London in your lunch break: free National Gallery tour

imageAn hour-long guided tour of the National Gallery is about as culturally rich as a London lunch break can get – and it doesn’t cost a penny.

Take your lunch break at . . .

The National Gallery, on one of its wonderfully enlightening – and completely free – guided tours. Meet at the Sainsbury Wing (see below for times), where a guide will take you to three or four of the gallery’s most prized displays, giving a 15-minute cultural, technical and social backdrop to each.

Tours will vary depending on the guide and on how crowded the intended stops are. The only stipulation is that guides take visitors to well-known paintings.

On my tour (shared with about 30 others, mostly tourists from abroad), our erudite, engaging guide explained the background to the symbolism of a Jan van Eyck portrait; the enigmatic art and science behind Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks (one of the exhibits from the recent blockbusting exhibition, now returned to its usual hanging place); how Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus was typical of the artist’s bold, risqué, realistic approach; as well as touching upon the genius of Constable’s The Hay Wain and its influence on the Impressionists who followed. A more culturally rich lunch break is hard to imagine.

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