I stopped at Africa House (built 1921) on Kingsway to look up at the sculpture that adorns it. Just the teensiest bit problematic? Those disembodied heads on the capitals look like something out of Heart of Darkness, and martial Britannia lords it over everyone. However, the British empire’s descent from imperial dominance is clear from the businesses that now occupy the ground floor: Wetherspoons and Ladbrokes.
I was on my way to the Courtauld Gallery to look at the paintings I had missed on my previous visit. I noticed the oil sketch by Rubens for the Antwerp Cathedral altarpiece and almost preferred it to the finished product which I saw last November. That was almost too overpowering. There were also some oil sketches for what I assume was the Charles Borromeus Jesuit church in Antwerp; their big brothers were destroyed by fire in the 18th century. I’m no nearer to liking Rubens, but I had to admit that he was a genius of the dramatic.
One other thing I enjoyed was the view from the door from one gallery to another. I could see Monet’s view of Argenteuil – all impressionistic brush strokes – and at the same time a portrait by Gainsborough in the Enlightenment room. One very painterly and the other linear – except that when I looked closely at the background trees in Gainsborough’s painting you could see the brush strokes. So much for labels.
On my way out I passed the closed Aldwych tube station, which I think I may once have used before it shut in 1994. It certainly featured in Rogue Male.