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International Art | John McDonald

International Art

Georges Braque

October 12, 2013

“Painting is not an art where anything goes.” Georges Braque. In 1977 the Fraser government struck a lethal blow to Australia’s reputation as an art-collecting nation when it torpedoed the purchase of Georges Braque’s painting, Nu debout (1908) (AKA. Grand Nu). The National Gallery of Australia had a price – $1.5 million – and an … More


J.M.W. Turner: A Preview

February 2, 2013

“Soapsuds and whitewash,” they said. “Portraits of nothing and very like.” In the manner of the Biblical prophet, not without honour, but in his own country, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) spent his entire career being insulted and derided by British commentators. Although we think of him today as the greatest of all British artists, … More


Radiance: The Neo-Impressionists

January 19, 2013

Georges Seurat is a member of that small, unfortunate group of artists who were destined for greatness but died prematurely. When Seurat was carried off by malignant diphtheria in 1891, at the age of 31, modern art lost one of its most remarkable innovators. It is a loss that bears comparison to that of Masaccio, … More


Robert Hughes, 1938 – 2012

August 19, 2012

When Robert Hughes died last week, I spent much of the day on the telephone. Inevitably, the passing of this great, controversial figure was a media event of the first order. Among the mass of small comments I had to produce, the Sydney Morning Herald asked for a quick 500 words. The following day the … More


Napoleon: Revolution to Empire

August 18, 2012

Napoleon: Revolution to Empire, the latest in the National Gallery of Victoria’s popular series, ‘Melbourne Winter Masterpieces’, presents an exceptionally positive view of a problematic figure. Visitors with no prior knowledge of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) might be forgiven for thinking that he and his first wife, Josephine, were two nouveau riche social climbers who went … More


Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial 2012

August 4, 2012

When Japan was devastated by the Tohoku earthquake on 11 March last year, one of the casualties was a century-old farm house in the tiny community of Urada, in the mountains near Tokamachi City. Less than two years previously this building had been designated ‘Australia House’ at the 2009 Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial (ETT), serving … More


Portrait of Spain

July 28, 2012

Over the years one grows wary of the claims made for so-called ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions. Each new show is the biggest, the best, the first, the most important. It is, therefore, a pleasure to see an exhibition that lives up to its pre-publicity. None of the 100 works borrowed for Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the … More


Kamisaka Sekka & Hiroshige

July 21, 2012

Art in Japan has been through all the same upheavals as art in the west, but no other country has managed to retain so much of its own distinctive character. The defining characteristics include a respect for tradition that shines through even in a critical or satirical mode; a love of beauty and craftsmanship; and … More


18th Biennale of Sydney

July 14, 2012

One of the most striking images in the 18th Biennale of Sydney is that of Japanese artist Sachiko Abe, dressed in bridal white, sitting in a small brick building in Cockatoo Island, cutting paper. Visitors are asked to remain silent, so the only sound is the noise made by Abe’s scissors as she trims sheets … More


Portrait of Spain (a preview)

July 7, 2012

For a visitor to the Museo del Prado in Madrid one moment stays fixed in the memory: entering the central gallery to be confronted by Diego Velasquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas (1665). The most dramatic way of approaching the painting is to see it framed by a doorway from the other side of the room. There … More


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