BENDIGO ART GALLERY
Australia has a thriving art scene, with galleries like the NGV, Heidi Museum of Modern Art; Art Gallery of NSW, MONA and the NGA exhibiting works by contemporary Australian artists and those from our past, as well as acclaimed international artists. We, Australians, love our art, but what we love even more is a good exhibition.
There’s something about going to an art exhibition that gets us, especially Melburnians, excited. Whether it is to share the knowledge of that one Frida Khalo painting you learnt about in that elective you took in your first year of uni, or simply that you might just enjoy doing something social with friends. But for just a few of us, it’s a chance to finally see artists’ works that have truly changed our lives.
This is exactly what happened when I stepped foot into the Bendigo Art Gallery’s latest exhibition, ‘Tudors to Windsors’ on Sunday afternoon.
The works are on loan from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London, and they explore five royal dynasties: the Tudors, Stuarts, Georgians, Victorians and Windsors. I couldn’t help myself, when I first entered and looked past the first few paintings, but to see the recreation of Holbein’s portrait of Henry VIII. The original was burnt down in a fire so this version has been painted from people’s accounts of what it looks like and from the painter’s own memory.
Yes, that painting of Henry VIII. It’s easy to see why it’s known as one of the most famous portraits in the world. Henry is posed boldly in regal attire, he demands attention and is physically imposing. There’s no way you can walk past him without taking a second glance.
To be standing in front of such a pivotal part of history is something I’ll never be able to forget. It wasn’t just me that was clearly intrigued by this family’s history though, many stood in front of the family trees in each room in absolute awe. The exhibition is formatted chronologically so that it’s easy for the audience to follow the lineage and royalty charts.
For all the faults of the royal family, of which there are many, they were all highly successful in presenting an image to be handed down for generations into the future. The public is still able to gaze upon them in admiration every day, which is a fact I think they all smile about in their graves. Unlike the stars of today, these were rulers in history, part of complex dynasties who controlled the future of Europe.
With the development of the Industrial Revolution during the reign of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, cameras became the new favourite medium to depict the royal family, with Victoria and Albert actively promoting the use of photography in their household. The exhibition highlights the fact that in this period their popularity was enhanced by their image as a ‘normal’ family. Painting the royal family’s portraits still occurred, but with far less ceremony and formality, instead, portraits were used as a way to humanise them, like Princess Diana’s portrait.
One missed opportunity was a chance to examine their role in society, and to view them within the context of the political movements and social change. Instead, the exhibition presents images of royalty without a critical analysis of the impact.
This minor quibble aside, I loved the exhibition and if it wasn’t in Bendigo I’d definitely be going back to see it again as it’s a reminder of my passion and love for art and art history. This exhibition is a rare opportunity to be seeing a slice of history in our backyard and is not something to be missed if given the chance to go!
Despite several visits to our nation’s capital, this was merely the second time I’d been to visit the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). My first time visiting was in 2018 for David Hockney while on a road trip with some mates. This time though, it was for something a little more exciting (sorry avid David Hockney fans), I was there for the Monet exhibition.
Now you must’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t heard about this exhibition because it’s one of the world’s most famous artists whose work has come to our far away corner of the world. It’s so, so rare to see so many iconic, superb paintings in one room not somewhere in Europe.
I was excited and amazed to hear that perhaps his most famous work, ‘Impression: Sunrise’ was going to be the main focus of the exhibit. As one of the most important, if not, the defining work of art from the Impressionism era, the title of the painting is its namesake, I knew this opportunity wasn’t going to come around again.
And it did not disappoint.
Walking into the first room there was a J.M.W. Turner painting, in fact, there wasn’t just one, there were several. My mind exploded right then and there at that moment. To be honest, I was more excited that I saw several works by the Romantic master Turner than I was by the Monet paintings as his pieces are some of my favourites.
As I stood in awe of what I was beholding, people just walked by not noticing or viewing what was in front of them. A! Turner! Painting! After careful consideration, I realised two things: people really just do come for the one main famous painting they see in the ads and secondly, not every artist’s work is to everyone’s taste. And that’s ok. Art is a very personal thing. It’s ok not to like everything, but as an Art History student, I struggle to comprehend that.
This is another fantastic display of how the Australian art scene is thriving with international exhibits for people unable to hop on over to Europe. Art shouldn’t be just for the lucky ones living or holidaying in Europe or America where the most famous pieces are on display. We’re extremely lucky that curators working in our galleries are able to get these works flown over for us to enjoy. So if you’re an art history nerd like myself, the exhibition is definitely worth the money to fly up and see. It’s not every day you get to see Monet and Turner’s paintings!
Photo: Impression, Sunrise By Claude Monet available HERE and used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.
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