Yesterday I found out where retired people in Edinburgh go.  I would be good at being retired.

I went to a talk at the National Gallery entitled ‘In Search of a Masterpiece’ by Christopher Lloyd.  I wasn’t quite sure what the talk was about before I turned up.  Its synopsis saying that it was about art from the fourteenth century onwards didn’t really narrow things down.

It turns out that Christopher Lloyd used to be the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures (I probably should have known that) and In Search of a Masterpiece is the title of his new book.  In it, he goes round Great Britain and Ireland finding a load of marvellous pieces that are on public display.

The talk stood out for a couple of reasons.  The first was that it was delivered, as far as I could tell, from a fully written script: and yet, it was actually really good.  I usually groan when I find a speaker reading something pre-prepared, but this was like the very best sort of sermon, thoughtful and well-structured.

Another was that it made me think about how the galleries originated – I’m really looking forward to reading more about this in the book (once it comes into the library – I’m not going to give you my I-don’t-buy-hardbacks diatribe although in a book with this many colour pages it would probably be the best way to buy it.)  A combination of enlightened local authorities, local benefactors, the learned societies and what used to be private houses has given us a truly wonderful selection of galleries in this country.   The tagline of this talk was “you’re never more than a few miles from a masterpiece”.

The final treat was a run down of Christopher Lloyd’s personal top 20 pictures.  While they were a little on the traditional side for me, I was fascinated by the small details he drew out and his obvious love of the artworks.

Next week: Martin Barnes talking about Hiroshi Sugimoto, who has an extraordinary exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art at the moment.  I’ll be there!

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