painting

Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy

April 5, 2014
"A souvenir of Velazquez 1868" (detail) by Sir John Millais.

If there is one issue that divides the art of the past from the art of today it is how we assess quality. A primary motivation for the founding of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 was to establish standards of excellence by which artworks may be judged. The members of the R.A. formed … More


Georges Braque

October 12, 2013
Georges Braque, À tire d’aile, 1956–61

“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


Windows to the Sacred

September 14, 2013
Aleister Crowley, The Hierophant (study for Tarot), 1921

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law,” was the personal motto of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) once known to the headline writers as “the Great Beast” and “The Wickedest Man Alive.” It was a philosophy that would endear him to the counter-culture of the sixties and make him a hero for rock … More


Sydney Moderns

July 20, 2013
Herbert Badham, 'George Street, Sydney', 1934

When an artist calls a work A Painted Picture of the Universe it means he’s thinking big. It’s rather a grand title for a small abstraction, even if it did take Roy De Maistre 14 years to complete this cosmological fantasy. De Maistre (1894-1968) is one of the central figures in Sydney Moderns: Art for … More


Monet’s Garden

May 18, 2013
Claude Monet, 1840–1926 Waterlilies, evening effect (Nymphéas, effet du soir) (1897, oil on canvas, 73.0 x 100.0 cm

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
Claude Monet, Waterlilies (Nymphéas), 1916–19, oil on canvas,150.0 x 197.0 cm

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


South of no North

April 6, 2013
Laurence Aberhart, Vicksburg, Mississippi,

South of no North may seem an enigmatic title for an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, but a moment’s reflection provides clarity. The name of this show, which brings together the work of Laurence Aberhart, William Eggleston and Noel McKenna, is borrowed from a book of short stories by Charles Bukowski (1916-1994). This … More


The Archibald Prize 2013: A Review

March 23, 2013
Alexander McKenzie, Toni Collette, oil on linen, 244 x 197 cm

This column comes from Japan, where like a character in a horror story pursued by an implacable nemesis, I’m writing about… the Archibald Prize! This venerable portrait competition is an Australian institution that is simply incomprehensible to the rest of the world. To outsiders the popularity of the prize, and of portraiture in general, is … More


The Archibald Prize 2013: A Comment

March 22, 2013
Del Kathryn Barton, hugo, watercolour, gouache and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 180 cm

This year’s Archibald throws up one nagging question: “What’s that animal Hugo Weaving is holding?” Perhaps it’s something the special effects crew from the Matrix movies dreamt up. According to the news reports, Del Kathryn Barton, says the indefinable creature “demonstrates facets of the actor’s personality” – an explanation that raises more questions than it … More


Roy Jackson, Savanhdary Vongpoothorn, Kirsteen Pieterse, Vika Begalska

March 16, 2013
Roy Jackson, To Moment Day Today, 2010, acrylic and oil stick on board, 214 x 183cm

Last week I was reminded of the gulf that exists between the art world and the rest of the world, when ABC radio asked me to comment on the Mayor of Newcastle’s view that funding for a new regional gallery should come from selling works in the collection. His logic was: the holdings of the … More