Tag Archives: National Army Museum

‘Saved for the nation’: General Wolfe will stay in London

In the palest possible reflection of the fact that it must have taken weeks, at the very least, for news of General Wolfe’s great victory to make its way from the Plains of Abraham all the way back to the grimy magnificence of mid-Georgian London — the stuff of hand-written despatches and soldierly rumour only tardily transformed into those shared-about dog-eared broadsheets, speeches in Parliament, toasts, songs, tableaux, ‘history’ and whatever else Benjamin West might make of it all thereafter — so have I only now discovered, having once again been dragged along by an intelligent three-year old to the National Army Museum, that Schaak’s portrait of General Wolfe, about which I wrote here, has now officially been Saved For the Nation.

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Not crying Wolfe: that rare thing, art that should be saved for the nation

General Wolfe

Most of us retain, shelved away somewhere in our innermost being, a lexicon of clichéd phrases absolutely guaranteed, no matter why or in what context they are uttered, to produce instant, categorical, irreversible disagreement. Mine probably opens automatically at the phrase ‘a work of art that must be saved for the nation’ — and if it doesn’t, that’s only because the relevant pages are gummed together with spent vitriol. Yet one of maturity’s sparse but genuine pleasures is, surely, the act of giving in to a line of argument against which one has struggled for decades — of contemplating the sort of scheme one’s consistently opposed, in public and in private, for as long as one can remember, before responding, mildly, after a bit of thought, ‘well, yes, that sounds like a pretty good idea — why ever not?’

All this occurred to me last week, as I was passing the morning at the National Army Museum. The National Army Museum is one of London’s last uncompromised bastions of curatorial focus and sanity. Dignified, scholarly, welcoming but distinctly unflashy … Continue reading

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