Country mouse enjoys art for free

It may be controversial that our great national museums, unlike most regional museums, don’t charge for entry, but if you want to see a Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Gogh or Stubbs, you can, for nothing more than the price of the air that you breathe.

It’s extraordinary. You would pay handsomely to look round the Uffizi, the Louvre or the Prado. However, if you really want to fully appreciate these treasures and have a yearning to show off your knowledge to others, I would strongly recommend joining a tour put on by Art History UK (

My son Charlie and I were taken round the National Gallery by Rose Balston, the founder of the organisation, and in three brief hours, we were inspired to levels of wonder. Rose has the gift of allowing you to discover things in the paintings that you would never have noticed before. For example, we learnt of the golden thread that connected the portrait paintings of Titian, Van Dyck, Rembrandt and Velázquez.

It all made sense and, fired with enthusiasm, Charlie has begun a portrait of his great aunt, who was invited for lunch (wearing pearls) on Sunday to prepare for her first sitting.

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