FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Cathedral to Nature

Posted in England, London by folkestonejack on December 14, 2019

It’s not often that you can say that you made a visit to a museum for an installation, expecting to be wowed by the display, but instead find yourself utterly wowed by the museum building instead. The building in question? The Natural History Museum in South Kensington, which was constructed from 1873 to 1880.

Fishy exterior decoration at the Natural History Museum

I must have been on outings to the Natural History Museum on dozens of occasions over the years – with my primary school, family and cub scouts. Somehow I have always failed to miss the obvious – the stunning decoration of the building influenced by the animal and plant kingdoms. Admittedly, the dinosaurs were a big distraction as a child but I’ve been to exhibitions as an adult more recently and still failed to notice.

The building was styled in a fusion of Gothic Revival and Romanesque by the architect Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905). It is stunning in its own right, but the exterior and interior decorations inspired by the natural world are simply astonishing. You have monkeys climbing the arches, columns inspired by fossilised tree trunks, pterodactyl gargoyles, fossilised fish wall tiles, birds aplenty and creatures peeking out from unexpected nooks in the intricate decoration. As if this wasn’t enough, Waterhouse created a beautiful ceiling featuring 162 hand-painted and gilded panels of plants.

Museum of the Moon

The display I had come to see was quite splendid too – the Museum of the Moon. The simplicity and beauty of Luke Jerram’s detailed seven-metre model of the moon is quite something. Here it is presented hanging in the darkness of the Jerwood Gallery accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack. It’s on until 5th January 2020 at the Natural History Museum, but can also be found touring in other locations too.

Gallery

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