Ahhh, Springtime (almost) and, as Lord Tennyson said, “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love”… well, in our case, an artist’s fancy excitedly turns to thoughts of museums. Overseas.

Travel abroad is once again on our radar and I couldn’t help but think of one of our favorite little known gems – The Wallace Collection in London. The first time we even heard of the Wallace Collection, we were focused on the big ones – The National Gallery, Tate Britain, The Victoria and Albert Museum. There is so. much. art. to see in London, it was hard to imagine carving out time to squeeze in another place – especially a “bitty little one.” It was described to us as “a lovely little museum, 2- 3 hours tops. See it on your way to The British Museum.”

So we went. It was the tiniest bit tricky to spot – the facade is unassuming (from a museum perspective) yet spectacular (from a private residence standpoint), tucked away on Manchester Square, between Hyde Park and Regent’s park.
Presented in the Hertford House, the collection was amassed over five generations – including four Marquesses of Hertford and ultimately Sir Richard Wallace – and was bequeathed to the nation by his widow Amélie. Hertford House was previously the primary London residence for each of them. The history that led to the creation of the collection is fascinating and well-worth a read.

We went in the main entry and… um… yeah. We knew that this was going to be a love affair from the beginning. A hall lined with marble busts that are a hair enthusiast’s dream flank an impressive staircase that dominates the space and grandly invites you to abandon yourself into a symphony of blues, greens, reds, golds and pinks that are the rooms and rooms packed with art.
The inspiration we found ten steps inside the door can be seen in our sculpture, “Ktisis: Muse of Creativity” (plus a bit of encouragement from works in the armory, which I’ll get to in a bit).
Works are displayed throughout the building much as they might have been at the time Sir Wallace walked those halls. Paintings from historical titans including Van Dyck, Vigée Le Brun, Rubens, Bonheur, Delaroche, Gainsborough, Canaletto, Velasquez and scads more mingle with Dutch and Flemish masters, sculpture, decorative arts, an impressive collection of Marie Antoinett’s belongings and an armory that probably ought to be mandatory viewing for anyone who depicts knights, sarasins, battles, weapons, warriors or skirmishes in their work. The trove of inspiration is astounding.

I love coming around a corner, seeing a painting I’ve only experienced in books and feeling an elated, “well there you are!” This collection offers many such experiences. Here are four of my favs. Getting to nose right up to these, see the brushwork, colors and detail without those annoying museum buzzy-things going off is extraordinary.

Coming around the corner to find this grand hall is a whole other intoxicating experience.
Tiny unexpected treasures quietly beckon you to gaze for hours.
Creatures peer intently from everywhere.

And the Armory. Oh, the armory. For someone who doesn’t even like weapons, I am enthralled by the embellishment and attention that was put into everything they made.

Okay, enough with the words. Enjoy this very tiny smattering of some of the joys you’ll find, with so many more to be discovered.

We had planned to swing by, check it out and move on. As you might imagine, we were there til closing and again the next day. We’ve not missed any opportunity to revisit this treasure. It’s a feast and well worth it to stop in the next time you’re in London. If you can’t quite schedule a visit  just now, the Wallace Collection website offers a selection of terrific images. You can use the search bar to look up any number of fascinating objects that can serve as both inspiration and reference.