March 19, 1991
Dropped Aunt Jeanne at the bus station. We went by Tube almost all the way to the Royal Academy [of Art] – when we reached the platform at Victoria Station, it was so crowded that we decided to take the 38 bus instead (60 pence each).
At the Royal Academy, we saw the incredible Buhrle Collection. It was glossed over that Buhrle sold arms to the Nazis, among others. Still, the paintings were wonderful: a Corot portrait of a young girl, Canalettos, Monet’s field of poppies and portrait of his wife & child in their garden, and some stunning Van Goghs.
[When Dad later described one of the Van Goghs to his dear friend Peter Witt, Peter held up his hand to stop Dad’s description of the painting, saying, “I sold that painting to Buhrle.” Peter fled his native Austria after the Nazi invasion and lived in the U.S. for the rest of his life – with the rest of his painting collection.]
Seeing these paintings was like a long drink of water after crossing the desert.
There was also an exhibit of the making of St. Paul’s Cathedral by Christopher Wren – the highlight of which was the great model made at the time in case St. Paul’s again became the victim of fire. You could look inside and see the painting and carving.
Had lunch at the George, and then went to St. Paul’s, inspired by the exhibit we had just seen. I was distressed by the new office buildings, one of which juts out to partly obscure the front view of the cathedral. We visited the crypt which holds Lord Nelson’s elegant black marble tomb & Wellington’s, two of England’s greatest heroes. Landseer’s tomb was surmounted by a marble palette & brushes and included a statue of his dog. Christopher Wren, who died at the very old age of 91, had the most touching memorial: “Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice” (“Reader, if you seek a memorial, look around you”).