National Gallery of Victoria

Hokusai

September 1, 2017
You may have seen this one before somewhere...

If ever an image deserved to be called “iconic” it is The great wave off Kanagawa (1830-34), by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Everyone knows this famous print of two boats menaced by a monstrous surge of water that reaches out like a hungry predator with a hundred talons. This was exactly the way the picture struck … More


William Eggleston: Portraits

June 1, 2017
Untitled 1969-70 (the artist's uncle, Adyn Schuyler Senior, with assistant and driver, Jasper Staples, in Cassidy Bayou, Sumner, Mississippi)

In By the Ways, an off-beat documentary about William Eggleston, there is a sequence in which the photographer answers questions from an unseen German interviewer. Straining after profundity the interviewer asks: “Do you understand your work as an expression of your existence?” There’s an agonising pause, then a response in Eggleston’s southern drawl: “Probably.” Eggleston … More


Bill Henson

May 25, 2017
Bill Henson, Untitled

Walter Pater famously opined that all art aspires to the condition of music, but Bill Henson is an artist who views the boundaries between art, music and literature as completely porous. In his case one might go further and blur the lines between painting, sculpture and photography. No photographer is more skilled at creating images … More


Van Gogh and the Seasons

May 13, 2017
Vincent Van Gogh, A wheatfield with cypresses (1889)

When Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in a field near Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890 he was on the verge of a successful career. The tide had turned against Impressionism, which was felt to be too dry and rational in its methods. Up-and-coming critics such as Albert Aurier were championing the role of the imagination, and saw … More


David Hockney

August 4, 2016
David Hockney
English 1937–
Barry Humphries, 26-28 March 2015
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
121.9 x 91.4 cm (each)
Selection of approximately 80 portraits, subject selection to be confirmed
Hockney Pictures
© David Hockney

“Los Angeles is an acquired taste,” says David Hockney, although he admits he fell for the city on his very first visit in 1964. After growing up in Yorkshire, Hockney was excited by the “eroticism” of L.A. It was like nothing he’d seen or imagined. To a young, gay artist from Britain’s gloomy north it … More


Degas

July 28, 2016
Edgar Degas
Group of dancers (red skirts) (Groupe de danseuses (Jupes rouges)) 1895–1900
pastel
77.0 x 58.0 cm
Lent by Glasgow Life (Glasgow Museums) on behalf of Glasgow City Council: from the Burrell Collection with the approval of the Burrell Trustees (35.243) © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Degas had a dread of publicity and an intense dislike of journalists. “Those people trap you in your bed,” he grumbled, “strip off your shirt, corner you in the street, and when you complain, they say: ‘You belong to the public.’” Almost a hundred years after his death, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834-1917) has become public property … More


Whistler’s Mother

June 3, 2016
James McNeill Whistler
American 1834–1903
Arrangement in grey and black no. 1: Portrait of the artist’s mother 1871 oil on canvas, 144.3 x 162.5 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 699) Photo : © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Jean Schormans

In the recent Head On photo festival, one memorable picture showed a side-on view of a dominatrix in a shiny black jump suit sitting in a curved chair. On the grey wall behind the sitter was a framed photo of a muscle-man’s torso covered in leather straps. It was Whistler’s Mother for bondage fiends and … More


Jan Senbergs

May 12, 2016
Jan SENBERGS, Altered Parliament House 1, 1976, 
synthetic polymer paint and oil screenprint on canvas
182.5 x 243.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Presented by Mrs Adrian Gibson as the winner of the 1976 Sir William Angliss Memorial Art Prize, 1977
A25-1977 © Jan Senbergs/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

There is one painting in Jan Senbergs: Observation – Imagination at the National Gallery of Victoria that should strike a chord with every true artist. The Swimmer (1995) shows a small figure battling his way through dark, choppy waves, with no shoreline in sight. It conjures up those moments in the studio when inspiration disappears, … More


Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei

January 7, 2016
Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei Exhibition @NGV

There are ideas for exhibitions that make luminous sense – once somebody has announced them. Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei at the National Gallery of Victoria set off bells and whistles in my head when curator, Max Delaney, told me about it last year. It’s such an obvious match it seems remarkable someone in Europe … More


Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great

August 15, 2015
Alexander ROSLIN Swedish 1718–93 Portrait of Catherine II 1776–77 (detail) oil on canvas 271.0 х 189.5 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-1316) Acquired from the artist, 1777

Following the death of Prince Grigory Potemkin in 1791, Catherine the Great wrote her own epitaph. Potemkin had not only been Catherine’s most trusted advisor, statesman and general, but the undisputed love of her life. Feeling her own mortality, she set down how she would like to be remembered. Catherine, by her own estimation, had … More