Posted by: Bob Fisher | May 9, 2009

Sir John Soane: The Art and Mind of an Art Collector

To listen to my chat with Will Palin, Assistant Curator of Sir John Soane’s Museum, click on the link below:

Many thanks Will!

Fine idiosyncrasies

Sir John Soane was one of Britain’s most famous architects; he was also an art lover and collector who created one of the most eclectic and personal museums in the world.

Located in central London, a short stroll from many other London treasures such as Covent Garden, the British Museum, and the West End, Sir John Soane’s museum is in a class of its own. It is a private home that Soane himself designed and built, and it is a small, intimate museum in which you get very up close and personal with the brilliant — and generous — mind inherent in it.

I say “generous” because Soane was a visionary not only in the sense that he knew that art for art’s sake has a very enriching effect on the general public, as indeed his other public art form of architecture demonstrates, but also because he committed himself to sharing a world of art in a relatively very small space — his home.

Soane also was and continues to be a highly intriguing individual. He was a man for whom life was not all that easy in many ways. From rather humble roots, he rose to prominence in English society and became a role model for giving access to great works of art. In his museum you will find many astonishing treasures. You will also be given a lesson in human behaviour; and the nature of the art collector’s passion.

I consider Sir John Soane a “travel journalist” in that it was through his travels, starting of course with the obligatory “grand tour” of Europe, that he collected art, ideas, and a unique sense of human society. And this was during the Romatic Period of such luminaries as Byron, Shelley, and other “voices in the wilderness.” The narrative Soane compiled in his travels eventually came to be told in his museum.

It is also important to note that Sir John bequeathed his museum to the nation. He knew the importance of the enduring legacy that the treasures he collected would impart to generations that followed in his footsteps.

William (Will) Palin is the Assistant Curator of Sir John Soane’s Museum. He is also, in his own right, a talented communicator of the unique and edifying story of Sir John Soane. He is also the son of Michael Palin.

To pay a first virtual visit to the museum, click here.

Photograph courtesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum

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