gardens are free to visit, with just a small charge to get into the aquarium (though this was free with my Art Pass), I wish I lived closer so I could visit regularly!


Katie said...

Dulwich looks beautiful! I can't believe I haven't been yet, you've bumped it up my to-do list.

Anonymous said...

Despite living round the corner from Dulwich for years, I never managed to make it to the Picture Gallery, but I do like the Horniman Museum although the last time I went was before the rufurbishment. The gardens look lovely. I must go to both next time I'm in London.

Re the walrus, I wrote a post about him and the Horniman a few years ago. It's at if you're interested.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Katie - it's really lovely, lots of parks and other green spaces and I've heard the Village itself is nice too.

Stash Avalanche - love that post! Poor over-stuffed walrus.

bairozan said...

I am catching up on posts after an unforgettable visit to Boston, Lincolnshire last week so I may not be able to comment on all but now I have seen places as beautiful as you describe :) It was a lovely sunny week with only two days of rain, unfortunately, one of them in London and we managed to get out of the car for a picture right by the Tate Gallery. No time to get in, though.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Ooh, I don't think I've ever been to Lincolnshire! Glad you had some sunshine for your visit :)