Monday 14 October 2019

Let's draw at the Natural History Museum - Saturday 14 December 2019

Join us in December to draw at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.  This spectacular Victorian building was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and has ornate terracotta facades inside and out.  A sculpture of Charles Darwin presides over the main hall, which now features a skeleton of the blue whale.  The collections include 80 million specimens including wildlife and geology in an extraordinary “cathedral of nature”.   In December the museum's front garden is transformed into a magical outdoor ice rink.

The day is free of charge, no need to book, just turn up with your art kit.

Safety: Please be mindful of the safety of yourself, other sketchers and passers-by.  Be careful about your possessions when you are sketching and in crowded places.

Key times and meeting points for the day

11am: Meet at the Exhibition Road entrance, outside if the weather is fine, inside if wet (allowing time for bag search)

1pm: Meet inside the Exhibition Road entrance to look at drawings done so far.  The meeting point is the area to the RIGHT of the door by the CLOAKROOM

3.30pm: Meet inside the Exhibition Road entrance to look at drawings done and take group photographs.

Note that we are meeting inside the Exhibition Road entrance, not the main entrance on Cromwell Road.  This is the less busy entrance, as there is often a long queue at the main entrance.  There is a bag search, so do not include sharp tools such as craft knives or scissors in your art kit.

Although we meet up at the less busy entrance in Exhibition Road, for sketchers the main entrance in Cromwell Road is a masterpiece of decoration and not to be missed.

About the Natural History Museum

The Museum was opened in 1881 as a department of the British Museum. It was to be built by Francis Fowke who designed the Royal Albert Hall, but he died shortly after receiving the commission, and the young architect Alfred Waterhouse took over.

He redesigned the building and based it on German Romanesque buildings. The result is a Victorian Romanesque extravaganza, with rounded arches and ornate columns. Light is introduced by the use of iron and glass. Waterhouse included sculptures, decorations, tiles and details that all relate to natural history. There are gargoyles on the outside, owls and other birds on the capitals, animals peeping out of foliage, and many other extraordinary details - apart from the exhibits. He used a French sculptor, Dujardin to realise his designs, which were then cast in terracotta by Gibbs and Canning, a sanitary-pipe factory in Staffordshire.

Some stunning extra details are the 162 hand-painted panels of botanical species on the ceiling of the main hall.

Options for drawing

In summary, the building itself is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture housing millions of exhibits.

In front of the building, the skating rink will be open for the very hardy sketchers and on the day of our visit The Penguin Skate Club will be giving lessons to 4 - 8 year olds.

Inside the museum, the collections are organised into four zones.  There is an easily downloadable map on the website. 

  • The Blue Zone with dinosaurs, mammals, fish and reptiles is likely to be the busiest area. 
  • The Green Zone includes the spectacular Hintze Hall displaying the Blue Whale skeleton, and also has birds and creepy crawlies. 
  • The Red Zone includes geological exhibits, and on the top floor an earthquake simulator!
  • The Orange Zone is mainly outside, including a Wildlife Garden and the Darwin Centre.

Practical information

The nearest underground station is South Kensington, on the District and Circle lines.  The Natural History Museum is at the junction of Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road, London SW7 5BD.  Note that we are meeting at the entrance on Exhibition Road, not the main entrance on Cromwell Road. 

The Natural History Museum is open from 10 am to 5.50 pm, and has free admission, apart from some special exhibitions.  Inside the Museum, there are restrictions on what art materials can be used, so bring dry materials such as pencils.  There are some portable stools available.  The Natural History Museum has a cloakroom, cafes, gift shops, and toilets.  The area between the underground station and the Museum has a range of shops and cafes. 

This day is run by Nicky Browne and Elizabeth Blunt.  The drawing of the Blue Whale in the Hintze Hall is by Kenneth Chin of USK Singapore, and the sketches of antelope and birds are by Elizabeth Blunt.