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European Masterpieces - QLD Gallery of Modern Art

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by Marina Marangos (subscribe)
http://www.mezzemoments.blogspot.com
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500 years of art before your very eyes.

It's been four years in the planning - even the director of the gallery, Chris Staines, did not have much faith in it actually happening but to his evident joy and unbridled enthusiasm, it has all come together and this weekend marks the opening of the exhibition of European Masterpieces which will be on at the Gallery until the 17th of October 2021.

So you don't have to go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York to enjoy a Monet "Water Lilly" or a Fra Angelico. They are literally in your backyard and what a coup for the gallery and a sheer joy for all of us.

Of course, the gallery has once again not spared any time or expense to make this the most stunning exhibition for all of us, including building edifices, albeit temporary, to give us the magnificence of the Met, recreate Venetian palazzos and hang the paintings in the best light and against the colours which enhance the presence and importance of the painting.

The 65 works have been divided into three chapters:

Devotion and the Renaissance - with a number of works that were shaped by commissions of the church. This was a time when art was tied up inextricably to the Church, the cloisters and the devotional art of the day. The Renaissance constituting a time of rebirth when the artists drew from the humanities and the lessons of Greece and Rome.

Absolutism and Enlightenment - an exploding time in art embracing everything from Baroque and Neo-Classicism.

Revolution and the Art of the People - when we arrive at the modern era and find that painters are no longer constrained by the religion or church commissions and there is newfound interest in artists exploring areas which to date had been unchartered territory.

Each chapter is beautifully curated and explained. There is so much supplementary information on how the works can be enjoyed whether with insights into the lives of the painters or thematic texts on their creations. The studio is a specially created space within the exhibition that houses more interactive experiences as well as daily music. This is a rich sensory experience not to be missed.

The entrance with its diminishing perspective drawing you in
The entrance with its diminishing perspective drawing you in


Just to be able to see Gerard Davids "The Rest on the Flight into Egypt", dating from 1512 to 1515 with the Madonna and Child, is a warm and personal account of a mother and child with the little touch of colour of red coming from under her rich blue gown.

The Rest on the flight into Egypt
The Rest on the flight into Egypt


One of the earliest creations is Carlo Crivelli's "Madonna and Child" a beautifully detailed portrayal of the Madonna and Child complete with fruits on either side - on the left you will see what looks like a cucumber - apparently a bit of a trademark of this artist and then below his signature. Nearby an oversized fly. This was created in 1457 and all the paintings at this time were created with egg tempura, which was unforgiving and quick to dry and on wood.

Madonna and Child
Madonna and Child


Even earlier than this is Fra Angelicos' "The Crucifixion" dating to 1420- 23 depicting Christ on the cross. This is the earliest work in the exhibition and he was a master of perspective, some of which can be seen in this work.

The Crucifixion
The Crucifixion


Perhaps one of my favourites is the "Portrait of a Young Man". This was one of the first paintings done with oil paints and the detail on it is so fine as the shading, including his five o clock shadow, can be so much more specific. The wrinkles on his fingers, the look on his face, a man troubled in his mind. The painter of this fine work, Hugo Van der Goes was also troubled and perhaps this is why his portrait, even after 550 years, has an impact on us today.

The Portrait
The Portrait


The exhibition has an El Greco and it is not often we are treated to the works of such a master.

The Adoration of the Shepherds from 1605
The Adoration of the Shepherds from 1605


From the era of Absolutism and Enlightenment, we have a number of significant works. We enter this part of art history through a chequered and mirrored entrance. A time of theatricality and of creativity.

The Entrance
The Entrance


In this era of the emerging enlightenment, we enter a period of humanism when people take centre stage, none better depicted than "The Musicians by Caravaggio", a stunning painting of young men and Cupid where the Cornetto player seems to be modelled on Caravaggio himself. Caravaggio enjoyed taking sitters for his painting from everyday life, something that had not been done till then.

The Musicians
The Musicians


Similarly the exquisite "The Fortune Teller" by Georges de la Tour of 1630. With the wonderful expressions on each of the faces in the painting. The scowl of the Fortune teller, the slight suspicion of the young man, the quiet conspiratorial look on the others depicted who were fleecing the young man of his possessions.

The Fortune Teller
The Fortune Teller


Jacob van Ruisdael was considered to be one of Holland's greatest landscape painters and he did "Grainfields" in the 1660s, showing that permanent and lasting connection that humans have to nature.

Grainfields
Grainfields

In this section, we come across Titian's "Venus and Adonis" depicting the two lovers before they are separated for ever.

Venus and Adonis
Venus and Adonis


A charming Madonna and Child in this section shines through with the child turning to us its audience.

Madonna and Child
Madonna and Child


In this part of the exhibition are paintings but two women artists. Only two here but they are remarkable for how real and authentic they are of their representations. Elizabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun painted the Comtesse de Chartre. Here she is.

Comtesse de Chartre
Comtesse de Chartre


We enter the studio section which encourages us to listen to music, draw our own still life or submit our drawing.

The Studio
The Studio


The daily Musical interludes
The daily Musical interludes


Finally, the section called Art and the Revolution where we see art evolving in its themes and being much freer in form and content taking up through to the marvel of some of the world's best-loved Impressionist painters.

Coming into this section a Turner is looking straight back at us. His characteristic ability to recreate images of Venice and the Grand Canal, the water and the gondolas.

The Turner
The Turner


The delicate Dancers of Degas taken backstage. Just behind with the creepy image of the man prying on them - things haven't changed much, have they. Can you see him in the dark outline on the right of the painting?

The Dancers
The Dancers


The sublime Renoir - from 1889. "A Young Girl with Daisies". A neighbour, a lover who knows but so delicate and delicious.

A young girl with daisies
A young girl with daisies


There is a Van Gogh as well - a painting done right at the start of his painting career. You can see how he loved nature.

The Orchard
The Orchard


Finally, but by no means least, Cezanne and still life and Monet and water lilies - the first telling us in 1891 that with an apple he wanted to astonish Paris and astonish them he did - his ability to explore dimensions and volume are unparalleled and then one of the many paintings of Monet of his beautiful water lilies in Giverney. Colours and in-depth drawing us into the moment.

The Cezanne
The Cezanne

Water Lilies by Monet
Water Lilies by Monet


This exhibition has so much to offer on so many levels. It is hard to summarise its significance. It is extraordinary how much the gallery has invested in helping us to get acquainted with our subject matter. There are films, volunteer tours, interactive screens, apps on your phone and a host of workshops and events taking place on a daily basis. Be prepared to spend the best part of a day. There is also beautiful merchandise from the Met itself.

The gallery has characterised it as "The Australian-exclusive 'European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York', a remarkable journey through five centuries of European painting from exquisite devotional scenes of the early Renaissance to fleeting glimpses of nature captured by the Impressionists."

Do not miss this beautifully curated informed and fascinating insight into art spanning five centuries before our very eyes.
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Why? A once in a lifetime exhibition
When: 12th June to 17th October 2021
Phone: 07 3840 7303
Where: Gallery of Modern Art, Stanley Place, South Brisbane Queensland 4101, Australia
Cost: as per website - paying exhibition.
Your Comment
Thanks for the great outline of this exhibition. I’m hoping to go next week when my sister is here.
by fran (score: 1|35) 42 days ago
Very nice article Marina about real art. It is a rare opportunity to see the work of past masters.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|2826) 41 days ago
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