May 15, 2009

KCWC Dulwich Picture Gallery and Horniman Museum

Caroline MacDonald-Haig first brought us around to the rear of the Dulwich Picture Gallery to show us the mausoleum of Sir Francis Bourgeois and his business partner Noel Desenfans (and wife) who bequeathed their art collection (much of which had been commissioned for the King of Poland in 1790 but Poland dissolved before the collection was completed or paid for) to Dulwich College IF Sir John Soane would design the gallery.

Caroline led a spirited tour of the gallery but I slipped out to see the special Sickert in Venice exhibition (I wasn't travelling all the way to Dulwich without seeing that exhibit.) Some of you may recall that Walter Sickert is sometimes accused of being Jack the Ripper (e.g., Patricia Cornwall is convinced) but I found his paintings benign and beautiful.

After a pleasant lunch in the Gallery restaurant, we set off (via Dulwich College) to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill.

Frederick John Horniman was an eclectic collector and I LOVED this museum. Exhibits included a typical Victorian home aquarium, a walrus stuffed so much that its skin was smooth (they had the skin but neither the taxidermist or anyone else realized a walrus has wrinkly skin), a Spanish Inquisition torture chair, a music gallery, and many other odd artifacts. The museum has hundreds of thousands of items but the museum itself was well-curated and not overwhelming.

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