National Gallery of Victoria

Van Gogh and the Seasons

May 13, 2017

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

“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

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

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

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

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

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


A Golden Age of China

May 30, 2015

Imagine a painting titled: Tony Abbott admiring lotus while playing a zither, and you have glimpsed the cultural chasm that separates our world from that of the Qianlong Emperor. While the rulers of the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911) were careful to surround themselves with symbols of conquest and martial prowess, they were equally assiduous in … More


Jean Paul Gaultier

January 24, 2015

There are fashion designers such as the enigmatic Martin Margiela who refuse to be photographed or to give interviews. Then there is Jean Paul Gaultier, the only designer to have hosted a weekly TV program, presented the MTV Europe Music Awards, and recorded a house music hit song called ‘Aow Tou Dou Zat’. Like Andy … More


Robert Jacks

November 8, 2014

It’s hard to be objective about Robert Jacks who passed away in August at the untimely age of 71. Jacks once told me he couldn’t say whether his paintings were any good or not, but he always knew how to put together a good exhibition. It’s pleasing that the National Gallery of Victoria have done … More