London Day 8: A Day Off

Although I have been to London with the British Design History Course five times, there are always new experiences to learn from. I set the day aside for reflection, spending the morning and part of the afternoon studying British paintings in the Tate Britain. I photographed many of the paintings for teaching purposes, and studied the work of J.M.W. Turner. I sat on a bench for a half hour and sketched his painting (unfinished) of the Chichester Canal. Thinking about art as pleasure and meditation was a good way to decompress after a busy week.

JMW Turner

I was ready to move on by mid afternoon and took the coach over to the Benjamin Franklin House at 36 Craven Street, near Trafalgar Square. The house is the only surviving dwelling that Franklin lived in. After considerable restoration, it opened to the public in 2006.

We’ve seen two fascinating terrace houses while in London—the Dennis Severs House and the Sir John Soane Museum. The Franklin House complements the other two. The house is unfurnished and is interpreted with an actor and a multimedia show projected on the original walls. It’s well worth experiencing. The approach merges Franklin’s words with images and sounds although it focuses on the years he was in London. There is time afterwards to study the building and ask questions.

Franklin House

The tour ended at 5:00 p.m. and I quickly walked up to St. Martin-in-the-Fields to catch the Evensong service. It was dedicated to Holocaust Memorial Day and merged the Choral Scholars of St. Martin-in-the-Fields with Koli Essa, a Jewish male vocal quintet who sang in Hebrew. The music was lovely, the message was understated but powerful, and the organ was affecting. I left refreshed.

By Ritchie Garrison, Director, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture

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