How can a museum mislay ‘Monarch of the Glen’? The top of my list of must-see things for my recent trip to Britain was to get up close and personal to Edwin Landseer’s masterpiece ‘Monarch of the Glen’ (Landseer, 1851).
Since I was a young man I had dreamt of seeing this painting in full, glorious colour and from several feet away. But alas, for all of my life it was privately owned by Dewars, a Scotch whiskey distillery, thus unless you were the Chairman of the Board, it was unseeable by us mere mortals. So when I heard it was now in the hands of the National Gallery in Edinburgh, our entire trip to Britain and Europe was planned around seeing it.
Tracking down ‘Monarch of the Glen’ from Australia was easy. Even with my basic online skills I discovered it was part of a travelling exhibition for the period of our trip. Damn, and I had hoped to stroll into the National Museum in Edinburgh and stare open mouthed in wonder….now I had to drive around Scotland instead!
To celebrate its public purchase, The Monarch was doing the rounds of Scotland to let the locals see their most iconic painting. Super – easily done - and off to Scotland we drove for the opening of its public exhibition. But alas, the painting was nowhere to be found. Several different dates were given for its exhibition, and even the National Gallery, when contacted, gave me the same (obviously wrong) dates and places. They seemed as confused as us... something about ‘delays in the exhibition space being refurbished’, ‘oh - sorry the website needs updating’, and so on. It appeared to be lost, in a box, somewhere in the wilds of Scotland. So, despite flying halfway around the world to pay homage to Landseer’s masterpiece, it will have to keep until my next trip to Pommie-land. My Landseer obsession remains largely unfulfilled.
On a happier note I did see a Landseer at Chatsworth, (note: Nicky has a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ obsession going on – it’s a girl thing, nothing to do with me). Hanging high in the ticketing area of the House was a Landseer. It was the most memorable part of my day at Chatsworth. And on a less high-browed note, I found another hanging in a back corridor of Westminster Palace when looking for the toilets! We animal painters are an under-appreciated lot!