On the day that I attended, so did a group of twelve or so others. There were young and old, local visitors and some German and Japanese tourists among us. We were pleasantly greeted by our volunteer guide and left on the hour for a tour that encompassed several sections of the gallery. Several sections, I say because the extensive gallery, which aims to give an example of every period of art, is too large to be see in such a short time.
We visited the works from Medieval Europe and continued through to the Dutch and Flemish paintings. All were impressed by the theatrical Baroque galleries and even more so by the Decorative Arts Corridor. Artists such as Rembrant, Rodin, Monet and Andy Warhol were included in our tour so even those not-too-familiar with art, could recognise a few names.
In fact, the wonderful thing about viewing the gallery with an experienced guide was that she was instantly able to cater for our varying knowledge and interests. We could ask questions and choose to stay at particular paintings or move on. Some of the tour was quite humorous as well because our guide was good at finding the right moments to insert a little joke here and there.
Throughout the tour we had around twenty-three paintings explained to us in detail. Our guide was informative and shared with us many little anecdotes, not only about the art itself but the time period in which it was created, the materials used and how the work was funded and acquired by the gallery. She explained all of the symbols used in the works and unlocked the meaning of various allegories.
Really, it was an hour of magical story-telling as we learned about the dramatic moments from history when saints were martyred, kings deposed and new lands conquered. Our guide had a penchant for fashion also and so pointed out to us the many fine examples of delicate silks, velvet, damask and lace in the paintings.
The tour felt fast as we were kept on a brisk pace. It gave a good, quick taste of each of the items but left most of us feeling as if we would want to revisit each one for a closer look or better yet, return to the gallery with some friends, and impress with our newly acquired knowledge.
Gallery tours at the National Gallery of Victoria - International are held;