London has no shortage of fantastic art collections, but every now and then a blockbuster exhibition hits the capital that simply can’t be missed. ‘Rubens and His Legacy’ at the Royal Academy of Arts is one such show.
What to expect
Power, lust, elegance, poetry and violence; these are the five core themes of the eagerly-anticipated exhibition, which opened this Saturday and already has art-lovers drooling. The exhibition offers a chance to see stunning Rubens canvases and engravings juxtaposed with paintings by other artists, including Constable, Delacroix, Renoir, Gainsborough and van Dyck — showing how this famous Flemish painter influenced generations of artists well beyond the Baroque.
Described by the Telegraph as ‘physically gigantic, sensually overloaded’ and ‘operatic’, it promises to be an intense artistic experience.
The Royal Academy
The experience is heightened by its historic setting in 17th-century Burlington House. More than just a gallery, this is the home of the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), which was established in 1768 and is still led by the greatest artists and architects of the day. These Royal Academicians steer the work of the RA, overseeing exhibitions and Britain’s first art school. They also select the paintings exhibited in the annual Summer Exhibition, which has been open to all artists since 1769.
How to visit
The Royal Academy is a pleasant 20-minute walk away from Strand Palace Hotel. It can also be reached by an easy journey on the number 9 bus.
The exhibition runs until 10 April and is open daily from 10am to 6pm, with opening hours extended on Fridays and Saturdays until 10pm. Last admission to the galleries is half an hour before closing time. Tickets come with a specified entry time and as this show is bound to be a popular one, it’s best to book in advance. They are available online and cost £15/£14 (over 60s)/£10 (person with disability; includes entrance for supporter).
While there, you can feast like Rubens’ models did at one of The Royal Academy’s range of eateries – whether the RA Grand Café by Peyton and Byrne, famous for its cakes, or the more formal 19th-century Keeper’s House (open noon to 11.30pm Monday to Saturday), or the Atelier Café (open 8.30am to 6pm daily).
The Royal Academy is accessible to disabled visitors, with wheelchairs available to hire, portable folding stools available for use in the galleries, and a programme of early morning private views for wheelchair users and visitors with mobility impairments. In addition, for blind or partially-sighted visitors, a trained volunteer can offer a one-to-one descriptive tour of the exhibition.
More Rubens in London
If the RA’s exhibition whets your appetite, then explore more of Rubens’ art near Strand Palace Hotel. The National Gallery (entry free, open 10am to 6pm daily, extended to 9pm on Fridays) has over 25 Rubens canvases in its collection, and the Banqueting House (£6 entry, open 10am to 5pm, daily) offers the chance to see Rubens’ painting in situ across its glorious ceiling.
Looking for hotels near the Royal Academy, the National Gallery or the Banqueting House? Strand Palace Hotel is perfectly placed not only for these, but also for many of the capital’s other top art venues, making it the perfect base for art lovers.
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