The lions stand guard around Nelson’s Column in this Trafalgar Square painting. They would still be impressive sculptures without this association. Lying, sphinx like, atop a raised plinths. You have to look up at them, they command respect. At this angle, the lion seemingly stands guard over the National Portrait Gallery which appears like a toy in comparison. He stares forward, mouth open in that way cats do when their attention is drawn to potential prey. Not scary but not exactly friendly either. Below the crowds are milling, indistinct, not worthy of his attention but he stands guard anyhow. Or maybe that should be sitting guard?
Notice the colours, the iridescent blue blue squiggles, that picks out highlights on the lion’s mane. The mottled green and brown textures of the roof and the top of the plinth the brilliant red flag suspended between the Arches of the gallery. One tourist stands out wearing a blue green outfit in an otherwise anonymous sea of figures. Above the lion’s paws, the Deep Brown Shadows of the galleries portico contrast the sunlight columns. Trails of colour fly into the sky, like energy escaping. As if the ideas contained within the gallery could ever be contained within it’s limited walls! No matter how grand the building, it will always have limits. The power in ideas is when they are shared. Dreams must escape from within us, if we never allow them to, you wouldn’t be here looking at this Trafalgar Square painting.
So what is the lion guarding? To me, he’s guarding ideas, would you agree?
Curious to see more London Paintings?