The Fitzwilliam was the first Cambridge Institution we visited as prospective new temporary residents back on that cold Autumn day a little over a year ago.
Fresh off the plane from Munich, and anxiously awaiting the call to tell us whether we had been successful in our bid for our current rented home, we headed straight there to distract ourselves with a little bit of culture, aided by my ever capable Mama who was in charge of Small People herding. The smallest of our group was not altogether that appreciative of the art that day it seemed, but as Granny had wandered slightly off course with the three of them, it was quite easy to pretend we weren’t with them for a few minutes to quietly appreciate the scenery, and just breathe and forget all the changes ahead of us…
Galleries are always something we have made time for as a family, with a few of the big galleries of Copenhagen and Munich becoming firm family favourites. If you are visiting either of those places in the near future, you need to visit The Glyptotek in Copenhagen and Louisiana just up the road, and in Munich – The Moderna and Neues Pinakothek if art is your thing of course (there are countless others to choose from obviously, these were just particular favourites!)…
The Fitzwilliam opened in 1848 after the Lord Viscount Fitzwilliam bequeathed his private collection to the University of Cambridge. It’s not enormous, but takes pride in its Finest Small Museum of Europe tag, and is definitely worth putting on any “visit Cambridge” list as it’s not only a beautiful building, it’s home to more than one or two pieces you will most definitely recognise, on top of a stack of other priceless objects…
Very recently it played host to a Degas Exhibition, consisting of hundreds of his paintings and drawings, and of course the ever famous “Little Dancer”.
Long term readers of my blogs might remember when my Small Girl really was tiny, and would insist on taking all manner of art gubbins (usually in some odd handbag) to draw her favourite pieces, leaving me to look like some sort of horrendously pushy parent hanging around in the background…
As she was completely into ballet at the time, Degas’ Little Dancer, was a particular favourite, and she would lie on the floor of the Glyptotek drawing this elegant little figure for hours. There are several identical statues dotted about the world which is great, as thanks to her very first spectacular depiction of this particular piece of work, it’s become a very firm favourite of mine too.
As tends to be the case generally with visiting exhibits and pieces of art that are not owned by galleries themselves, it was strictly a no photo zone, so sadly I wasn’t able to take a picture to re acquaint the Small Girl with her old friend as she wasn’t able to join me that day (a few hours in a gallery on my own – a treat currently rarer than hen’s teeth!!)…
Of course such a popular exhibition meant that part of the museum was packed with everyone heading straight for that alone, but for those of us there for some peace it meant that the rest of the Museum was pretty much empty – bliss!
It’s not all paintings here by the way, there’s masses to inspect from the vast ceramic room tracing the history of just about every breakable object imaginable, to impressive Egyptian rooms, as well as collections of Armoury, Silverware, Prints, Manuscripts, Music, Textiles, and for those of a more gentile nature, a collection of fans from all over the world – plus plenty more besides.
Talking of breakable ceramics, those of you with excellent memories may remember a few years back that The Fitzwilliam made the news for all the wrong reasons, when a visiting gentleman managed to trip over his shoelace on the stairs, knocking three Qing Dynasty Vases (worth around £500,000) off a ledge and sending them crashing to their deaths below. I try to pay close attention to staircases, ledges and podiums and the like on account of my general clumsiness each visit.
Unlike the favourite galleries of our past homes this Gallery doesn’t have excessive dedicated children’s work spaces, but that doesn’t mean to say it isn’t child friendly, quite the opposite in fact. The Fitzwilliam runs masses of classes and workshops for all ages, from Family First Saturday’s on the first Saturday of each month, where there are free classes and activities of varying themes each month (February being Valentine’s is all about love – obviously!), to Baby Magic classes that feature art found in the gallery and music. It’s very push chair friendly too as my Mum can confirm, although back carriers in case things get knocked off, which given past events is completely understandable…
I really like the little cafe/restaurant here, all the food is fresh and homemade, and reasonably priced as Museum fayre goes. It’s not the biggest space in the world however and can get a bit crowded. If you find yourself without a table, don’t despair, head over the road to Fitzbillies (named in honour of the Museum if you hadn’t worked that one out – it took me a while!!) for a very decent cuppa and one of their very famous Chelsea Buns… A few hours in the gallery followed by one of those? A perfect morning right there!
Entrance to the Fitzwilliam Museum is free, but a donation is suggested, and is definitely well deserved.
Kaz | Ickle Pickles Life and Travels says
This sounds such a great place to visit. That fall though – I can’t imagine! Kaz
I definitely can’t imagine! Mortifying!! :D Thanks Kaz! :)
Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays says
We drive past Cambridge on the way to and from my parents house and always intend to stop. You’ve convinced me we definitely should. Or maybe a daytrip by train….. what a fabulous place. Thank you for linking up tom#CulturedKids
Thanks Catherine. I know you would love this place! :)
Su Chanprasong says
What amazing architecture – I really must take my kids to see this. The ceilings are beautiful.
Thank you Su! It’s a beautiful place! (:
Helen Wills says
Oh my goodness that poor man must have felt SO terrible! How embarrassing for him. And I can’t believe you’re in a bidding war for your own home. All that stress aside though, this sounds like a fascinating place to visit. A day in a museum/gallery has such a calming effect on me.
Thanks Helen. No bidding war here, just indecisiveness on our part about which house if any to make an offer on. I need a crystal ball! :D xx
Zena's Suitcase says
What a beautiful place. We often go to galleries too, and the girls really enjoy it. I love that your daughter likes to draw her favourite pieces. I must encourage mine to have a go
Thanks Zena! Keeps her quiet, at least it used to. Been a couple of years since she’s done this now!
Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) says
Oh dear – that poor man who tripped! But good old Mama, eh, for taking the smalls off so that you could get in some art appreciation. I love Degas (your daughter’s interpretation’s pretty fab, too).
Thanks Nell. I need to post the pic of her Granny she drew, it’s amazing! :D :D xx
Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) says
I’d love to see it. Great to revisit this post – and now your Chelsea Bun picture has made me hungry! Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids
Thanks Nell. They are goooood chelsea buns! :D x
Lisa (Travel Loving Family) says
Oh dear that was quite an expensive fall! £500,000 wowsers! I’m sure they keep the exhibits far away from the staircases now!
Can you imagine? What a nightmare having to explain that one! :D
What a gorgeous place for a wander. I love the idea of the activities and classes too. I always love to find great places to visit that don’t cost the earth too. My eldest would love it.
Thanks so much. Yes, it’s definitely a great day out for all the family, plus the cakes and great shop work as great blackmail here! :D x
Mudpie Fridays says
How have I been totally unaware of this place? It looks amazing and the perfect escape. I love the picture your daughter drew, very Picassoesque, obviously a talent in the making. I am going to add this to our to do list xx
Thanks so much. I will have to find the drawing she did of my Mum once, it was both hilarious, and excellent at the same time! :) xx
Claire at Tin Box Traveller says
What a wonderful free museum. I’d be a bag of nerves after hearing the story about the vases. I’m really clumsy!!
Me too Claire, me too! :D Thank you! x
Sinead (Shinners & the Brood) says
Looks like there’s something for everyone. Her drawing is super! Such a gorgeous building too.
Thanks Sinead, it really is a gorgeous building too! :)
Cathy (Mummytravels) says
I thought I remembered reading about the disastrous accident here – but what a treasure trove it still is. Love the Degas inspired drawing too.
Can you imagine smashing something like that??? :D Thanks Cathy! (:
michelle twin mum says
Oh the Fitzwilliam looks great, the architecture is amazing. I do love your posts where you take us on a tour of somewhere. Isn’t your little girl divine, sitting on the floor drawing. Mich x
Thanks so much Michelle. You always leave such lovely comments. x
I love the interpretation! I agree very surreal but beautiful. I do love a good gallery and when we head to London I always make Tate Modern my first port of call. This looks like a stunning museum and the cake…..YUMMY!
Thanks Emma. I have yet to take my children to Tate Modern, it’s on our list for half term! Can’t wait! Thank you. :)
It’s so long since I visited the Fitzwilliam museum – I’ll definitely go again when I’m next in Cambridge.
You’ve solved a mystery for me. When I was visiting the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich in November, I realised I hadn’t spotted Degas’ Little Dancer sculpture. I was cross with myself and wondered how I’d missed it. Now I discover it’s been on loan to the Fitzwilliam! I’m not going mad, after all x
Aha, and now you’ve solved a mystery for me. It was so busy in the exhibition that I didn’t hang around for too long, and I wondered afterwards which museum this Little Dancer had come from! :D Thank you x
This sounds like a lovely place to spend a morning – I love a wander around a gallery. Although I have to admit I’ve not been brave enough to take my son yet – I’m not sure he has the right personality for a museum space! I love your little girl’s interpretation of the Degas, she definitely has a talent!
Thanks Katy. She will be 13 in February. I have no idea where the years have gone. She’s a bit more refined in her drawing skills nowadays! :D
Laura - Dear Bear and Beany says
Cambridge is somewhere I’ve never been and is top of the list of somewhere I would love to explore this year. This looks like a great place to visit, I’ll book mark it!
Thanks Laura! It’s a nice place to visit for a weekend! :)
My goodness that visit seems so long ago now – I remember the restaurant was good! How I laughed at the drawing of the little dancer! I also did not realise that was the museum where the man tripped on the stairs. Time for another visit I think. x
Definitely not as good as the drawing of you though Mum. That’s my absolute favourite… :D xx
Eat Explore Etc says
This building is beautiful! (Never mind the things inside). I’m going to need a new way of tracking my “must visit” locations. (Map on the wall and lots of post it notes maybe?) :)
That’s a great idea! Hope all is not too stressful with the impending move… :)
Great to read this. We live half way between London and Cambridge and I think I should make more use of the latter.
Thanks Annabel! :)