Sunday, August 01, 2010

European Masters Exhibition Party, National Gallery of Victoria, 31st Jul 2010...

A slightly strange experience at the National Gallery of Victoria last night to officially launch the European Masters Exhibition imported from the Städel Museum while it is undergoing renovation and expansion of display space for its collection. The event was a kind of members' party and combined viewing of the exhibition which I found slightly disappointing. I think disappointing in comparison with other similar exhibitions. I saw the Impressionists exhibition in the Australian National Gallery in Canberra early in the new year (ironically also made available in this country because its home, The Musée d'orsay, was undergoing renovation) and in my mind the French have it all over the Germans in this game. I'm interested in my own prejudice and its relation to the perception and representation of light in which I think the Impressionists triumph. I also suspect that when I travel I am invigorated by an experience of light similar to that I experience in my own country, its bright, stark and vital effrontery, and that I have only experienced in such a startling way in two other cities; New York and Paris.

So in this exhibition I felt majorly enlivened by the works of Monet and Degas ; and to a lesser extent, Renoir and Redon whereas the Germans seemed to be hamstrung, especially in the representation of the human body (see Hans Thoma, In The Hammock; Ferdinand Hodler, Childhood and Max Beckmann's famous Double Portrait) all dominated by a stiffness, an overwhelming unnaturalism. The cumulative effect I found was what looked like mass constipation in the portrayed population.

To be fair, there were exceptions to this characterisation, especially in the work of Fritz von Uhde, At The Window and Max Klinger – yes exactly as in MASH.

None of this was helped by being forced to stand around with other overdressed patrons for over an hour (admittedly while being plied with a much better class of nibbles than is standard fare) before being let loose to view the exhibition itself.

Final score: French 10, Germans 2, NGV 5. The Catalogue was beautiful. The Food too. Hmmm, Am I love?

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