National Gallery of Victoria

The Prado and the World

May 24, 2014

In 1982 I paid my first visit to the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Spain was still in the process of awakening from the Franco era, which ended with the dictator’s death in 1975, and its museums were poor and neglected. The Prado was a cold, austere place with a stupendous collection. In a single … More


Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion

February 1, 2014

When Edward Steichen (1879-1973) accepted the job as Chief Photographer for Condé Nast publications in 1923 it was taken for granted he would work under a pseudonym. Already known as both a famous art photographer and a painter, his employer realised Steichen would probably not wish to be associated with the purely commercial work he … More


Melbourne Now

January 11, 2014

In Melbourne Now the National Gallery of Victoria has staged a sprawling, colossally ambitious survey of the city’s contemporary art that also includes architecture, design, dance, performance and more. Although the logistical achievement is impressive, the exhibition is an act of metropolitan navel-gazing on a scale inconceivable in any other Australian capital. The catalogue is … More


Balthus: Cats and Girls

November 16, 2013

“Balthus is a painter of whom nothing is known. Now let us look at the pictures.” This was the formula proposed by this reclusive artist for the catalogue of his 1968 retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London. Whereas most artists are eager to have their lives and deeds discussed at length, Balthus (1908-2001) was a … More


Monet’s Garden

May 18, 2013

Approaching the National Gallery of Victoria for Monet’s Garden, I expected to find the moat festooned in water lilies, and enter through an archway covered in climbing roses. The reality was slightly different: the same old bluestone façade, with red and blue Mazdas parked by the doors. After so many years of sponsorship, I’m conditioned … More


Monet preview

May 4, 2013

Paul Cézanne paid Claude Monet one of the most famous backhanded compliments in the history of art when he wrote: “Monet is just an eye, but good God, what an eye!”  (“Monet n’est qu’un oeil, mais bon Dieu, quel oeil!”) In his later years that eye failed the great Impressionist at a time when he … 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


Vienna: Art & Design

August 31, 2011

In that period known as the Belle Époque, from the end of the nineteenth century to the outbreak of the First World War, Europe went through a prodigious burst of creativity. Modernity had arrived in full force, and no centre, with the obvious exception of Paris, was more dynamic than Vienna. Both cities were melting … More


Eugene von Guérard

July 23, 2011

In the entire history of Australian art, no painter has ever been through greater extremes of adulation and neglect than Eugene von Guérard (1811-1901). In the 1860s he was recognised as the finest landscapist in the colony, but by the 1870s his reputation was in decline. In the following century he was all but forgotten. … More


Gustave Moreau

January 15, 2011

In Hollywood’s version of the past the critics were always hostile and blinkered, while the misunderstood genius struggled for a recognition that it is now given freely. We’d like to believe that a great artist is always ahead of his or her time, making work for future generations, but this romantic idea rarely survives close … More