Archive for the 'National Gallery of Victoria' Category

19
Aug
16

Review: ‘Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 7th May – 21st August 2016

Curator: Susan van Wyk

 

 

To be frank, this handsomely installed exhibition of the work of Australian fashion photographer Henry Talbot is a bit of a let down. The images look terribly dated, and while historically they have some significance in terms of the time and context from which they emerged – the movement towards en plein air photography, taking the model from the studio to the street – most of the photographs are not very good. The prints are either commercial vintage prints with all their faults (dust, scratches, poor printing, over exposure, lack of burning in etc.) evidencing a lack of care and attention to detail, or modern inkjet reproductions from original negatives and even then some of the printing is poor: for example, the hair of the model in Fashion illustration for Blunden Wool, models Joan Crellin and Bruce Anderson (1961, below) is completely blown out with no detail retained in the highlights. Some of the angles in his images (the positioning of the figure) are just off, the cropping of the negatives (the space above and below the figure) often does not work and framing of the prints is also less than exemplary. But we must remember Talbot was a commercial photographer from the 1960s and that’s just what these photographs are: commercial fashion photographs that fulfil a client brief.

Talbot was no experimenter. Too often his images are really basic, a basic visualisation, and he has a fixed idea for a shot and goes with that idea and variations of it, even when it is evident that the photograph is not working. Any photographer worth their salt would recognise such a situation and be flexible enough to change it up but with Talbot this does not happen. Positioning his model centrally, he usually uses low depth of field so that everything falls out of focus behind. In this sense he still seems to possess a studio mindset. While professing his love of free-moving fashion, his photographs seem stilted and conformist, even as they are taken out of doors. His proof sheets are evidence of a “team” oriented focus in order to fulfil a client brief, but in these very proof sheets we see uneven exposures and severe cropping into the frame to get the final image. And while he was more romantic than the hard edged Helmut Newton, his photographs only ever project a surface and rarely show any true emotion. Without doubt his best two photographs are Fashion illustration for Fibremakers, model Maggi Eckardt (1966, below) taken at the Altona Petrochemical Company. The photographs are a symphony of form, movement and light. They possess a “feeling” a lot of his other photographs simply cannot, and do not, contain.

There is no catalogue to the exhibition so this posting will have to serve historically to document the exhibition and Talbot’s work. Thus, there is an in depth interview included with Australian curator, artist and photography collector Joyce Evans who ran Church Street Photographic Centre in Melbourne from 1976 and who showed Talbot’s work in her gallery. It is all very well that I have an opinion on the work but what I write needs to be an informed opinion, and the interview with Joyce provides valuable background with regard to the people, the era and the context from which these photographs emerged. One thing noted in the conversation is that Talbot photographed strong, independent women like Janice Wakeley and Maggie Taberer… something that is not mentioned at all in the wall text and press release that accompanies the exhibition. I would have thought it vital that a curator would have linked the presence of these independent women in fashion photography to the work of art photographers such as Australian artist Carol Jerrems who published her seminal book A Book About Australian Women in 1975.

Another insight into the times is provided by a friend of mine who knew Talbot,

“People said he was good, and he charged enough, but he just thought he was having fun, fun with a certain quality. I don’t think he had any grand ideas about his talent, but he was quite prepared to sell a print or sell his time if someone wanted to pay. Henry knew the fun he was having wasn’t going to last beyond his life. And now, it is weird and very country town that his work should be regurgitated. His work looks poor because people are making him into something he wasn’t.

There is a seminal incident that can help with the context of the Henry Talbot, Athol Shmith and Helmut Newton generation. Athol Shmith was giving a print critique at Prahran, and someone had left a glass of fixer on the shelf of the room. Athol finished his critique and drank it. Rushed to hospital of course. But think of that from all its angles. The world in which these photographers worked and the stories from those times reveal a world that was flying by the seat of its pants – just.”

Talbot is a solid photographer, no more. While the exhibition gives some sense of depth to the quality of work that was coming out of Melbourne at that time, perhaps it would have been best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Some installation photographs as noted © Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria. All the rest as noted taken by Brooke Holm for the National Gallery of Victoria.

 

In conversation with Australian curator, artist and photography collector Joyce Evans about the Australian photographer Henry Talbot

17/07/2016

MB: Just before we started this conversation you said to me Joyce that Talbot was a gentle man. Can you explain what you meant by that please?

JE: I use the word gentle in comparison to his one-time partner Helmut Newton, who I found to be an aggressive man.

MB: So they were in partnership together before Newton left for Europe

JE: Yes

MB: So Talbot was intelligent, he knew his field and understood the history of the genre that he was working in, he could speak well, and was well liked both by clients, models and the society in which he worked.

JE: Well, he was not a superficial person. When he spoke he researched things properly, he had the depth of knowledge which came from a sort of European intellect. This intellect was broadly read, and he was also a person that listened.

MB: And he was also a good teacher as well…

JE: In his commercial work, Henry photographed his women (as far as I could see), with the idea of having a client, and he was displaying clothes on the women, which was part of the old tradition. In an environment where, if you wanted to make a living, that’s what you had to do. If he had been, however, in a place like New York – which was avant-garde as compared to Melbourne, which was not avant-garde – he may well have gone the same way as Helmut Newton. The very big difference, though, is in the personality of the two men.

Helmut Newton went out and he was an aggressive man. He had charm, but it was an aggressive charm, it wasn’t a gentle charm. He had intelligence and he knew how to handle his women so that he got aggression out of his women, that’s what he wanted.

MB: Whereas Talbot was doing it for a job?

JE: Talbot A was doing it for a job and B, he had a gentle nature. He was not an aggressive man and actually if you look at those photographs you can see that he liked the women that he photographed and he lived in an environment where fashion was still, fairly soft, in many ways. You can see in things like the swimwear industry and the sports industry there was quite a lot of Australian independence, but he, combined with Athol Shmith in Melbourne, took his models out into the street, they interacted with the environment, and he did not depend on the studio.

MB: When I look at his photographs they are quite modernist, they are quite clean, but his vision seems to me to be quite limited… in the sense that he uses a central female figure (sometimes two central figures), low depth of field, out of focus background. And then you look at the proof sheets and you can see that he is not an experimenter. From shot to shot there is a slight change in angle of a hand or the tilt of a head but he really doesn’t push the boundaries of what he is trying to say with the image. He has his set idea (for the shot, for the location) and then he does slight variants in the proof sheet towards that idea. Very rarely do you get a feeling, a sense of atmosphere in his images – of the outdoors in the sense of the outdoors enveloping the model. The models seem to be isolated within their environment…

JE: But who does what is asked of him, at that time? You can compare him to Avedon or Athol Shmith, but you cannot compare him to today. You cannot ask someone to work outside of his own time. You can ask him to lead in his own time and the leading that occurred at that time, by both Shmith and Talbot, was that they took models out into the city and the environment and away from the studio. This was something that Avedon did and these two photographers did also. The big argument is, did Talbot do it effectively? Who chose his proofs? Which ones got published?

MB: But also, a quite organised and restricted view of the world, even though he was pushing the boundaries by taking fashion photography outdoors, he still seems to be in a studio mindset when he was outside.

JE: What you did in those days, is that you would do the shoot, you would come in with your proof sheets, and the art director would go over it with the red crayon with the team – it tended often to be team work. So he’s working to a brief …. and you are the instrument of the team. The art director sets everything up and you do the shoot. Now, when you get a name like Talbot had, you could start to begin to influence what the art director was doing. Now, how much and when and at what time and what effect – I really don’t know.

MB: Did he photograph strong women? You mentioned Maggie Taberer and Janice Wakeley.

JE: Maggie Taberer and Janice Wakeley – both educated women, well read women – Talbot would have chosen his own models and they were two of his favourites. Or been offered models, depending on the control of the art director and what they desired.

MB: Today, all we can do is try and understand the history of these photographs, and the time and context from which they emerged. From today’s standpoint they look rather dated and stilted.

JE: You have to see them from a decade earlier, looking at fashion photography in Australia from the 1930s and 1940s to see what was happening. The 1930s fashion stuff was very very largely in the studio. Very little of it was en plein air.

MB: But that doesn’t negate his aesthetic choices to shoot with so low a depth of field that the context of the outdoors becomes more or less irrelevant. Yes, you have the images of the oil refinery behind with the movement of the women, in my opinion some of his best photographs, that are more romantic in feel… and these tend to work better than other more prosaic shots.

JE: He was more of a romantic than Newton was. Newton was very hard edged and he managed to get that extra particular something out of his women…

MB: Even in his Melbourne images?

JE: Well, we don’t know Newton’s Melbourne images, because he has denied them all.

MB: Yes exactly, that’s the thing.

JE: Thinking about Talbot, he was part of a movement. He wasn’t the leader of it or the only one, but he was part of the early evolution of the movement.

MB: Does that mean his photographs stand up to scrutiny today?

JE: I have this feeling that when you only look at the top of the cake, you don’t know what the cake is all about. I don’t know whether I would put him as the fairy on top of the cake or one of the really nice pieces of icing. I think that Athol Shmith is a stronger photographer.

MB: What about the Australian photographer Bruno Benini? I find him incredibly strong in terms of his style, his lighting.

JE: My understanding of Bruno is that he is a decade younger that Talbot…

MB: So 1950s?

JE: Yes I think so

MB: So he has a more classical influence…

JE: It’s not that, he’s like John Eaton is to Pictorialism, he’s a very good photographer – but he’s not a groundbreaker, he’s not of the beginning of Pictorialism. I think Benini is a very good fashion photographer and I think he is working on other people’s shoulders. I think Athol Shmith is stronger and if I had a choice about having to show one, but I like the fact that we have shown Talbot, because it gives some sense of depth to the quality of work that was coming out of Melbourne. Places like Sportscraft were exceptionally good at encouraging talent, both in design and in photography.

MB: All I can do is understand the history and the context and what was going on at the time and then, as I was thinking the other day, all I can write is what I see.

JE: Compare this… Athol Shmith had Bambi. Bambi was the most exquisite women you would ever find in your whole life. I remember her when I was a teenager, me and my girlfriend were both sitting in a room and she was there, both in out late teens/early 20s, and I remember saying to my friend that I feel as though I have ten feet – and I am so clumsy when I look at her. She is so beautiful. Now Janice Wakeley was also a stunning looking women as was Maggie Taberer. But the number one model with Athol was Bambi and then there were really other top people that he had. And he, I think, had a much broader to work with – not only his models, but his clientele was broader. Talbot was predominantly clothing as compared to Shmith who did a whole stack of things other than fashion. His love of music, he did a lot of musicians, he did some amazing portraiture. Shmith did H.G. Wells etc…

MB: His breadth was greater than Talbot. My concern with Talbot is 1/ the dating of the images, and 2/ his aesthetic choices when taking those photographs which may be a team decision but, the fact that he didn’t experiment that much. When looking at his proof sheets there are only slight changes to the positioning of the model…

JE: He’s got an idea and he goes for it.

MB: And that just really shows a lack of flexibility in his vision.

JE: No, I don’t think so I just think that it shows that he knows what he wants and that’s it.

MB: I think that is where we differ.

JE: He is very professional. How many shots of a person do you make at a time?

MB: I work on a ratio of 10 to 1, so if you take 10 shots you will get one, possibly two excellent shots. Talbot must have been thinking I need one good shot and he kept shooting and shooting, even though some of his exposures are poor, even though he radically crops the full frame image to get the final shot. It shows he was not as confident as you think about getting the shot, because he is hedging his bets with his in camera framing, relying on cropping later.

JE: He knows he wants her getting this feeling, and he goes bang, bang, bang, head turned slightly, arm down slightly and that’s it… and he knew what he wanted at the beginning and then he just saw the variations to fine tune it. And that’s what every photographer tends to do.

MB: And that’s where I really think there is a problem with his photography. Most of his images don’t really work – and yet he never recognised that fact at the time, when he was taking or setting up the shot, that it was not working. Any good photographer worth his salt, worth his previsualisation of the shot, must know how to adapt and be flexible enough to change on the run. He didn’t recognise that they weren’t working and change the idea. That’s the problem I have with him. It shows a fixed mindset in terms of not being able to see through the viewfinder when a shot is not working.

JE: That’s another story…

MB: Let’s leave it there. Thank you Joyce so very much for your thoughts.

 

 

“Well man, this is 1966 and in this game you have to be open to, and live, contemporary influences to a certain degree. The younger generation is very strong in fashion – very much in command. They’re spending a great deal of money in the garment industry, so fashion is geared to the young. There is, of course, in this “with it” idea itself, certain conformity to non-conformity, to a non-conformity standard. But, as a photographer, you must accept this idea as far as you can and that probably reflects to some extent in your own behaviour and dress.”

.
Henry Talbot, 1966

 

“I always tried to show models in a free-moving fashion. I avoided stiff poses and I tried to keep up with what the great fashion photographers overseas were doing”

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Henry Talbot

 

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Installation views of the exhibition 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Installation views of the exhibition 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Installation views of the exhibition 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Installation views of the exhibition 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Installation views of the exhibition 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'Collection of proof sheets 1958 - 1972'

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'Collection of proof sheets 1958 - 1972'

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'Collection of proof sheets 1958 - 1972'

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'Collection of proof sheets 1958 - 1972'

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
Collection of proof sheets
1958 – 1972
Gelatin silver photographs
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Blunden Wool, models Joan Crellin and Bruce Anderson)' 1961, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Blunden Wool, models Joan Crellin and Bruce Anderson)
1961, printed 2016
Photographed on location at the National Gallery of Victoria
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Blunden Wool, models Joan Crellin and Bruce Anderson)
1961, printed 2016
Photographed on location at the National Gallery of Victoria
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Blunden Wool, models Joan Crellin and Bruce Anderson)
1961, printed 2016
Photographed on location at the National Gallery of Victoria
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive

Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Watersun ski wear)' 1970, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Watersun ski wear)
1970, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Watersun ski wear)
1970, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Watersun ski wear)
1970, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive

Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Lisal of Melbourne)' 1971, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Lisal of Melbourne) (installation photo)
1971, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for the Australian Wool Board) (installation photo)' 1968, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for the Australian Wool Board) (installation photo)
1968, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

“There is little an Australian fashion photographer can do that has not been done overseas, and often better. But one thing they do not have is our Australian environment. I use it a great deal because the idea makes it possible to come up with something uniquely different.

.
Henry Talbot 1966

 

“The striking and youthful fashion of 1960s Melbourne is the starring subject of more than eighty photographs by fashion photographer Henry Talbot, many of which have never been exhibited before. Showcasing the shifting face of fashion from a time that has captured popular imagination, many of the images have never been seen since their original publication 50 years ago and offer an insight into the styles and attitudes of the 1960s. The photographs on display have been carefully selected from an extraordinary archive of 35,000 negatives that Talbot gifted to the NGV in the 1980s.

“Henry Talbot’s photography captures the exuberance and changing times of a generation. His modern photographs depict an emerging youth culture and offer an insider’s look into a thriving cultural scene during the 1960s,” said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV.

A European émigré artist from Germany, Talbot brought an invigorating internationalism to Australian photography and partnered with Helmut Newton. Their Flinders Lane studio was very successful enterprise and secured major clients including the Australian Wool Board and Sportscraft. It was during the 1960s that Talbot established his place as a dynamic force in Australian fashion photography and his work was regularly published in Australian Vogue.

The exhibition includes some of Talbot’s beautiful fashion spreads from 1960s Australian Vogue, providing a visual history that chronicles the magazine’s first decade in Australia. The photographs will be presented alongside a display of early edition Australian Vogue magazines, including those in which Talbot’s photographs originally appeared, offering an insight into the aspirational fashion and lifestyle choices of Australians living in this era. Talbot’s photography also highlights the public’s affinity with uniquely Australian brands, such as Qantas and Holden. Fast cars and air travel were aspirational luxury experiences in the 1960s and, as a result, airports, planes and brand new cars were the glamorous setting for many of Talbot’s photographs, demonstrating his astute understanding of current trends and consumer culture.

From an outback sheep station, to lamp-lit streets of Melbourne, Australian cityscapes and landscapes also provided the backdrop to some of Talbot’s most arresting photographs. Shot on location around Melbourne, these photographs showcase Talbot’s adventurous style and ability to transform 1960s Melbourne into scenes that looked like Paris, London, New York – a testament to his ‘international eye’. A photographer with an astute vision, Talbot also ingeniously transformed Altona Petrochemical Company into an intergalactic, futuristic setting that captured the public’s fascination with space travel during the ‘space race’ of the 1960s. This exciting suite of images demonstrates the ways in which space travel permeated popular culture, including space-age fashion trends.

The exhibition will open during the NGV’s landmark 200 Years of Australian Fashion exhibition and together, these two exhibitions will offer a comprehensive and fresh new look at Australian fashion in the 1960s.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Henry Talbot

Henry Talbot was born in Germany in 1920. As a young man he studied graphic design and photography in Berlin and Birmingham. After leaving Germany in 1939, he arrived in Australia in 1940. Following a period of internment, Talbot then served in the Australian army. In the postwar years he left Australia, travelling to South America and Europe, before returning to Melbourne in 1950. At the time Melbourne was the most important centre of fashion in Australia because of the abundance of textile and garment manufacturing in Flinders Lane; boutiques in the Paris End of Collins Street, and major department stores around the city.

Talbot worked in some of the leading Melbourne photographic studios and quickly established a reputation as a major fashion photographer in Melbourne. In 1956 he was invited to go into partnership with Helmut Newton. Newton was already renowned for his innovate fashion images and this partnership offered Talbot recognition for his talent in this field. In 1973 Talbot closed his studio, and ten years later presented the NGV with what is now known as the Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive. Works in this exhibition at taken from this remarkable collection, comprising 35,000 black-and-white negatives, photographs and contact prints. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the National Gallery of Victoria’s 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' exhibition at NGV Australia at Federation Square

 

Installation view of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer exhibition at NGV Australia at Federation Square
Photo: Brooke Holm

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration, model Janice Wakely)' 1961

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration, model Janice Wakely)
1961
Gelatin silver photograph
24.3 x 19.3 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

 

Working with the right model was as important to the success of Talbot’s images as choosing the right location. Like most photographers he had his favourite models, and often worked with Janice Wakely, Maggie Tabberer, Helen Homewood, Maggi Eckardt and Margot McKendry.

Talbot’s philosophy was simple, as he explained it in 1995: “I’ve always held that if you can establish a definite emotional rapport with a model you’re halfway toward producing good photographs. My own favourite method  of fashion working is to explain roughly what I am after then leave the model more or less free to interpret the garment she’s to show. A good model will absorb and become part of what she is wearing almost completely. Whilst shooting away I may suggest minor changes, the model senses what I’m after, and then really good shots happen.”

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Sportscraft on location Yarra River near Princes Bridge)' 1961

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Sportscraft on location Yarra River near Princes Bridge)
1961
Gelatin silver photograph
24.4 x19.0 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration model wearing long feather dress)' 1961-66

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration model wearing long feather dress)
1961-66
Gelatin silver photograph
24.2 x 19.4 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration model wearing a three-quarter length coat)' 1961-66

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration model wearing a three-quarter length coat)
1961-66
Gelatin silver photograph
25.0 x 19.1 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

‘Forsaking city airs for cool country breezes, she previews the three day event at Oaklands Hunt Club which will finish the Melbourne Cup season, wearing a three-quarter oat of palest blue pearl lamb.’ Descriptive caption, 1966

 

Installation view of the National Gallery of Victoria’s 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' exhibition at NGV Australia at Federation Square

 

Installation view of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer exhibition at NGV Australia at Federation Square

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration)
1963, printed 2016
Inkjet print
40.7 x 40.6 cm (image), 67.4 x 61.1 cm (sheet)
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration)
1963, printed 2016
Inkjet print
40.7 x 40.6 cm (image), 67.4 x 61.1 cm (sheet)
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration)
1963, printed 2016
Inkjet print
50.9 x 50.8 cm (image), 72.4 x 61.0 cm (sheet)
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot
Photo: Brooke Holm

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration)' 1963, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration)
1963, printed 2016
Inkjet print
40.7 x 40.6 cm (image), 67.4 x 61.1 cm (sheet)
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

 

The locations used by Talbot were an important aspect of his image making; they played a significant role in the implicit narratives he constructed in his fashion photography. Talbot’s work, like most fashion photographs, presents an aspirational ideal. In his case a picture of the modern woman – at an opening night; arriving at the airport; on the streets of London; visiting an art gallery; or in a beatnik coffee bar – who looks effortlessly up to date and glamorous because she has bought the perfect garment.

Despite Talbot’s assertion that using Australian settings gave his work an edge, some of his most successful photographs artfully disguise the familiar streets of Melbourne. The streets of the city are transformed in Talbot’s photographs to look like Fifth Avenue, New York or Hyde Park in London. (Wall text)

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration)' 1963, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration)
1963, printed 2016
Inkjet print
50.8 x 50.3 cm (image and sheet)
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration)' 1963, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration)
1963, printed 2016
Inkjet print
50.9 x 50.8 cm (image), 72.4 x 61.0 cm (sheet)
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

 

The 1960s was a period of social turbulence, when youth-led movements changed the world. In Australia it was a time of prosperity: employment rates were high and, for many, the opportunities seemed boundless. The fashions of the day, including mini skirts and hipster pants, reflected the “youthquake” that was shaking up the status quo. Photography studios made the transition to the 1960s by creating images with a fresh, contemporary edge, and increasingly worked on location rather than in the studio.

Henry Talbot began to work in fashion photography in the 1950s, but it was in the 1960s that he established himself as a leading force in Melbourne’s fashion industry. He worked for designers and manufacturers, department stores and boutiques, as well as on the job for the Australian Wool Bureau, taking photographs that showed Australian fashion to the world.

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Classweave Fabric, models Uschi Huber, Ellen Neudal and Heather Ceembruger)' 1963, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Classweave Fabric, models Uschi Huber, Ellen Neudal and Heather Ceembruger)
1963, printed 2016
Inkjet print
50.9 x 50.8 cm (image), 72.5 x 61.1 cm (sheet)
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

‘The magic carpet revisited: Classweave takes to the air. Classweave deny weaving the magic carpet, but [the] chic three disagree, find Classweave fabrics magic. Feel like flying,and choose Qantas.’

Advertising copy, Australian Vogue, 1963

 

Installation view of the National Gallery of Victoria’s 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' exhibition at NGV Australia at Federation Square

 

Installation view of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer exhibition at NGV Australia at Federation Square
Photo: Brooke Holm

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Pelaco shirts and Ford Falcon, models Margot McKendry and Murray Rose)' 1963, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Pelaco shirts and Ford Falcon, models Margot McKendry and Murray Rose)
1963, printed 2016
Inkjet print
41.0 x 40.6 cm (image), 67.5 x 61.1 cm (sheet)
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

‘They’re going places, the Pelaco Pair – and riding the crest all the way. They live their life with a style and carefree assurance that many envy. They know and demand the best this modern world has to offer, a personal formula for success that shows in everything they do. You can see it in the clothes they wear (he doesn’t own a shirt that isn’t Pelaco; she collects Lady Pelaco, secretly feels they were created especially for her). You can see it in the cars they drive – always, a trim, taut, terrific Falcon.’

Advertising copy, Vogue Australia, April/May 1963

 

Murray Rose

Iain Murray Rose, AM (6 January 1939 – 15 April 2012) was an Australian swimmer, actor, sports commentator and marketing executive. He was a six-time Olympic medalist (four gold, one silver, one bronze), and at one time held the world records in the 400-metre, 800-metre, and 1500-metre freestyle (long course). He made his Olympic debut at the 1956 Summer Olympics as a 17-year-old and won three Olympic medals, all gold. Four years later, as a 21-year-old, he won three Olympic medals (one gold, one silver, one bronze) at the 1960 Summer Olympics.

At the age of 17, Rose participated in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. He won the 400-metre and 1500-metre freestyle races and was a member of the winning team in the 4×200-metre freestyle relay. Winning three gold medals in his home country immediately made him a national hero. He was the youngest Olympian to be awarded three gold medals in one Olympic Games. Afterwards, Rose moved to the United States to accept an athletic scholarship at the University of Southern California where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business/Communications.

He continued competing while at USC, and graduated in 1962. At the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy, Rose again won an Olympic gold medal in the 400m freestyle, as well as a silver in the 1500m freestyle and a bronze in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay, bringing his haul to six Olympic medals. In addition to his Olympic medals, he won four gold medals at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. He eventually set 15 world records, including the world record in the 800-metre freestyle in 1962, which was not broken until Semyon Belits-Geiman set a new record in 1966. Rose continued to compete as a masters swimmer. During the 1960s, he also pursued an acting career, starring in two Hollywood films and making guest appearances on television shows.

In addition, Rose worked as an Australian sports commentator for the Nine Network, plus each of the major US networks, participating in seven consecutive Olympic Games.  (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Installation view of the National Gallery of Victoria’s 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' exhibition at NGV Australia at Federation Square

Installation view of the National Gallery of Victoria’s 'Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer' exhibition at NGV Australia at Federation Square

 

Installation views of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer exhibition at NGV Australia at Federation Square
Photos: Brooke Holm

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration, model Maggie Tabberer)' (1960s), printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration, model Maggie Tabberer)
(1960s), printed 2016
Inkjet print
61.2 x 47.4 cm (image), 86.3 x 60.9 cm (sheet)
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive (119664)
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

 

Maggie Tabberer

Maggie Tabberer AM (also known as Maggie T; born 11 December 1936) is a dual Gold Logie-winning Australian fashion, publishing and media/television personality. Maggie’s first modelling job was a one-off assignment at the age of 14, after a photographer spotted her at her sister’s wedding. She attended a modelling school in her early twenties, and at the age of 23 was discovered by photographer Helmut Newton, who mentored her and launched a highly successful modelling career. While living in Melbourne in 1960, she won ‘Model of the Year’, and moved to Sydney to take advantage of the modelling opportunities there, but she chose to end her modelling career at the age of 25 after she began to lose her slim figure.

Tabberer stayed well connected to the fashion industry, however. In 1967 she started a public relations company, Maggie Tabberer & Associates, which took on many fashion-related clients and assignments. In 1981, she launched a plus-size clothing label called Maggie T. A portrait of her by Australian artist Paul Newton was a finalist in the 1999 Archibald Prize.

Publishing work

Tabberer began working in publishing when she wrote a fashion column, “Maggie Says”, for Sydney’s Daily Mirror newspaper in 1963. She remained with the paper for sixteen years, until billionaire Kerry Packer asked her to become fashion editor of Australian Women’s Weekly magazine in 1981, and she soon became the public face of the magazine, frequently appearing on its cover and television advertising. Tabberer stayed with Women’s Weekly for fifteen years until 1996.

Television work

Tabberer began appearing on television in 1964, as the “beauty” on panel talk show Beauty and the Beast (the “beast” being the show’s host: Eric Baume until 1965, and then Stuart Wagstaff). Tabberer’s appearances on Beauty and the Beast made her a household name, and she began hosting her own daily chat show, Maggie, for which she won two consecutive Gold Logies, in 1970 and 1971. She was the first person to win back-to-back awards, although Graham Kennedy had already won three non-consecutive Gold Logies by 1970.

Since 2005, she has hosted her own television interview show, Maggie… At Home With on Australian pay TV channel Bio. (formerly The Biography Channel). On her show she “visits the homes of various Australian celebrities and elites to discuss their lives, careers, tragedies, and triumphs.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Fibremakers, model Maggi Eckardt)' 1966, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Fibremakers, model Maggi Eckardt)
1966, printed 2016
Inkjet print
54.45 x 50.8 cm (image), 72.5 x 61.0 cm (sheet)
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Fibremakers, model Maggi Eckardt)' 1966, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Fibremakers, model Maggi Eckardt)
1966, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

“Fibres for fashions future. Its theme was fibres for the present and the future … pictures taken by Melbourne photographer Henry Talbot – a man who is as sophisticated as James Bond and always a jump ahead of ‘now’. The visiting ‘Venusians’ in Mr Talbot’s photographs (Maggi Eckardt and Jackie Holme) are gyrating at the Altona Petrochemical Company in Victoria.”

Australian Fashion News, March 1967

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Fibremakers, model Maggi Eckardt)' 1966, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Fibremakers, model Maggi Eckardt)
1966, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Fibremakers, model Maggi Eckardt)
1966, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot
Photo: Brooke Holm

 

 

Maggi had been brought up on Sydney’s northern beaches and went to a ladies’ college in Manly. She had the proud, sultry looks of a flamenco dancer. Her distinctive appearance limited her potential in Australian modelling but she was heaven-sent for elegant Parisian designers such as Balenciaga and Givenchy and was transformed through the worshipping lens of American photographer Richard Avedon into an international icon. After seven years overseas, Maggi returned to Sydney in 1972 to be embraced as a TV personality and high-profile fashion adviser to David Jones. (Text from The six wives of Singo)

During the 1960s Maggi Eckhardt was one of the world’s most sought after models. Her modelling career began in 1958 when she was selected to model for celebrated British designer Norman Hartnell. He offered her a job in his London salon and she never looked back. The brunette beauty rapidly shot to international fame modelling top designer brands including Dior and Balenciaga. She posed for a string of famous photographers such as Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton and graced the covers of Australian and French Vogue. (Text from Australia’s 25 top models named)

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Sportscraft)' 1967, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Sportscraft)
1967, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Sportscraft)
1967, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Sportscraft)
1967, printed 2016
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot
Photo: Brooke Holm

 

 

The 1960s was a period of social turbulence, when youth-led movements changed the world. In Australia it was a time of prosperity: employment rates were high and, for many, the opportunities seemed boundless. The fashions of the day, including mini skirts and hipster pants, reflected the “youthquake” that was shaking up the status quo. Photography studios made the transition to the 1960s by creating images with a fresh, contemporary edge, and increasingly worked on location rather than in the studio.

Henry Talbot began to work in fashion photography in the 1950s, but it was in the 1960s that he established himself as a leading force in Melbourne’s fashion industry. He worked for designers and manufacturers, department stores and boutiques, as well as on the job for the Australian Wool Bureau, taking photographs that showed Australian fashion to the world.

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'Swimwear model' 1968

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
Swimwear model
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
Swimwear model
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot
Photo: Brooke Holm

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Blunden Wool, models Joan Crellin and Bruce Anderson)' 1961, printed 2016

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Blunden Wool, models Joan Crellin and Bruce Anderson)
1961, printed 2016
Photographed on location at the National Gallery of Victoria
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Blunden Wool, models Joan Crellin and Bruce Anderson)
1961, printed 2016
Photographed on location at the National Gallery of Victoria
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Blunden Wool, models Joan Crellin and Bruce Anderson)
1961, printed 2016
Photographed on location at the National Gallery of Victoria
Inkjet print
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
Photo: Brooke Holm

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration, model wearing cotton capri pants and cropped sleeveless top on location in Papua New Guinea)' 1961-66

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration, model wearing cotton capri pants and cropped sleeveless top on location in Papua New Guinea)
1961-66
Gelatin silver photograph
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

‘Discovering the hidden charms of New Guinea in the obvious attributes of Swiss cotton… she wears a cropped top and lean slack in sunny yellow, embroidered in diamond panels of white.’ Descriptive caption, 1966

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration model wearing cropped pants and jacket, Papua New Guinea)' 1961-66

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration model wearing cropped pants and jacket, Papua New Guinea)
1961-66
Gelatin silver photograph
22.4 x 19.1 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Stella Ricks, model wearing coat and hat)' 1960s

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Stella Ricks, unknown model wearing coat and hat)
1960s
Gelatin silver photograph
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

‘Town and country, sport and travel are words enough to place this American style coat in the all-purpose group, and its colour is the outstanding feature – honey bamboo saddle stitched with white. Loose and casual it has fly-away cuffs on sleeves, hip, and breast pockets, and a tailored revere collar. By Stella Ricks.’ Descriptive caption, 1960s

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration model wearing plaid kilt style skirt, Spring Street, Melbourne)' 1956-60

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration model wearing plaid kilt style skirt, Spring Street, Melbourne)
1956-60
Gelatin silver photograph
24.4 X 21.0 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration model wearing hip length fur jacket, photographed at the National Gallery of Victoria)' 1960s

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration model wearing hip length fur jacket, photographed at the National Gallery of Victoria)
1960s
Gelatin silver photograph
24.3 x 19.1 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration, model Maggie Tabberer wearing ocelot coat)' 1961-66

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration, model Maggie Tabberer wearing ocelot coat)
1961-66
Gelatin silver photograph
24.0 x 19.0 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration, model Janice Wakely standing in front of wool bale)' 1961-66

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration, model Janice Wakely standing in front of wool bale)
1961-66
Gelatin silver photograph
24.5 x 18.8 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Sportscraft, Treasury Gardens, Melbourne)' 1960-61

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Sportscraft, Treasury Gardens, Melbourne)
1960-61
Gelatin silver photograph
24.3 x19.1 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration, model Maggie Tabberer)' 1960

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration, model Maggie Tabberer)
1960
Gelatin silver photograph
24.4 x 19.1 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 - Australia 1999, Australia from 1940) 'No title (Fashion illustration for Sportscaft, model Janice Wakely)' 1956-61

 

Henry Talbot (Germany 1920 – Australia 1999, Australia from 1940)
No title (Fashion illustration for Sportscaft, model Janice Wakely)
1956-61
Gelatin silver photograph
24.1 x 19.1 cm
Henry Talbot Fashion Photography Archive
© Lynette Anne Talbot

 

 

Janice Wakely

Janice Wakely, fashion model and photographer, graduated from Sydney’s Mannequin Academy in 1952 and began her modelling career in Melbourne two years later. Dismissed as ‘too thin’ by various Australian agencies after working on a Department of Trade-sponsored fashion tour to New Zealand in 1956, she decamped for London. Within ten days, Wakely snared a shoot with Marie Claire in Paris and St Tropez; soon, she was dubbed ‘The Girl of the Moment’ with ‘The Look of 1958’.

The Australian Women’s Weekly reported that, in the competitive English market, her “fragile but tough and oh, so carefully casual” look had set her apart – for the time being – from “the thousands from Commonwealth countries who invade Britain each year to see something of the world before they settle down to marriage and the building of a home and family.”

Returning to Australia in 1958, Wakely commandeered the camera herself, proceeding to capture photographers such as Helmut Newton, Athol Shmith and Henry Talbot while they worked with models on location. During this time, Wakely maintained a strong presence in front of the camera. Photographed by Terence Donovan in London in 1960, in 1961 and 1962, she starred in the All-Australian Fashion Parades, was featured on the cover of The Women’s Weekly, was Model of the Year and wore the Gown of the Year.

Then, in 1963, she stepped down from the catwalk, establishing the Penthouse modelling agency and photographic studio in Flinders Lane, Melbourne with co-model Helen Homewood. After an overseas tour in 1965, Wakely returned to Melbourne and set up a studio with fashion photographer Bruno Benini, who, according to People magazine, had “given many other girls a helping hand up the ladder to success”.

Wakely commented in 1968 that “the Australian sense of fashion is appalling”.

Extract from “Treasure Trove: Janice Wakely, fashion icon,” on the ABC Canberra website 11 October, 2012 [Online] Cited 30/07/2016

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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07
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 31th July 2015 – 8th November 2015

Melbourne Winter Masterpieces 2015

 

 

Some beauty to cheer me up from my sickbed.

These are the official press photographs for the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great. To see my installation photographs of the exhibition go to this posting.

The paintings look as fresh today as when they were first painted, some of them in the early 1500s. To see the thumbs up gesture in Diego Velázquez’s Luncheon (c. 1617-18, below) echoing down the centuries, is worth the price of admission alone. We cannot imagine what life would have been like back then… no medication, rampant disease and malnutrition, little law enforcement with danger lurking around each turn (see Matthew Beaumont. Night Walking: A Nocturnal History of London, Chaucer to Dickens. London and New York: Verso, 2015).

And yet these talented artists, supported by the elite, produced work which still touches us today.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the art works in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the art works.

 

 

Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace in Winter, St Petersburg Photo: Pavel Demidov

 

Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace in Winter, St Petersburg 
Photo: Pavel Demidov

 

Chinese. 'Cup' early 17th century

 

Chinese
Cup
early 17th century
Silver, enamel
4.0 x 3.0 x7.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ЛС-133, ВВс-250)
Acquired before 1789

 

Chinese. 'Teapot with lid' 17th century

 

Chinese
Teapot with lid
17th century
Silver, enamel
18.0 x 5.5 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ЛС-80 а, б, ВВс-219)
Acquired before 1789

 

Sevres Porcelain Factory Sèvres (manufacturer) France est. 1756 'Cameo Service' 1778–79

 

Sèvres Porcelain Factory
Sèvres (manufacturer) France est. 1756
Cameo Service
1778-79
Porcelain (soft-paste), gilt
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg Commissioned by Catherine ll as a gift for Prince Grigory Potemkin in 1777; Potemkin’s Taurida Palace, St Petersburg from 1779; transferred to the Hofmarshal’s Office of the Winter Palace after his death; 1922 transferred to the State Hermitage Museum

 

Grand Duchess Maria Fyodorovna (engraver) Russia 1795–1828 Russia (manufacturer) 'Catherine the Great as Minerva' cameo 1789

 

Grand Duchess Maria Fyodorovna (engraver) (Russia 1795-1828)
Russia (manufacturer)
Catherine the Great as Minerva
1789
Cameo
Jasper, gold
6.5 x 4.7 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. К 1077)
Acquired 1789

 

James Tassie, London (workshop of) (England 1735–99 ) 'Head of Medusa' 1780s

 

James Tassie, London (workshop of) (England 1735-99 )
Head of Medusa
1780s
Coloured glass, gilded paper
7.6 x 9.2 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. R-T, 3296 a)
Purchased from James Tassie 1783-88

 

Chinese. 'Toilet service' early 18th century

 

Chinese
Toilet service
early 18th century
Glass, mercury amalgam, paper, silver, filigree, parcel-gilt, wood, velvet, peacock and king-fisher feathers, mother-of-pearl, crystals
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ЛС-472/ 1,2, ВВс-373)

 

Chinese. 'Table decoration in the form of a pair of birds' 1740s –50s

 

Chinese
Table decoration in the form of a pair of birds
1740s-50s
Silver, enamel, silver-gilt
26.0 x 26.0 x 15.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ЛС-26, ВВс-189)

 

Chinese. 'Crab-shaped box on a leaf tray' 1740s –50s

 

Chinese
Crab-shaped box on a leaf tray
1740s-50s
Silver, enamel, silver-gilt
(a) 4.0 x 14.0 x 13.0 cm (box)
(b) 3.0 x 22.0 x 17.0 cm (stand)
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ЛС-9 а,б, ВВс-186)

 

Marie-Anne Collot (French 1748–1821) 'Voltaire' 1770s

 

Marie-Anne Collot (French 1748-1821)
Voltaire
1770s
Marble
49.0 x 30.0 x 28.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. Н.ск. 3)
Acquired from the artist, 1778

 

Jean-Antoine Houdon (French 1741–1828) 'Catherine II' 1773

 

Jean-Antoine Houdon (French 1741-1828)
Catherine II
1773
Marble
90.0 x 50.0 x 32.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. Н.ск. 1676)
Transferred from the Stroganov Palace, Leningrad, 1928

 

Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French 1725–1805) 'Head of an old man. Study for The paralytic' 1760s

 

Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French 1725-1805)
Head of an old man. Study for The paralytic
1760s
Red and black chalk
49.3 x 40.0 cm (sheet)
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ОР-14727)
Acquired from the artist in 1769 for the Museum of the Academy of Arts. Transferred to the Hermitage in 1924

 

François Boucher (French 1703–70) 'Study of a female nude' 1740

 

François Boucher (French 1703-70)
Study of a female nude
1740
Red, black and white chalk on brown paper
26.2 x 34.6 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ОР-382)
Acquired from the collection of Count Cobenzl, Brussels, 1768

 

Charles-Louis Clerisseau (French 1721–1820) 'Design for the paintings in the cell of Father Lesueur in the Monastery of Santissima Trinità dei Monti in Rome' 1766–68

 

Charles-Louis Clérisseau (French 1721-1820)
Design for the paintings in the cell of Father Lesueur in the Monastery of Santissima Trinità dei Monti in Rome
1766-68
Pen and black and brown ink, brown and grey wash
36.9 x 53.0 cm (sheet)
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ОР-2597)
Acquired from the artist by Catherine II on 5 May 1780, Provenance: before 1797

 

Carlo Galli-Bibiena (Austrian 1728–87) 'Design for the interior decoration of a library' 1770s

 

Carlo Galli-Bibiena (Austrian 1728-87)
Design for the interior decoration of a library
1770s
Pen and ink, grey wash and watercolour over pencil
32.0 х 44.0cm (sheet)
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ОР-231)
Acquired before 1797

 

Giacomo Quarenghi (Italian 1744–1817) 'Façade of the Hermitage Theatre' 1780s

 

Giacomo Quarenghi (Italian 1744-1817)
Façade of the Hermitage Theatre
1780s
Pen and ink, watercolour
33.0 х 47.0 cm (sheet)
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ОР-9626)
Acquired from Giulio Quarenghi in 1818

 

Konstantin Ukhtomsky (Russian 1818–81) 'The Raphael Loggia' 1860

 

Konstantin Ukhtomsky (Russian 1818-81)
The Raphael Loggia
1860
Watercolour
42.0 х 25.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ОР-11741)
Acquired from the artist, 1860

 

 

“Over 500 works from the personal collection of Catherine the Great will travel to Australia in July. Gathered over a 34-year period, the exhibition represents the foundation of the Hermitage’s collection and includes outstanding works from artists such as Rembrandt, Velasquez, Rubens and Titian. Exemplary works from Van Dyck, Snyders, Teniers and Hals will also travel, collectively offering some of the finest Dutch and Flemish art to come to Australia. The exhibition, presented by the Hermitage Museum, National Gallery of Victoria and Art Exhibitions Australia, is exclusive to Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series.

The Premier of Victoria, the Hon. Daniel Andrews MP said: “Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great will showcase treasures from one of the largest, oldest and most visited museums in the world. Another major event for Melbourne, this exhibition will provide visitors with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see first-hand the extraordinary personal collection of Catherine the Great, drawn from the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.”

NGV Director, Tony Ellwood said, “This exhibition celebrates the tenacity and vision of a true innovator in the arts. Catherine the Great’s inexhaustible passion for the arts, education and culture heralded a renaissance, leading to the formation of one of the world’s great museums, the Hermitage.”

“We are delighted that we have the good fortune of bringing one of the world’s most important collections to Australian audiences. The exhibition is a rare opportunity to be immersed in the world of Catherine the Great and her magnificent collection of art,” Tony Ellwood said.

Catherine the Great’s reign from 1762 to 1796 was known as the golden age and is remembered for her exceptional patronage of the arts, literature and education. Of German heritage, Catherine the Great was well connected in European art and literature circles. She saw herself as a reine-philosophe (Philosopher Queen), a new kind of ruler in the Age of Enlightenment. Guided by Europe’s leading intellectuals, such as the French philosophers Voltaire and Diderot, she sought to modernise Russia’s economy, industry and government, drawing inspiration both from classical antiquity and contemporary cultural and political developments in Western Europe.

A prolific acquirer of art of the period, Catherine the Great’s collection reflects the finest contemporary art of the 18th century as well as the world’s best old masters of the time, with great works by French, German, Chinese, British, Dutch and Flemish artists. Notable in this exhibition are entire groups of works acquired from renowned collections from France, Germany and England representing the best collections offered for sale at the time. The exhibition will feature four Rembrandts, including the notable Young woman with earrings, known as one of most intimate images Rembrandt ever created. The exhibition will also include 80 particularly fine drawings by artists including Poussin, Rubens, Clouet and Greuze.

Exquisite decorative arts will be brought to Australia for this exhibition, including 60 items from the Cameo Service of striking enamel-painted porcelain made by the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory in Paris. Commissioned by Catherine the Great for her former lover and military commander, Prince Grigory Potemkin, the dinner service features carved and painted imitation cameos, miniature works of art, based on motifs from the French Royal collection.

Director of the Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky said, “These outstanding works from the personal collection of Catherine the Great represent the crown jewels of the Museum. It was through the collection of these works and Catherine the Great’s exceptional vision that the Hermitage was founded. Today it is one of the most visited museums in the world. We are very pleased to be able to share these precious works with Australian audiences at the 250-year anniversary of this important institution.”

Catherine the Great’s love of education, art and culture inspired a period of enlightenment and architectural renaissance that saw the construction of the Hermitage complex. This construction includes six historic buildings along the Palace Embankment as well as the spectacular Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors. On view in the exhibition will be remarkable drawings by the Hermitage’s first architects Georg Velten and Giacomo Quarenghi, complemented by excellent painted views of the new Hermitage by Benjamin Patersen. These, along with Alexander Roslin’s majestic life-size portrait of Catherine, set the scene for a truly spectacular exhibition.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to immerse themselves in Catherine the Great’s world evoking a sensory experience of a visit to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The exhibition design will have rich treatments of architectural details, interior furnishings, wallpapers and a colour palette directly inspired by the Hermitage’s gallery spaces. Enveloping multimedia elements will give visitors a sense of being inside the Hermitage, evoking the lush and opulent interiors.

The Hermitage Museum was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. With 3 million items in its holdings, the Hermitage is often regarded as having the finest collection of paintings in the world today. In 2014, The Hermitage celebrated its 250-year anniversary and opened a new wing of the museum with 800 rooms dedicated to art from the 19th to 21st centuries. The exhibition is organised by The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg in association with the National Gallery of Victoria and Art Exhibitions Australia.

Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great will be at NGV International from 31 July – 8 November 2015 and will be presented alongside the David Bowie is exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image as part of the 2015 Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Jean-Baptiste Santerre (French 1651–1717) 'Two actresses' 1699

 

Jean-Baptiste Santerre (French 1651-1717)
Two actresses
1699
Oil on canvas
146.0 х 114.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-1284)
Acquired 1768

 

Anthony van Dyck (Flemish 1599–1641) 'Portrait of Philadelphia and Elizabeth Wharton' 1640

 

Anthony van Dyck (Flemish 1599-1641)
Portrait of Philadelphia and Elizabeth Wharton
1640
Oil on canvas
162.0 х 130.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-533)
Acquired from the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779

 

Jean Louis Voille (French 1744–1804) 'Portrait of Olga Zherebtsova' 1790s

 

Jean Louis Voille (French 1744-1804)
Portrait of Olga Zherebtsova
1790s
Oil on canvas
73.5 х 58.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-5654)
Acquired from the collection of E. P. Oliv, Petrograd, 1923

 

Peter Paul Rubens and workshop (Flemish 1577–1640) 'The Apostle Paul' c. 1615

 

Peter Paul Rubens and workshop (Flemish 1577-1640)
The Apostle Paul
c. 1615
Oil on wood panel
105.6 х 74.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-489)
Acquired before 1774

 

Leonardo Da Vinci (school of) 'Female nude (Donna Nuda)' early 16th century

 

Leonardo Da Vinci (school of)
Female nude (Donna Nuda)
Early 16th century
Oil on canvas
86.5 х 66.5 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-110)
Acquired from the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779

 

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch 1606–69) 'Portrait of a scholar' 1631

 

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch 1606-69)
Portrait of a scholar
1631
Oil on canvas
104.5 х 92.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-744)
Acquired from the collection of Count Heinrich von Brühl, Dresden, 1769

 

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (French 1715–83) 'Portrait of a boy with a book' 1740s

 

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (French 1715-83)
Portrait of a boy with a book
1740s
Oil on canvas
63.0 х 52.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-1270)
Acquired from the collection of A. G. Teplov, St Petersburg, 1781

 

Domenico Capriolo (Italian (c. 1494)–1528) 'Portrait of a young man' 1512

 

Domenico Capriolo (Italian (c. 1494)-1528)
Portrait of a young man
1512
Oil on canvas
117.0 х 85.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-21)
Acquired from the collection of Baron Louis-Antoine Crozat de Thiers, Paris, 1772

 

Alexander Roslin (Swedish 1718–93) 'Portrait of Catherine II' 1776–77

 

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

 

Titian (Italian (1485–90)–1576) 'Portrait of a young woman' c. 1536

 

Titian (Italian (1485-90)-1576)
Portrait of a young woman
c. 1536
Oil on canvas
96.0 х 75.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-71)
Acquired from the collection of Baron Louis-Antoine Crozat de Thiers, Paris, 1772

 

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch 1606–69) 'Young woman trying on earrings' 1657

 

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch 1606-69)
Young woman trying on earrings
1657
Oil on wood panel
39.5 х 32.5 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-784)
Acquired from the collection of the Comte de Baudouin, Paris, 1781

 

Francois CLOUET (French (c. 1516)–1572) 'Portrait of Charles IX' 1566

 

Francois Clouet (French (c. 1516)-1572)
Portrait of Charles IX
1566
Black and red chalk
33.1 x 22.5 cm (sheet)
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. OР-2893)
Acquired from the collection of Count Cobenzl, Brussels, 1768

 

David Teniers II (Flemish 1610–90) 'Kitchen' 1646

 

David Teniers II (Flemish 1610-90)
Kitchen
1646
Oil on canvas
171.0 х 237.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-586)
Acquired from the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779

 

Cornelis de Vos (Dutch/Flemish (c. 1584)–1651) 'Self-portrait of the artist with his wife Suzanne Cock and their children' c. 1634

 

Cornelis de Vos (Dutch/Flemish (c. 1584)-1651)
Self-portrait of the artist with his wife Suzanne Cock and their children
c. 1634
Oil on canvas
185.5 х 221.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-623)
Donated by Prince G. A. Potemkin, 1780s

 

Anthony van Dyck (Flemish 1599–1641) 'Family portrait' c. 1619

 

Anthony van Dyck (Flemish 1599-1641)
Family portrait
c. 1619
Oil on canvas
113.5 х 93.5 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-534)
Acquired from a private collection, Brussels, 1774

 

Charles Vanloo (French 1705–65) 'Sultan's wife drinking coffee' 1750s

 

Charles Vanloo (French 1705-65)
Sultan’s wife drinking coffee
1750s
Oil on canvas
120.0 х 127.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-7489)
Acquired from the collection of Madame Marie-Thérèse Geoffrin, Paris, 1772

 

Peter Paul Rubens and workshop (Flemish 1577–1640) The Adoration of the Magi c. 1620 Oil on canvas 235.0 х 277.5 cm The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. № ГЭ-494) Acquired from the collection of Dufresne, Amsterdam, 1770

 

Peter Paul Rubens and workshop (Flemish 1577-1640)
The Adoration of the Magi
c. 1620
Oil on canvas
235.0 х 277.5 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. № ГЭ-494)
Acquired from the collection of Dufresne, Amsterdam, 1770

 

Diego Velazquez (Spanish 1599–1660) 'Luncheon' c. 1617–18

 

Diego Velázquez (Spanish 1599-1660)
Luncheon
c. 1617-18
Oil on canvas
108.5 х 102.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-389)
Acquired 1763-74

 

Melchior d'Hondecoeter (Dutch 1636–95) 'Birds in a park' 1686

 

Melchior d’Hondecoeter (Dutch 1636-95)
Birds in a park
1686
Oil on canvas
136.0 х 164.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-1042)
Acquired from the collection of Jacques Aved, Paris, 1766

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579–1657) 'Concert of birds' 1630–40

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657)
Concert of birds
1630-40
Oil on canvas
136.5 х 240.0 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-607)
Acquired from the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours for exhibition
10am – 5pm daily

NGV Masterpieces from the Hermitage website

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09
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘John Wolseley – Heartlands and Headwaters’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 11th April – 16th August 2015

 

This is a wondrous exhibition by John Wolseley at NGV Australia. The whole feeling of the exhibition, its scale and intimacy, the attention to detail and the sheer the beauty of the work is quite outstanding. I was fascinated with the text descriptions the artist gives with each piece of work, included here in the posting.

While Wolseley plays with time (deep time, shallow time and now time) and space here it is more than that, for deep time (or “the zone” in the alternative parlance of athletes) is also used in artistic activity to refer to the experience of being lost in the act of creation or the consumption of a work. To the viewer, so it would seem here for we become lost in the art of creation. There is a sense of timelessness, the experience of unusual freedom within time, an unawareness of time, within Wolseley’s work, yet still grounded in the past and present, flowing into the future of this planet. This sense of place, context, space and time(lessness) are lucidly resolved in the artist’s work.

As the Introduction to the exhibition states, Wolseley conceives the exhibition as gesamtkunstwerk , a total work of art, presenting new possibilities for understanding landscape in the twenty-first century. This generally works well in revealing the unique, dynamic processes of natural ecosystems when the work is on the wall. However, the floor of the gallery (natural timber boards) lessened the experience of the “total work of art” for me. If you are designing an exhibition that would seem to me to be immersive (to some extent) then the work needed more grounding than it contains here.

This is a minor observation in an otherwise superlative exhibition. The colours, the sensitivity of the painting, the flow of the images, water, music, prose… are a narrative almost like a fable if the issues were not so real. The heightened imagery and emotional effects of the work make us truly aware that now is the time for action. The future development of the new coal power stations must be stopped. Renewable energy is the energy of the future as much as it is light emanating from the past.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart.

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

 

 

“Over the past four years, John Wolseley has travelled and painted throughout the Australian continent. He has journeyed from the swamps of the Tasmanian high country to the coastal flood plains of the tropical north, exploring the nature and action of water and how it has shaped the land.

Wolseley has worked on site beside strange and diverse wetlands – sphagnum bogs, ephemeral waterholes, bilabongs and mangrove swamps – and combined his own distinctive mark-making processes with more traditional watercolour techniques. He has ‘collaborated’ with plants, birds and insects and used a range of drawing systems that includes frottaging (rubbing against) burnt trees, burying papers in snad and swamps and nature printing from leaves, wood and rocks.

The artist’s layered and collaged papers have been assembled as an installation in the shape of a giant branching tree, surrounded by large-scale works which enclose the viewer in an immersive environment. Wolseley has rejected European landscape conventions that often reduce a complex, living system to a static and generalised representation. Instead, he endeavours to reveal the unique, dynamic processes of natural ecosystems. Conceived as gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art), Heartlands and headwaters presents new possibilities for understanding landscape in the twenty-first century.”

Introduction text to the exhibition

 

John Wolseley. 'History of the Whipstick Forest with ephemeral swamps and gold bearing reefs' 2011

 

John Wolseley
History of the Whipstick Forest with ephemeral swamps and gold bearing reefs (detail)
2011
Watercolour, charcoal and pencil on 2 sheets (a-b)
233.5 x 286.6 cm (overall)
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

 

One summer’s day I walked from my studio into the forest and followed a dry creek to some swamps and pools bursting with life. This arid landscape, so torn up and churned over, was still miraculously reinventing itself. Such resilience!

In this drawing I bring together the histories of three kinds of time: the ‘deep time’ of geology, ‘shallow time’ since European arrival, and ‘now time’ in October 2011. The history of the hidden workings of the earth I stole from a geologist’s map. Resting on this ancient framework in the painting’s centre is the green swamp. Above this is another map, which tells the story of William Johnson, a visitor to this forest 160 years ago, whose discovery of gold was the birth of the Bendigo goldfields.

When I was working on this painting, this bush was burnt in line with the government’s draconian legislation to burn all public bushland in Victoria every ten years. This often gives no time for vegetation to mature and seed, and biodiversity in certain fire-sensitive ecologies is being ravaged. My reverence for nature’s resilience was moved to a sense of deep chagrin that yet again we are destroying the matrix which is our home.

 

John Wolseley. 'Regeneration after fire - the seeders and the sprouters, Mallee' (detail)  2009-11

 

John Wolseley
Regeneration after fire – the seeders and the sprouters, Mallee (detail)
2009-11
Watercolour, charcoal, pencil and pigment
152.2 x 256.7 cm irreg.
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

 

I went for a long walk through recently burnt mallee scrub in the Big Desert Wilderness Park. Some of the mallee roots had vivid amber, scarlet and mauve new growth exploding from the surviving stumps. Nearby were scatterings of tiny, bright banksia seedlings that had germinated after the fire, causing seed pods to burst open and expel their seeds. Botanists call such trees ‘seeders’, while their companions, the mallee eucalypts, are known as ‘sprouters’. Sprouters have a large root, known as a lignotuber, which stores water and nutrients – this is part of a brilliant strategy for survival in arid landscapes.

 

John Wolseley. 'From Siberia to Roebuck Bay - the godwits reach the mangrove swamps, WA' (detail) 2012

 

John Wolseley
From Siberia to Roebuck Bay – the godwits reach the mangrove swamps, WA (detail)
2012
Watercolour over pencil, charcoal and coloured chalk
151.9 x 199.0 cm irreg. Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

 

Each year in June the bar-tailed godwits fly 12,000 kilometres from their breeding grounds in Siberia to the north coast of Australia. I was standing by the sea on the north Kimberley coast when out of a clear sky the godwits arrived in vast, pulsing flocks that swooped down to rest on the mudflats. The land, with its mudflats and sandbanks, had been formed by the great king tides, dragged for eons by the cycles of the moon. And now I could see these great tides of godwit, pulled by another powerful force, flow down and merge with the waters.

 

John Wolseley. 'Natural history of swamps III, heron in swamp - Loy Yang Power Station' (detail) 2009-10

 

John Wolseley
Natural history of swamps III, heron in swamp – Loy Yang Power Station (detail)
2009-10
Watercolour, pencil, ink, black chalk, scratching out and leaf
114.0 x 176.0 cm
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

 

I was looking at a dam in the grounds of the Loy Yang Power Station, when in flew a black-backed heron. It looked for fish in the water and then peered at a billboard declaring ‘Hazelwood Power Station – WETLAND DEVELOPMENT PROJECT’. I walked down to the vast open-cut coalmine, and looked for fish fossils and Cryptogamic flora among the seams of coal. Then I returned to the heron, which now seemed to be looking at the steam and CO2 belching out of the cooling towers – those clouds of CO2 that came from the coal which was once a carboniferous swamp.

 

 

“For four years, artist John Wolseley has roamed the coastal floodplains of the Northern Territory through to the glacial lakes of Tasmania, exploring and recording in exquisite detail the diverse wetlands of Australia. The works he has created will be revealed at NGV Australia.

This series of eighteen evocative works on paper, many of them monumental in scale (up to 10 metres in size), detail the geographical features and unique plants and animals of these wetlands in works characterised by minutely- observed drawing and rich watercolour washes.

Many works combine collage and unusual markings made through burying works or hoisting large sheets of paper across the charred remains of burnt tree trunks and branches. Through this ‘collaboration’ with the natural environment, Wolseley subverts traditional approaches to the depiction of landscape and seeking to give the natural world a more active presence in the work of art.

‘Heartlands and Headwaters celebrates Australia’s unique and diverse natural environment,’ said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV. ‘Wolseley’s work is not only of great beauty, but also demonstrates how depicting the landscape has become an important form of activism’.

The mangrove swamps of Roebuck Bay in Western Australia, the flood plains of the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory, the Finke River in the Simpson Desert and the sphagnum swamps of Skullbone Plains in central Tasmania are just some of the sites detailed in these impressive works.

Commissioned by Sir Roderick Carnegie AC, these works celebrate the beauty of the Australian wilderness and encourage an understanding of the significance and environmental fragility of these remote and little-known sites.

 

About John Wolseley

Born in England in 1938, John Wolseley immigrated to Australia in 1976 and has gained recognition in the past four decades as one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists whose work engages passionately with the environment.

Over the years Wolseley has travelled extensively throughout the country, into the arid interior and remote wilderness areas in all states, camping out for extended periods and immersing himself in the landscape.

This approach is reflected in the distinctly non-traditional character of the landscape works Wolseley produces. Instead of presenting a single overarching view of a particular site they are composite images that combine precisely observed details of flora and fauna. Informed by readings in geology, biology, cartography and other disciplines, these provide multiple perspectives on the location’s topography, journal notations and observations of natural cycles or patterns of the area.”

Press release from the NGV website

 

John Wolseley. 'Murray-Sunset refugia with 14 ventifacts' 2008-10

 

John Wolseley
Murray-Sunset refugia with 14 ventifacts
2008-10
From The Great Tree of Drawings 1959-2015, installed 2015
Pencil, watercolour and charcoal on 15 sheets (a-o)
Dimensions variable (overall)
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

John Wolseley Murray-Sunset refugia with 14 ventifacts (detail) 2008-10

John Wolseley Murray-Sunset refugia with 14 ventifacts (detail) 2008-10

 

John Wolseley
Murray-Sunset refugia with 14 ventifacts (details)
2008-10
From The Great Tree of Drawings 1959-2015, installed 2015
Pencil, watercolour and charcoal on 15 sheets (a-o)
Dimensions variable (overall)
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

 

This work was made in the Murray-Sunset National Park, where I found an island of unburnt scrub remaining after a bushfire. This refugium, or sanctuary, provided shelter for plants and small creatures from which they could later gradually recolonise the surrounding sand dunes. The small, flying sheets are papers I released to blow on the desert winds for weeks and sometimes months. Each sheet records carbon traces made by the burnt fingers of trees and shrubs. Having been made soft from dews and showers, and dried and tossed by the desert winds, they have become fixed in a variety of sculptural forms.

 

John Wolseley. 'Natural history of a sphagnum bog, Lake Ina, Tasmania' 2013

 

John Wolseley
Natural history of a sphagnum bog, Lake Ina, Tasmania
2013
Watercolour, pencil, pen and ink, and sphagnum on 8 sheets (a-h)
155.6 x 407.6 cm (overall)
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

John Wolseley. 'Natural history of a sphagnum bog, Lake Ina, Tasmania' (detail) 2013

John Wolseley. 'Natural history of a sphagnum bog, Lake Ina, Tasmania' (detail) 2013

John Wolseley. 'Natural history of a sphagnum bog, Lake Ina, Tasmania' (detail) 2013

 

John Wolseley
Natural history of a sphagnum bog, Lake Ina, Tasmania (details)
2013
Watercolour, pencil, pen and ink, and sphagnum on 8 sheets (a-h)
155.6 x 407.6 cm (overall)
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

 

As a creek moves down to the shores of Lake Ina in the central highlands of Tasmania, it swells out into an ancient sphagnum moss swamp. I leant over and peered into a gap between the mats of sphagnum, and a small fish emerged in the crystal water. This brief phantom – a Clarence galaxias – was only miraculously there because its ancestors had been isolated by a glacial moraine (ridge) upstream, which six million years later had saved it from the European trout, which had supplanted most of the other galaxias in the rest of Tasmania. And then, marvellously, it had been saved again by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, which had purchased these plains to protect them from further loss and degradation.

As the grey shadows moved down the hill and melted into the lake, I soaked and painted the spongy sphagnum mats with tinctures of watercolour – viridian and crimson and Indian yellow – and laid them on several sheets of paper. I did the same with water milfoils, spike reed, tassel sedges and bladderwort, and weighted them down overnight with slabs of bark. Their images were imprinted on the paper, emerging slowly like a photograph being developed.

 

John Wolseley. 'From the edge of the great flood plains of Garrangari and Garrangalli, NT' 2012-14

 

John Wolseley
From the edge of the great flood plains of Garrangari and Garrangalli, NT
2012-14
Pencil, charcoal, black and brown chalk, watercolour, coloured pencil, coloured pastel, frottage and collages of linocut, wood relief printed in black and brown ink, watercolour, charcoal and coloured pencil over pencil and pen and ink on Japanese and wove paper
155.5 x 961.7 cm irreg.
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

 

In June 2011 I was standing on the edge of the monsoon rainforest bordering a vast flood plain in East Arnhem Land with Djambawa Marawili, the great Yolngu leader and artist. Djambawa recounted how in the dawn of creation ancestral figures had moved up from the coast, digging for edible roots as they went, creating springs of fresh water that still bubble out along the plains. He described how when the first sun came up these ancestor women turned into brolga cranes. As he sang the song several brolgas emerged from the mists and flew slowly towards the coast.

This was the originary moment of this painting. For the next three years, guided by the Dhudi-Djapu clan leader and artist Mulkun Wirrpanda, I collected and drew specimens of plants and trees of the flood plain, and their edible roots and tubers. In the painting I have drawn many of them, along with the various trees festooned with vines.

For me the great miracle of that morning rested in that moment of time – being there, seeing the living land and sensing the ‘deep time’ so intimately linked with the life and art of the people who have lived in it for so long.

 

John Wolseley. 'A Daly River creek, NT' 2012

 

John Wolseley
A Daly River creek, NT
2012
Watercolour, pastel, pencil, charcoal, ink, yellow pencil and collage of woodcut and linocut on Japanese paper (a-c)
152.0 x 602.0 cm (overall)
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

John Wolseley. 'A Daly River creek, NT' (detail) 2012

 

John Wolseley
A Daly River creek, NT (detail)
2012
Watercolour, pastel, pencil, charcoal, ink, yellow pencil and collage of woodcut and linocut on Japanese paper (a-c)
152.0 x 602.0 cm (overall)
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

 

Here is a flowing tropical creek near Nauiyu, about two hours’ drive south of Darwin. It shows the fecund, flowing mass of life and aquatic plants and fish, and how they are all an integral part of one particular ecosystem. The plants were all drawn on the spot or collected and drawn later in Darwin. It was May 2012 and I went on several trips with the ethnobiologist Glenn Wightman, the Ngan’gi elder Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart AM and other artists from the arts centre at Nauiyu. They showed me the plants in their living habitat so that I could draw them in action, rather than as dried museum specimens – the Nymphaea waterlily, with its long, convulsive stems, several species of bladderwort, water chestnuts and duckweed.

In this tropical aquatic painting I have tried to show how landscape for me is made up of energy fields that I draw as passages of particular plant forms, in which the individual plants move or dance with different rhythms. My intention is to show how these rafts of different species weave in and out of one another, and across the surface of my painting, rather as a passage of a symphony changes key and mood.

 

John Wolseley. 'Cycles of fire and water - Lake Tyrrell, Victoria' 2011-12

 

John Wolseley
Cycles of fire and water – Lake Tyrrell, Victoria
2011-12
Watercolour, charcoal, pencil, sponging and scratching out on 2 sheets (a-b)
154.0 x 610.0 cm (overall)
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

John Wolseley. 'Cycles of fire and water - Lake Tyrrell, Victoria' (detail) 2011-12

 

John Wolseley
Cycles of fire and water – Lake Tyrrell, Victoria (detail)
2011-12
Watercolour, charcoal, pencil, sponging and scratching out on 2 sheets (a-b)
154.0 x 610.0 cm (overall)
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

 

I was sitting on a low sandbank and drawing the pools of water that lay on this ancient salt lake. A rust-coloured cloud erupted into the air and darkened the sky over the water. The wind grew stronger, as if emanating from the core of the fire, and it carried embers and burning branches like dismembered limbs. I felt a kind of disquiet, almost dread. I knew such fires had always been part of the natural cycles of the bush, but this was one of several I had experienced that season where it felt as if fire itself was behaving in a different, more erratic way; as if the subtle equilibrium of the climate was changing.

From out of the billowing clouds of smoke some spoonbills, ibis and cormorants emerged, and flew far out over the lake. Several of them alighted on a patch of sunlit water and remained there, as if illustrating some cycle of eternal return – from action to stillness, from noise to quiet. But as I watched, the great black cloud drifted over their resting place, moving them on as if they were being chased away from the world they had known.

 

John Wolseley. 'After fire - spiny-cheeked honeyeaters at Lake Monibeong' (detail) 2009-11

 

John Wolseley
After fire – spiny-cheeked honeyeaters at Lake Monibeong (detail)
2009-11
Watercolour, charcoal, pencil, gouache and brown chalk
151.7 x 128.9 cm
Collection of Sir Roderick Carnegie AC and Family
© John Wolseley

 

 

Walking through the recently burnt Cobboboonee Forest in Victoria one morning, I reached a lake where fresh water rested in sand dunes bordering the sea. I stood beside a burnt banksia tree with powdery black, corrugated bark. It had been a stormy night, but now the sea and lake were calm. Several spiny-cheeked honeyeaters swooped down, perched in the tree and sung out jubilantly. It was as if they were filled with elation at all these elements coming to rest in equilibrium – the lake resting within the sand dune, the quietening of the wind and the passing of the fire.

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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02
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 31st July – 8th November 2015

 

A scintillating exhibition at NGV International which showcases one of the world’s greatest art collections. Exhibition design is outstanding (particularly the floor tiling), as are the Da Vinci, Titian, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Rubens and Flemish still life. Among my favourites is a small Watteau Savoyard with a Marmot (1716) which is absolutely still, delicate and exquisite: I thought of the photographs of Atget, his street sellers, when I saw this painting; and Frans Snyders’ tour-de-force Concert of birds (1630-40) which has such presence.

Well done to the curators, the Hermitage Museum and the NGV for staging such a magnificent exhibition.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

All photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria.

 

 

Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great showcases one of the world’s greatest art collections. Featuring works by artists including Rembrandt, Rubens, Velázquez and Van Dyck, the exhibition offers a dazzling array of works including the finest group of Dutch and Flemish art to come to Australia.

This exclusive Melbourne exhibition will also highlight the innovation and vision of Catherine the Great, whose inexhaustible passion for education, the arts and culture heralded a period of enlightenment in the region. The extraordinary works sourced and commissioned by Catherine during her thirty-four year reign, created the foundations for the Hermitage today – considered to be one of the world’s greatest treasure houses of art and decorative arts. The exhibition will offer audiences an immersive experience, recreating the rich atmosphere of the Hermitage to showcase these exquisite works.

German-born Catherine the Great (Catherine II) came to power in 1762, aged thirty-three, and ruled Russia for the next thirty-four years, until her death in 1796. She saw herself as a Philosopher Queen, a new kind of ruler in the Age of Enlightenment. Guided by Europe’s leading intellectuals, she modernised Russia’s economy, industry and government, drawing inspiration both from Antiquity and contemporary cultural and political developments in Western Europe. A fluent speaker of Russian, French and German, Catherine was largely self-educated, independent, idealistic and visionary.

While her reign was not always peaceful, Catherine sought to bring order, stability and prosperity to the vast Russian Empire. Her ideals of abolishing serfdom and ensuring the equality of all citizens under the law were ahead of her time, and strongly resisted by the nobility of the day; however, she achieved numerous other reforms, including the introduction of paper money and modernisation of Russia’s education system. French philosopher Denis Diderot, who visited St Petersburg in 1773, described an audience with Catherine as being ‘more like study than anything else: she is a stranger to no subject; there is no man in the Empire who knows her nation as well as she’.

 

Room 1 Catherine the collector

Between 1762 and 1796, the years of her reign, Catherine the Great oversaw a period of cultural renaissance in Russia. The world of ideas in which she was deeply involved from an early age found tangible expression in the material world the Empress later created around herself. The great complexes of imperial buildings Catherine constructed reflected her informed interest in both Classical and Chinese culture.

Catherine not only assembled a collection of Old Master paintings equal in scale and quality to leading European collections, but also paid considerable attention to the acquisition of contemporary art. While the richness and technical perfection of her diverse collections of decorative arts aimed to dazzle and please, they also had the more practical purpose of raising standards of artistic production in Russia. The fact that more than 400 exemplary works of art from her personal collection, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, porcelain, silver and precious gems, are seen here for the first time in Australia is cause for celebration.

 

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' featuring Alexander Roslin (Swedish 1718–93) 'Portrait of Catherine II' 1776–77

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' featuring Alexander Roslin (Swedish 1718–93) 'Portrait of Catherine II' 1776–77

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' featuring Alexander Roslin (Swedish 1718–93) 'Portrait of Catherine II' 1776–77

 

Installation views of room 1 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Alexander Roslin (Swedish 1718-93) Portrait of Catherine II 1776-77

 

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Sèvres Cameo Service

The Sèvres Cameo Service relates to Catherine’s great passion for collecting engraved gemstones. Comprising 797 individual pieces designed to serve dinner, dessert and coffee to sixty people, the Cameo Service was commissioned from the celebrated Sèvres porcelain manufactory outside Paris as a present for Catherine’s court ‘favourite’, Prince Grigory Potemkin. The Empress’s monogram, ‘E II’ (the Russian version of her name being Ekaterina), woven from garlands of flowers and surmounted by a crown, adorned almost every object in the service.

Production of the service was both time consuming and labour-intensive. The exquisite blue element alone – made from separate layers of copper enamel that gradually seeped into the porcelain and set the pure colour – required five firings. In addition to the hundreds of porcelain objects decorated with painted and sculpted cameos and related silverware, the service also included grand central table decorations fashioned from biscuit, or unglazed cream-coloured porcelain, by the sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot. These decorations illustrated tales from Greek mythology, and were presided over by a grand biscuit statue of Catherine the Great as Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts.

 

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 1 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 1 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Exhibition passageway

Installation view of passageway video of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation view of passageway video of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne

 

 

Room 2 Italian art

When Catherine the Great began collecting European art, opportunities to acquire fine Italian Old Master paintings were already severely limited. Demand from wealthy collectors was high and the marketplace was saturated with misattributed works, some of which inevitably made their way to the Hermitage and other great collections.

Despite this, Catherine achieved great success collecting sixteenth and seventeenth century paintings, particularly from Venice, including great paintings by Titian, Paris Bordone and the enigmatic Lorenzo Lotto. These are complemented by fine examples of Roman and Florentine paintings, such as the famous Female nude (Donna nuda), by an artist very close to Leonardo da Vinci. This select group of paintings beautifully illustrate developments in figurative art, portraiture and religious art in Italy from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.

In the early years of her reign, Catherine the Great acquired en masse several large collections of drawings representing all the main European schools. This set the foundations for the current Hermitage Museum’s outstanding Cabinet of Drawings. In terms of quality, Catherine’s acquisitions of Italian drawings were of the highest standard. The majority of these date from the mid sixteenth to late eighteenth centuries and include many rare and precious works.

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Domenico Fetti (Italian 1589-1623) 'Portrait of an actor' 1620s

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Domenico Fetti (Italian 1589-1623) Portrait of an actor 1620s

 

Domenico Fetti (Italian 1589-1623) 'Portrait of an actor' 1620s

 

Domenico Fetti (Italian 1589-1623)
Portrait of an actor
1620s
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 

Domenico Fetti was court painter to Gerdinand II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, when he made this striking portrait of an actor. It is though to be Tristano Martinelli who made his fame working in the commedia dell’arte tradition. It is believe that Marinelli created and popularised the standard roll of the Harlequin in theatre. Fetti himself was involved with the theatre in both Mantua and Venice.

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Paris Bordone (Italian 1500-71) 'Portrait of a lady with a boy' Mid 1530s

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Paris Bordone (Italian 1500-71) Portrait of a lady with a boy Mid 1530s

 

Paris Bordone (Italian 1500-71) 'Portrait of a lady with a boy' Mid 1530s

 

Paris Bordone (Italian 1500-71)
Portrait of a lady with a boy
Mid 1530s
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 

This work by Venetian artist Paris Bordone is a typical example of formal Renaissance portraiture. Bordone’s main aim was to show the high social standing of the sitters, so he painted their luxurious costumes in great detail. He draws our attention to the sumptuous sleeves of this woman’s dress, he headgear resembling a turban, as well as her opulent jewellery. Bordone was one of Titian’s most talented pupils whose work is characterised by a level of precision not often present in his master’s work. This painting entered the Hermitage as a work by Giorgione.

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne featuring to the left, Domenico Capriolo (Italian c. 1494-1528) 'Portrait of a young man' 1512 and to the right, Lorenzo Lotto (Italian c. 1480-1556) 'The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine' 1529-30

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring to the left, Domenico Capriolo (Italian c. 1494-1528) Portrait of a young man 1512 and to the right, Lorenzo Lotto (Italian c. 1480-1556) The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine 1529-30

 

Portrait of a young man by the Venetian master Domenico Capriolo captures the intellectual values of Renaissance art. Everything that surrounds this youth speaks of his interests, such as the church that indicates his piety; the statue of Venus that reveals his passion for Antiquity; and the folder (containing verses or drawings) that illustrates the richness of his inner world. The painting is dated 1512 and the artist’s name symbolised by a medallion containing a Capreolus, or deer, which is a play on his name. Such allusions were common in Renaissance art and would have been readily understood by his contemporaries.

 

Lorenzo Lotto (Italian c. 1480-1556) 'The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine' 1529-30

Lorenzo Lotto (Italian c. 1480-1556) 'The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine' 1529-30

 

Lorenzo Lotto (Italian c. 1480-1556)
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine
1529-30
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 

Lorenzo Lotto is a much admired sixteenth-century Venetian artist. The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with Saint Justine has the typical dynamism of Lotto’s work, achieved not only through the poses, gestures and movement of the foliage, but also through his intense colour palette and the juxtaposition of resonant blues with red and yellow tones. Here, the Holy Family has been joined by Saint Justine of Padua, martyred in 304 AD, identifiable through her attribute of a sword piercing her breast. Justine was a very popular subject for artists of Northern Italy.

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Leonardo da Vinci (school of) 'Female nude (Donna Nuda)' Early 16th century

 

Installation view of room 2 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Leonardo da Vinci (school of) Female nude (Donna Nuda) Early 16th century

 

Leonardo da Vinci (school of) 'Female nude (Donna Nuda)' Early 16th century

 

Leonardo da Vinci (school of)
Female nude (Donna Nuda)
Early 16th century
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 

This painting entered the Hermitage collection as a work by Leonardo da Vinci, but is now widely accepted to be by one of his close followers, possibly his pupil Salai. Perhaps more important is that it may be a close copy of a lost painting by Leonardo. Female nude (Donna Nuda) also shares some of the qualities of the famous Mona Lisa c. 1503-19, in the Louvre Museum, Paris; namely the repetition of the pose, the position of the hands and the landscape setting seen behind a stone ledge in front of which the figure is set. This is the most refined of numerous variants of this composition in existence.

 

 

Room 3 Flemish art

In the seventeenth century, Flanders comprised the Catholic-dominated Southern Netherlands or ‘Spanish’ Austrian Netherlands, an area larger than modern Belgium. Thanks in large part to the talents of artist Peter Paul Rubens, the Flanders or ‘Flemish’ school in this era became very prestigious. While chiefly a painter, Rubens had far-reaching stylistic influence on many visual art forms, from prints to silverware and architecture. Every leading artist of seventeenth-century Flanders studied in, passed through or was connected with Rubens’s studio.

A diplomat and court insider, Rubens operated on an international stage. His art was correspondingly monumental; characterised by large forms modelled with loose brushstrokes in glowing, brilliant colours. Rubens’s pupil Anthony van Dyck and collaborator Cornelis de Vos led the way in bringing new naturalism to portraiture. While they catered to different markets (van Dyck to the nobility and de Vos to a rich merchant class) their mutual influence is apparent.

Flanders was a nation built on trade, and Flemish artists travelled widely, especially to Italy. From Italy they brought back new pictorial trends, such as the theatrical naturalism of Caravaggio. Flemish artists excelled in naturalistic effects, which they applied even to traditionally humble subjects, such as still lifes and animal pictures, seen to brilliant effect in the art of Frans Snyders and David Teniers II.

 

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

room-three-installation-e

 

Installation views of room 3 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne featuring Peter Paul Rubens and workshop (Flemish 1577-1640) The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1620 at centre

 

Rubens painted the subject of the Adoration of the Magi (Matthew 2:1) more often than any other episode from Christ’s life. Rendered at life-sized scale, this painting combines the humility of Christ’s birth with splendid, worldly pageantry. Three Kings from the East are shown crowding into Christ’s stable (portrayed as a cave, in an allusion to Christ’s later interment) wearing gold- embroidered silks and satins, and offering gifts. The eldest king, Caspar, kneels before Christ with gold; behind him is Melchior, with frankincense; and Balthazar with myrrh, used for embalming. With the help of his studio, Rubens produced more than sixty altarpieces during his career.

 

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 3 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 3 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish 1577–1640) 'Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero)' c. 1612

 

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish 1577-1640)
Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero)
c. 1612
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Acquired from the collection of Count Cobenzl, Brussels, 1768

 

Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero) depicts a story told by the Roman historian Valerius Maximus in his Factorum ac dictorum memorabilium libri IX (Nine Books of Memorable Deeds and Sayings), written around 30 AD. The story involves Cimon, an old man awaiting execution in prison who was not given food. Cimon’s daughter Pero visited him, and suckled him at her breast like a child. Pero’s nourishing of Cimon was considered an outstanding example of paying honour to one’s parents.

 

 

Room 4 Dutch art

The Hermitage holds the finest collection of Dutch art outside the Netherlands. While Peter the Great (1672-1725) had a passion for Dutch art and acquired some notable masterpieces, Catherine the Great established the depth and breadth of this extraordinary collection, beginning in 1764 with her first acquisitions. In that year Catherine purchased 317 paintings that had been assembled for Frederick II of Prussia by the German merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. Among this substantial group were more than 100 Dutch paintings by the most notable masters.

In 1769 Catherine purchased the collection of Count Heinrich von Brühl, which included spectacular landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael, Isaack Jansz. van Ostade and Aert van der Neer, as well as four Rembrandt portraits, including the wonderful Portrait of a scholar, 1631. For the rest of her life Catherine continued to add outstanding Dutch works to her rich collection. Although the paintings and drawings from the Dutch school included here are only a fragment of the extensive and diverse collection assembled by Catherine the Great, they reveal her artistic preferences and taste.

 

Installation view of room 4 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 4 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 4 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne with Rembrandt. Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch 1606-69) Portrait of a scholar 1631 at centre.

 

Rembrandt painted Portrait of a scholar shortly after moving from his native Leiden to Amsterdam in 1630. He had already established a growing reputation in Leiden and was enticed to the capital by the art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh, father of his future wife Saskia. Once completing the move, Rembrandt rapidly became the city’s leading artist, mainly on account of dazzling portraits such as this early masterpiece. He then secured the most prestigious commissions from wealthy and powerful citizens of Amsterdam.

 

 

Room 5 French taste

The Russian aristocracy spoke French and modelled their manners and style on those of the French Court. Catherine followed the vast intellectual strides of the French philosophes with passionate interest. She also embraced the arts, luring French artists, architects and craftsmen to St Petersburg.

Catherine relied on agents and advisors in France and Germany to identify and acquire works of art on her behalf. In this way she acquired the collection of Paris banker Louis Antoine Crozat, Baron de Thiers and other important bodies of work in France. Her holdings of French art came to encompass works by Renaissance masters as well as seventeenth-century landscapes and history paintings.

Catherine also acquired examples of work of her own century by Rococo artists such as Antoine Watteau. The playful, erotic and at times wistful art of Watteau’s generation gave rise to the intimate and worldly art of François Boucher, whose pictures Catherine also purchased. The Empress collected modern masterpieces created in reaction to French courtly and decadent styles. Her paintings by Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin are premier examples of a new, moralising directness in ambitious French art.

Catherine’s buying in France was not limited to French art. Also in this room are paintings by great German, Spanish and Italian masters that were acquired in Paris from prestigious collections under the direction of Catherine’s French advisors.

 

Installation view of room 5 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 5 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 5 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne.

 

 

Room 6 Catherine and the world

For Catherine the Great, collecting art was part of a wider economic and diplomatic program designed to stimulate economic and cultural activity at home and abroad. At a meeting in December 1762 with the Moscow Senate, Catherine suggested that consuls be stationed in Spain, Holland and England not only to promote maritime trade but also to source luxury goods and works of art as examples for Russian artists and manufacturers to aspire to.

Through Catherine’s consuls and agents, such items began to flow into St Petersburg, steadily elevating that city into a vibrant centre of European culture. While her cultural sympathies were French, Catherine was also very curious about Britain – the economic success story of the age. She informed herself about Britain’s trade, commerce, manufacturing, philosophy and political system, and purchased works by modern British neoclassical masters, such as Joseph Wright of Derby and Joshua Reynolds. Examples of Spanish, Italian and German art were often not sourced in their own countries of origin but acquired as a part of larger collections.

 

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 6 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 6 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne with the 1773 sculpture Catherine II by Jean-Antoine Houdon (French 1741-1826) at centre.

 

 

Room 7 The Walpole collection

In 1779 Catherine the Great acquired 198 paintings from a celebrated collection formed by Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, Britain’s first prime minister. They were bought from the family estate, Houghton Hall, and sold by Walpole’s grandson, George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford, who approached the Russian ambassador to Britain directly about the sale. At more than £40,000, the price was high, but the transaction was concluded in only two months. Attempts were made to keep this famous collection in Britain, to no avail.

The Walpole collection was outstanding in quality, and significantly enhanced the Hermitage’s range of Flemish and Italian works. The Russian ambassador to Great Britain, Alexey Musin-Pushkin, who organised the valuable purchase, wrote to Catherine the Great: ‘The greater part of the nobility here are displaying general dissatisfaction and regret that these paintings are being allowed out of this country, and are setting in train various projects to keep them here … No little assistance comes from Lord Orford’s zealous desire to unite [the collection for] the gallery of Your Imperial Majesty, rather than to sell it to parliament itself or, least of all, to divide it through sale to different individuals’.

 

Installation view of room 7 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 7 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 7 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne with Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657) Concert of birds, 1630-40 at right and Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657) Jan Boekckhorst (German 1605-68) Cook at a kitchen table with dead game, c. 1636-37 second left
Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657) 'Concert of birds' 1630-40

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657)
Concert of birds
1630-40
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Acquired from the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779

 

An important place in Flemish seventeenth-century painting is occupied by two specific genres: animal painting and the still life. One of the most important animal and still-life painters was Frans Snyders, a very close collaborator of Peter Paul Rubens who often painted still-life details and animals on the master’s canvases. Snyders’s superb skill as a painter of animals is revealed by Concert of birds, based on a subject from Aesop’s Fables. It shows a gathering of feathered creatures screeching and singing under the direction of an owl seated on a dried branch in front of an open music score.

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657) 'Concert of birds' 1630-40 (detail)

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657)
Concert of birds (detail)
1630-40
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Acquired from the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657) Jan Boekckhorst (German 1605-68) 'Cook at a kitchen table with dead game' c. 1636-37 (detail)

 

Frans Snyders (Flemish 1579-1657)
Jan Boekckhorst (German 1605-68)
Cook at a kitchen table with dead game (detail)
c. 1636-37
Oil on canvas
The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

 

Frans Snyders was the son of the owner of one of Antwerp’s largest wine and eating houses. His dramatically realistic still lifes celebrate the exotic variety of rare fowls available at Antwerp’s markets. Images of dead animals being prepared for a banquet were understood in Snyder’s time as lessons in Christian morality. Many Dutch and Flemish still lifes featuring the sacrifice of an animal for the table functioned as allusions to Christ’s Passion and the transience of the flesh.

 

Installation view of room 7 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 7 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 7 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne with, at left in the bottom image, Anthony van Dyck (Flemish 1599-1641) Portrait of Philadelphia and Elizabeth Wharton, 1640

 

This is one of the most charming portraits of children paint by van Dyck, who had particular talent for such works. It is one of a group of family portraits commissioned from can Dyck by Philip, Lord Wharton in the late 1630s. Van Dyck worked in England for approximately ten ears and brought a new standard of elegance and style to English portraiture. He largely conveyed this through his flair for painting lavish costumes and sumptuous fabrics, a sensibility he carried through to his portraits of children.

 

 

Room 8 China

Eighteenth-century Enlightenment fascination with the East, particularly China, is reflected by Catherine the Great’s architectural and landscaping works completed in St Petersburg and at her summer and winter palaces, as well as by her collecting of Oriental curiosities and philosophical texts. Russian interest in China can be traced to the reign of the Romanov tsars in the seventeenth century, when several missions brought back Chinese treasures and goods to the Russian Court. Importantly, in 1689 the first treaty between Russia and China was signed at Nerchinsk, outlining the border between the countries and rules about caravan trade.

Like many educated people of her time, Catherine was fascinated by the concept of the enlightened ruler thought to be found in China, such as the Kangxi Emperor (reigned 1662-1722), Yongzhèng Emperor (reigned 1723-35), and Qianlong Emperor (reigned 1736-95). One of her regular and most influential correspondents was French philosopher Voltaire, who praised the Celestial Kingdom, its monarchs and men of wisdom; only in China, he thought, was a man’s life, honour and property truly protected by law. Such a clear link between Catherine’s desire for justice and order in Russia and general perceptions of good Chinese government, combined with the Enlightenment fashion for curiosities of all kinds, led to great Russian interest in China in the second half of the eighteenth century.

 

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

Installation view of room 8 of the exhibition 'Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great' at NGV International, Melbourne

 

Installation views of room 8 of the exhibition Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great at NGV International, Melbourne

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours for exhibition
10am – 5pm daily

NGV Masterpieces from the Hermitage website

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06
May
15

Research paper: ‘Beginnings: The International Photographic Collection at the National Gallery of Victoria’ Dr Marcus Bunyan

May 2015

 

This is a story that has never been told. It is the story of how the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia set up one of the very first photography departments in a museum in the world in 1967, and employed one of the first dedicated curators of photography, only then to fail to purchase classical black and white masterpieces by international artists that were being exhibited in Melbourne and sold at incredibly low prices during the 1970s and early 1980s, before prices started going through the roof.

The NGV had a golden chance to have one of the greatest collections of classical photography in the world if only they had grasped the significance and opportunity presented to them but as we shall see – due to personal, political and financial reasons – they dropped the ball. By the time they realised, prices were already beyond their reach.

Justifications for the failure include lack of financial support, the purchasing of non-vintage prints and especially the dilemma of distance, which is often quoted as the main hindrance to purchasing. But as I show in this research essay these masterpieces were already in Australia being shown and sold in commercial photography galleries in Melbourne at around $150, for example, for a Paul Strand photograph. As a partial public institution the NGV needs to take a hard look at this history to understand what went wrong and how they missed amassing one of the best collections of classical photography in the world.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan
May 2015

Word count: 5,594

 

Download this research paper:

Beginnings: The International Photographic Collection at the National Gallery of Victoria (2.1Mb Word doc)

 

Abstract

This research paper investigates the formation of the international photographic collection at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

 

Keywords

Photographs, photography, 19th century photography, early Australian photography, Australian photography, international photography collection, National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria photography department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Australia, Melbourne, photographic collections, curator.

 

 

Beginnings: The International Photographic Collection at the National Gallery of Victoria

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Introduction

Invented by Louis Daguerre in 1839, the daguerreotype – a plate of copper coated in silver, sensitised to light by being exposed to halogen fumes – was the first publicly announced photographic process and the first to come into widespread use. The first photograph taken in Australia was a daguerreotype, a view of Bridge Street (now lost) taken by a visiting naval captain, Captain Augustin Lucas in 1841.1 The oldest surviving extant photograph in Australia is a daguerreotype portrait of Dr William Bland by George Barron Goodman taken in 1845 (see image below). This daguerreotype is now in the State Library of New South Wales collection.2

After these small beginnings, explored in Gael Newton’s excellent book Shades of Light,3 the Melbourne Public Library (later to become the State Library of Victoria) launched the Museum of Art in 1861 and the Picture Gallery in 1864, later to be unified into the National Gallery in 1870, a repository for all public art collections, the gallery being housed in the same building as the Library.4 The Pictures Collection (including paintings, drawings, prints, cartoons, photographs and sculpture) was started in 1859.5 The collection of photographs by the Library had both moral and educative functions. Photographs of European high culture reminded the colonists of links to the motherland, of aspirations to high ideals, especially in conservative Melbourne.6 Photographs of distant lands, such as Linnaeus Tripe’s Views of Burma, document other ‘Oriental’ cultures.7 Photographs of settlement and the development of Melbourne recorded what was familiar in an unknown landscape. “Documentation of both the familiar and the unknown intersected with the scientific desire for categorisation and classification.”8

It is not the purview of this essay to dwell on the development of photography in Australia during intervening years between the 1860s – 1960s, but suffice it to say that the collecting of photographs at the State Library of Victoria continued the archiving of Australian identity and place through the ability “to define the self, claim the nation and occupy the world.”9 Australian photographic practice followed the development of international movements in photography in these years: art and commerce from the 1860s – 1890s, Pictorialism from the 1900s – 1930s, Modernism in the 1930s – 1940s and documentary photography from the 1940s – 1960s. The development of Australian photography was heavily reliant on the forms of international photography. Analysis of these years can be found in Gael Newton’s book Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839 – 198810 and Isobel Crombie’s book Second sight: Australian photography in the National Gallery of Victoria.11

In 1959 the epic The Family of Man exhibition, curated by the renowned photographer Edward Steichen from the Museum of Modern Art, New York, toured Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide to massive crowds. Featuring 503 photographs by 273 famous and unknown photographers from 68 countries this exhibition offered a portrait of the human condition: birth, love, war, famine and the universality of human experience all documented by the camera’s lens.12 In Melbourne the exhibition was shown in a car dealer’s showroom (yes, really!) and was visited by photographers such as Jack Cato, Robert McFarlane, Graham McCarter.13 The photographs in the exhibition, accompanied by text, were printed “onto large panels up to mural size [and] gave The Family of Man works an unprecedented impact, even given the role illustrated magazines had played through most of the century.”14 This loss of the aura of the original, the authenticity of the vintage print, a print produced by the artist around the time of the exposure of the negative, would have important implications for the collection of international photographs in the fledgling National Gallery of Victoria photographic collection (even though Walter Benjamin saw all photography as destroying the authenticity of the original through its ability to reproduce an image ad nauseum).15 As Benjamin observes in his Illuminations,The enlargement of a snapshot does not simply render more precise what in any case was visible though unclear: it reveals entirely new structural formations of the subject.”16 Other ways of looking at the world also arrived in Australia around the same time, namely Robert Frank’s seminal book The Americans,17 a road movie photographic view of American culture full of disparate angles, juke boxes, American flags, car, bikes and diners.18

 

Beginnings

While legislatively the National Gallery had split from the State Library of Victoria in 1944,19 it wasn’t until August, 1968 that the National Gallery of Victoria moved into it’s own building designed by Roy Grounds at 180 St Kilda Road (now known as NGV International).20 In the years leading up to the move the Trustees and Staff went on a massive spending spree:

But although the sources of income from bequests were limited during the year [1967], a somewhat increased Government purchasing grant continued, which, with the allowance made by the Felton Committee, seemed to stimulate Trustees and Staff almost to a prodigality of spending. Perhaps, too, an urge for as full a display as possible at the opening of the new Gallery contributed; for by the end of the year the entire grant for purchase until the end of June 1968 had been consumed, and as well some commitments made for the future. Only donations made from private sources, and through the generosity of the National Gallery society, enabled the rate of acquisition to be maintained.”21

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Unfortunately, this profligacy did not include spending on photography. This was because the Department of Photography was only formed in April 1967 after the Director at the time, Dr Eric Westbrook, convinced the Trustees of the Gallery “that the time had come to allow photographs into the collection.”22 The impetus for establishing a photography collection “was the growing recognition and promotion of the aesthetics of photography.”23 The Department of Photography at the NGV thus became the first officially recognised curatorial photography department devoted to the collection of photography as an art form in its own right in Australia and one of only a few dedicated specifically to collecting photography in the world.24 While the collecting criteria of the NGV has always emphasised “the primacy of the object as an example of creative expression,”25 the fluid nature of photography was acknowledged in a 1967 report on the establishment of the Department of Photography.26

The new department, however, did not gain momentum until the establishment of a Photographic Subcommittee in October 1969 that consisted of the Director of the Gallery and three notable Melbourne photographers: Athol Shmith, Les Gray and Chairman, Dacre Stubbs, along with the Director of the National Gallery Art School, Lenton Parr. Advising the Committee were honorary representatives Albert Brown (in Adelaide) and Max Dupain (in Sydney).27 The Photographic Subcommittee defined the philosophies of the Department and began acquiring photographs for the collection.28 While the Department was located in the Gallery’s library and had no designated exhibition space at this time,29 Committee members stressed the need to make contacts with the international art world and fact-finding missions were essential in order to establish a curatorial department in Australia as no photography department had ever been established in Australia before. “Members were also concerned to position the new Department in an international context (achieved initially through linking the Gallery to an international exhibitions network and later by purchasing international photography.”30

Financial support and gallery space was slow in materialising and then (as now) “it was enlightened corporate and individual support that would significantly help the NGV to create its photography collection.”31 The first attributable international photograph to enter the collection was the 21.8 x 27.5 cm bromoil photograph Nude (1939) by the Czechoslovakian photographer Frantisek Drtikol in 1971 (Gift of C. Stuart Tompkins),32 an artist of which there remains only one work in the collection, and other early international acquisitions included twenty-seven documentary photographs taken during NASA missions to the moon in the years 1966 – 1969 (presented by Photimport in 1971)33 and work by French photographer M. Lucien Clergue in 1972, founder of the Arles Festival of Photography.34 Early international exhibitions included The Photographers Eye from the Museum of Modern Art in New York (facilitated through Albert Brown’s connections with photography curator John Szarkowski of MoMA).35

The purchasing of the Dritkol nude is understandable as he is an important photographer of people and nudes. “Drtikol made many portraits of very important people and nudes which show development from pictorialism and symbolism to modern composite pictures of the nude body with geometric decorations and thrown shadows, where it is possible to find a number of parallels with the avant-garde works of the period.”36 The acceptance of the set of twenty-seven NASA photographs is understandable but still problematic. Although some of the photographs are breathtakingly beautiful and they would have had some social significance at that time (the first lunar landing was in 1969), their relative ‘value’ as pinnacles of international documentary photography, both aesthetically and compositionally, must be questioned.37 One wonders on what grounds the Photographic Subcommittee recommended their acceptance at the very start of the collection of international photography for the Department of Photography when so many definitive photographs by outstanding masters of photography could have been requested as a donation instead. Similarly, the purchase by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1980 of over 108 space photographs by NASA, Washington, D.C. (manufacturer) for the international collection is equally mystifying when there was a wealth of European and American master photographers work being shown in exhibitions around Melbourne (and sold at very low prices, eg. $150 for a Paul Strand vintage print) that did not enter the collection.

In 1972 Jenny Boddington (with a twenty year background in documentary film)38 was appointed Assistant Curator of Photography. She was selected from fifty-three applicants,39 and was later to become the first full-time curator of photography at the NGV, the first in Australia and perhaps only the third ever full-time photography curator in the world. In 1973, the Melbourne photographer Athol Shmith, who sat on the Photographic Subcommittee, visited major galleries and dealers in London and Paris for five weeks and reserved small selections of non-vintage prints for purchase by Henri Lartigue, Bill Brandt, Paul Strand, Andre Kertesz, Edward Steichen and Margaret Bourke-White40 (non-contemporary ie. vintage work not being generally available at this time). Also in 1973 the corridor beside the Prints and Drawings Department opened as the first photography exhibition space, to be followed in 1975 by the opening of a larger photography gallery on the third floor.41

In 1975 Boddington made a six-week tour of Europe, London and America that included meeting photographers Andre Kertesz and Bill Brandt and the Director of the Museum of Modern Art, John Szarkowski.42 Boddington also spent four weeks viewing photography at the MoMA, time that radically changed her ideas about running the department, including the decision that priority be given to the acquisition of important overseas material. She states:

“My ideas about the running of my department are radically changed … I believe that for some time in the future immediate priority and all possible energy should be given to the acquisition of important overseas material, remembering that ours is the only museum in Australia with a consistent policy of international collecting, and that effort in the initiation and mounting of exhibitions can be saved by showing some of the best work we have already purchased.”43

As Suzanne Tate notes in her Postgraduate Diploma Thesis, Boddington “was also determined to achieve autonomy from the Photographic Subcommittee, and to act on her own judgement, as other curators did.”44 Perhaps this understandable desire for autonomy and the resultant split and aversion (towards the Photographic Subcommittee) can be seen as the beginning of the problems that were to dog the nascent Photography department. In 1976 the Photographic Subcommittee was discontinued although Les Gray (who expressed a very ‘camera club’ aesthetic) continued to act as honorary advisor.45 The Photography department continued to collect both Australian and international photography in equal measure (but of equal value?) and held exhibitions of international photography from overseas institutions (including the early exhibition The Photographer’s Eye in 1968)46 and from the permanent collection (such as an exhibition of work by Andre Kertész, Bill Brandt and Paul Strand)47 in order to educate the public, not only in the history of the medium but how to ‘see’ photography and read ‘good’ photographic images from the mass of consumer images in the public domain.48

 

Paradigms and problems of international photography collecting at the National Gallery of Victoria

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It does not do to be impatient in the business of collecting for an art museum. A public collection is a very permanent thing. It is really necessary to think in terms of the future and how our photographs and our century will appear in that future. We would like those in the future to inherit material that is intelligible both for itself and in relation to the other arts; at the same time there is the need to satisfy the present. A collection cannot be richer than the responses of its artists but it is hoped that it will represent a rich trawl of each historical period.”

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Jenny Boddington 49

 

The current photography collection at The National Gallery of Victoria consists of over 15,000 photographs of which around 3,000 are by international artists (a ratio of 20% whereas the ratio between Australian/international photographers at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra is 60/40%).50 Dr Isobel Crombie, now Assistant Director, Curatorial and Collection Management and former Senior Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria, notes in her catalogue introduction “Creating a Collection: International Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria,” from the exhibition Re_View: 170 years of Photography that several factors have affected the collection of international photographs at The National Gallery of Victoria. I have identified what I believe to be the three key factors:

  1. Lack of financial support
  2. The purchasing of non-vintage prints
  3. The dilemma of distance

 

Financial support

When the Department of Photography was set up at The National Gallery of Victoria the lack of adequate funds tempered the Photography Subcommittees purchasing aspirations. This situation continued after the appointment of Jenny Boddington and continues to this day. Athol Shmith noted that there were two options for building a collection: one was to spend substantial funds to acquire the work of a few key photographers, the other option (the one that was adopted) was a policy of acquiring a small number of works by a wide range of practitioners, a paradigm that still continues.51 “A broadly based collecting policy was established to purchase work by Australian and International practitioners from all periods of photographic history.”52

The majority of early acquisitions of the Department were overwhelmingly Australian but this collection policy broadened dramatically after the overseas travel of Athol Shmith and Jenny Boddington.53 Cultural cringe was prevalent with regard to Australian photography and it was rarely, if ever, talked about as art. Australian photography was still in the hands of the camera clubs and magazines and influenced by those aesthetics… but the ability to purchase the desired international work was severely curtailed due, in part, to the low exchange rate of the Australian dollar. In 1976 one Australian dollar was worth approximately US 40 cents. Another reason was the lack of money to purchase international work. In the early 1970s the Department had approximately $3,000 a year to purchase any work (international or Australian) that gradually built up to about $30,000 per annum in the mid 1970s. In 1981-82, this was reduced to almost zero because of the financial crisis and credit squeeze that enveloped Australia. This lack of funds to purchase work was compounded by sky rocketing prices for international photographs by renowned photographers in the early 1980s.

While generous help over eight years from Kodak (Australasia) Pty. Ltd had helped buy Australian works for the collection (a stipulation of the funds),54 money for international acquisitions had been less forthcoming. In a catalogue text from 1983 Boddington notes,

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“… classic, well-known photographs are now very expensive indeed. One can only look back with sincere appreciation to the days when the department’s purchasing budget was $1000 a year and the trustees agreed to buy 27 Bill Brandts, whilst the National Gallery Society donated a further 13 from ‘Perspective of Nudes’, thus concluding out first major international purchase, happily before Brandt’s prices quintupled in a single blow early in 1975. Photography was then beginning to be a factor in the market place of art and a budget of $1000 a year was no longer adequate – even for the purchase of Australian work! Where funds are limited (as they are) a fairly basic decision has to be made as to the direction a collection will follow. Here in Melbourne we have on the whole focused on the purest uses of straight photography as it reflects broad cultural concerns …”
55

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By 1976 the Felton Bequest purchased works by Julie Margaret-Cameron (one image!) and the NGV purchased thirty-four André Kertész, evidence that the status of the Photography department was rising. Throughout the remainder of the 1970s and early 1980s, eighty works were acquired by artists such as Imogen Cunningham (five images), Edward Muybridge (two images – the only two in the collection), Lois Conner (three images) and Man Ray (eleven images).56 In 1995 Isobel Crombie revised the collecting policy of the Department and she notes in “Collecting Policy for the Department of Photography, National Gallery of Victoria (Revised October 1995),” Appendix 1 in Suzanne Tate’s Postgraduate Diploma Thesis under the heading ‘International Photography’57 that, “Given our financial resources extremely selective purchases are to be made in this area to fill those gaps in the collection of most concern to students and practicing photographers.”58 Crombie further notes that the contemporary collection is an area that needs much improvement whilst acknowledging the dramatic increases in prices asked and realised for prime photographs and the restricted gallery funds for purchases.59

While today the importance of philanthropy, fund raising and sponsorship is big business within the field of museum art collecting one cannot underestimate the difficulties faced by Boddington in collecting photographs by international artists during the formative years of the collection. As photography was liberated to become an art form in the early 1970s through the establishment of museum departments, through the emergence of photographic schools and commercial photographic galleries (such as the three commercial photography galleries showing Australian and international work in Melbourne: Brummels (Rennie Ellis), Church Street Photographic Centre (Joyce Evans) and The Photographers Gallery (Paul Cox, John Williams, William Heimerman and Ian Lobb), photography was given a place to exist, a place to breathe and become part of the establishment. But my feeling is that the status of photography as an art form, which was constantly having to be fought for, hindered the availability of funding both from within the National Gallery of Victoria itself and externally from corporate and philanthropic institutions and people.

To an extent I believe that this bunker mentally hindered the development of the photographic collection at the National Gallery of Victoria until much more recent times. Instead of photography being seen as just art and then going out and buying that art, the battle to define itself AS art and defend that position has had to be replayed again and again within the NGV, especially during the late 1970s-1980s and into the early 1990s.60 This is very strange position to be in, considering that the NGV had the prescience to set up one of the first ever photography departments in a museum in the world. Then to not support it fully or fund it, or to really understand what was needed to support an emergent art form within a museum setting so that the masterpieces vital for the collection could to be purchased, is perplexing to say the least. I also wonder whether more could not have been done to attract philanthropy and funds from personal and big business enterprises to support international acquisitions. I also wonder about the nature of some of the international purchases for the Department of Photography (the choice of photographer or photographs purchased) and the politics of how those works were acquired.

 

The purchasing of non-vintage prints

The paradigm for collecting international photographs early in the history of the Department of Photography was set by Athol Shmith in 1973 on his visit to Paris and London.

“Typically for the times, Shmith did not choose to acquire vintage prints, that is, photographs made shortly after the negative was taken. While vintage prints are most favoured by collectors today, in the 1970s vintage prints supervised by the artists were considered perfectly acceptable and are still regarded as a viable, if less impressive option now.”61

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This assertion is debatable. While many museums including the NGV preferred to acquire portfolios of modern reprints as a speedy way of establishing a group of key images, Crombie notes in the catalogue essay to 2nd Sight: Australian Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria that the reason for preferring the vintage over the modern print “is evident when confronted with modern and original prints: differences in paper, scale and printing styles make the original preferable.”62 Crombie’s text postulates that this sensibility, the consciousness of these differences slowly evolved in the photographic world and, for most, the distinctions were not a matter of concern even though the quality of the original photograph was not always maintained.63 I believe that this statement is only a partial truth. While modern prints may have been acceptable there has always been a premium placed on the vintage print, a known value above and beyond that of modern prints, even at the very dawn of photography collecting in museums. I believe that price (which is never mentioned in this discussion) is the major reason for the purchase of non-vintage prints. In Crombie’s “Collecting Policy for the Department of Photography, National Gallery of Victoria (Revised October 1995),” she notes under the heading ‘Past Collecting Policy’ Point 1 that “Many non-vintage photographs have been collected … Purchase of non-vintage prints should not continue though we may we accept such photographs as gifts on occasion.”64

I vividly remember seeing a retrospective of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh in 2005. One room consisted of small, jewel-like vintage prints that were amazing in their clarity of vision and intensity of the resolution of the print. In the other three rooms there were large blown-up photographs of the originals, authorised by the artist. Seen at mural size the images fell apart, the tension within the picture plane vanished and the meaning of the image was irrevocably changed. Even as the artist’s intentions change over time, even as the artist reprints the work at a later stage, the photograph is not an autonomous object – it becomes a post-structuralist textual site where the artist and curator (and writers, conservators, historians and viewers) become the editors of the document and where little appeal can be made to the original intentions of the author (if they are known).65 While change, alteration, editing, revision and restoration represent the true life of objects66 (and noting that the same re-inscription also happens with vintage photographs), the purchase of non-vintage prints eliminates the original intention of the artist. This is not to say that the modern printing, such as Bill Brandt’s high contrast version of People sheltering in the Tube; Elephant and Castle, underground station (1940 printed 1976, below) cannot become the famous version of the image, but that some acknowledgement of the history of the image must be made. Ignoring the negative/print split is problematic to say the least, especially if the original was printed with one intention and the modern print with an entirely different feeling. This is not a matter of refinement of the image but a total reinterpretation (as in the case of the Brandt). While all artists do this, a failure to acknowledge the original vision for a work of art and the context in which it was taken and printed – in Brandt’s case he was asked by the War Office to record the Blitz, in which Londoners sheltered from German air raids in Underground stations – can undermine the reconceptualisation of the modern print.

 

Bill Brandt. 'People sheltering in the Tube; Elephant and Castle, underground station' 1940

 

Bill Brandt
People sheltering in the Tube; Elephant and Castle, underground station
1940
Silver gelatin print
© Bill Brandt Archive © IWM Non-Commercial License
Photograph used under conditions of “fair use” for the purpose of academic research

 

Civilians sheltering in Elephant and Castle London Underground Station during an air raid in November 1940. Elephant and Castle London Underground Station Shelter: People sleeping on the crowded platform of Elephant and Castle tube station while taking shelter from German air raids during the London Blitz.

 

Bill Brandt. 'People sheltering in the Tube; Elephant and Castle, underground station' 1940 printed 1976

 

Bill Brandt
People sheltering in the Tube; Elephant and Castle, underground station
1940 printed 1976
Silver gelatin print
34.4 x 29.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1974

© Bill Brandt Archive
Photograph used under conditions of “fair use” for the purpose of academic research

NB. Note the removal of the man sitting up at right in mid-foreground

 

 

The dilemma of distance

While the dilemma of distance is cited as an obstacle to the collection of international photographs by the Department of Photography in the early 1970s by Isobel Crombie,67 this observation becomes less applicable by the middle of the decade. Master prints from major international photographers were available for purchase in Australia by The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra (which had been collecting photography since the early 1970s),68 The Art Gallery of New South Wales (which established a Department of Photography in 1974),69 and The National Gallery of Victoria, through exhibitions at newly opened commercial galleries in both Melbourne and Sydney. Public touring exhibitions were held of the work of international photographers, most notably British Council exhibition of Bill Brandt in 1971, and the French Foreign Ministry’s major exhibition of Cartier-Bresson in 1974.70

In Melbourne commercial galleries specialising in photography and photographer run galleries had emerged, namely Brummels established by Rennie Ellis in 1972, The Photographers Gallery and Workshop founded by Paul Cox, Ingeborg Tyssen, John F. Williams and Rod McNicoll in 1973 (the Gallery was taken over in late 1974 by Ian Lobb, his first exhibition as director being at the beginning of 1975; Bill Heimerman joined as joint director at the beginning of 1976), and Church Street Gallery established by Joyce Evans in 1977.71 At the commercial galleries the main influence was overwhelmingly American:

“The impact of exhibitions held by the NGV was reinforced by exhibitions of the work of Ralph Gibson, William Clift, Paul Caponigro, Duane Michals and Harry Callahan at The Photographers Gallery and by the series of lectures and workshops that the artists conducted during those exhibitions. Joyce Evans also organised important exhibitions during this period but again the focus was American with work by Minor White, Jerry Uelsmann, Les Krims and others.”72

Shows of American photography, many of which toured extensively, became relatively commonplace and it was the first time Australian photographers and the general public had access to such a concentration of international photography in a variety of styles.73 Ian Lobb, who took over the running of the Photographers Gallery in late 1974 with Bill Heimerman), notes that the first exhibition of international photography at the gallery was that of Paul Caponigro in 1975.74

“We sold 22 prints which he told us was the second highest sale he had made to that point. With the success of the Caponigro show, we closed the gallery for a few months while the gallery was rebuilt. I took Bill as a business partner, and he made a trip to the USA to set-up some shows. From 1975, every second show was an international show.”75

Lobb observes that,

“The initial philosophy was simply to let people see the physical difference between the production of prints overseas and locally. After a while this moved from the Fine Print to other concerns both aesthetic and conceptual. The gallery at best, just paid for itself. During international shows the attendance at the gallery was high. During Australian shows the attendance was low.”76

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From 1975 – 1981 The Photographers Gallery held exhibitions of August Sander (German – arranged by Bill Heimerman), Edouard Boubat (France), Emmet Gowin (USA – twice), Paul Caponigro (USA – twice), Ralph Gibson (UK – twice, once of his colour work), William Eggelston (USA), Eliot Porter (USA), Wynn Bullock (USA), William Clift (USA), Harry Callahan (USA), Aaron Siskind (USA – twice, once with a show hung at Ohnetitel) Jerry Uelsmann (USA), Brett Weston (USA). There was also an exhibition of Japanese artist Eikoh Hosoe (Japan) and his Ordeal by Roses series in 1986. These exhibitions comprise approximately 60% of all international exhibitions at The Photographers Gallery during this time, others being lost to the vagaries of memory and the mists of time. Prices ranged from $100 per print (yes, only $100 for these masterpieces!!) in the early years rising to $1500 for a print by Wyn Bullock towards the end of the decade.77 At Church Street Photographic Centre the focus was predominantly on Australian and American artists, with some British influence. Artists exhibited other than those noted above included Athol Shmith, Rennie Ellis, Wes Placek, Fiona Hall, Herbert Ponting, Julia Margaret Cameron, Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jack Cato, Norman Deck, Jan Saudek, Robert Frank, Edouard Boubat, Jerry Uelsmann and Albert Renger-Patzsch to name just a few.78

The purchasing of vintage prints by major international artists from these galleries by the National Gallery of Victoria was not helped by the allegedly strained relationships that Boddington had with the directors of these galleries. The feeling I get from undertaking the research is that one of the problems with Boddington’s desire to achieve autonomy and make her own decisions about what to purchase for the Photography Department (being strong willed) was that she ignored opportunities that we right here in Melbourne – because of the aforesaid relationships and lack of money (a lack of support from the hierarchy of the National Gallery of Victoria).

 

Conclusion

It would be a great pity if the oral history of the early exhibition of international photographers in Melbourne was lost, for it is a subject worthy of additional research. It would also be interesting to undertake further research in order to cross-reference the purchases of the Department of Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria in the years 1975-1981 with the independent international exhibitions that were taking place at commercial galleries in Melbourne during this time. What international photographs were purchased from local galleries, what choices were made to purchase or not purchase works, what works were actually purchased for the collection and what were the politics of these decisions?

For example, during 1976 nine photographs by the Italian photographer Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) entered the collection as well as nineteen photographs by German photographer Hedda Morrison; in 1977 twelve photographs entered the collection by a photographer name Helmut Schmidt (a photographer whose name doesn’t even appear when doing a Google search). Under what circumstances did these photographs come into the collection? While these people might be good artists they are not in the same league as the stellar names listed above that exhibited at The Photographers Gallery and Church Street Photographic Centre. Questions need to be asked about the Department of Photography acquisitions policy and the independent choices of the curator Jennie Boddington, especially as the international prints were here in Melbourne, on our doorstep and not liable to the tyranny of distance.

Dr Isobel Crombie notes that the acquisitions policies were altered so that there was no major duplication between collections within Australia79 but it seems strange that, with so many holes in so many collections around the nation at this early stage, major opportunities that existed to purchase world class masterpieces during the period 1975-81 were missed by the Department of Photography at the NGV.

While Crombie acknowledges the preponderance of American works in the collection over European and Asian works she also notes that major 20th century photographers that you would expect to be in the collection are not, and blames this lack “on the massive increases in prices for international photography that began in the 1980s and which largely excluded the NGV from the market at this critical time.”80 Crombie further observes that major contemporary photographers work can cost over a million dollars a print and the cost of vintage historical prints are also prohibitively high,81 so the ability to fill gaps in the collection is negligible, especially since the photography acquisitions budget is approximately 0.5-1 million dollars a year.82

Crombie’s time scale seems a little late for as we have seen in this essay, opportunities existed locally to purchase world class prints from master international photographers before prices rose to an exorbitant level. Put simply, the NGV passed up the opportunity to purchase these masterworks at reasonable prices for a variety of reasons (personal, political and financial) before the huge price rises of the early 1980s. They simply missed the boat.

I believe that this subject is worthy of further in-depth research undertaken without fear nor favour. While it is understandable that the NGV would want to protect it’s established reputation, the NGV is a partial public institution that should not be afraid to open up to public scrutiny the formative period in the history of the international collection of photography, in order to better understand the decisions, processes and photographic prints now held in it’s care.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan
May 2015

Word count: 5,594

 

Bibliography

Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. 1936

Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. Shocken, 1969

Boddington, Jennie. International Photography: 100 images from the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Adelaide: The Art Gallery of South Australia, 1983

Boddington, Jennie. Overseas Travel by Assistant Curator of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1976

Boddington, Jennie. Modern Australian Photographs. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1976

Cox, Leonard B. The National Gallery of Victoria, 1861-1968: The Search for a Collection. Melbourne: The National Gallery of Victoria; Brown Prior Anderson Pty Ltd, 1971

Crombie, Isobel. Re_View: 170 years of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2009

Crombie, Isobel. Second sight: Australian photography in the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2002

Downer, Christine. “Photographs,” in Galbally, Ann [et al]. The first collections: the Public Library and the National Gallery of Victoria in the 1850s and the 1860s. Parkville, Vic.,: The University of Melbourne Museum of Art, 1992, pp. 73-79

Frank, Robert. The Americans. Washington: Steidl/National Gallery of Art, Revised edition, May 30, 2008

Newton, Gael. Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988. Canberra: Australian National Gallery, Collins, 1988

Tate, Suzanne. Photographic Collections in Victoria: Waverley City Gallery, Horsham Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria: An Analysis of Past History and Future Directions. The University of Melbourne: Postgraduate Diploma Thesis, 1998

 

 

George Baron Goodman, d. 1851. [Dr William Bland, ca. 1845 - portrait] c. 1845

 

George Baron Goodman, d. 1851
[Dr William Bland]
c. 1845
Daguerreotype (ninth plate daguerreotype in Wharton case)
7.5 x 6.3 cm
© State Library of New South Wales collection
Photograph used under conditions of “fair use” for the purpose of academic research

 

This daguerreotype is the earliest known surviving photograph taken in Australia. It is probably that mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald 14/1/1845, page 2, top column 5… It would appear to be a product of Goodman’s new studio at 49 Hunter Street, Sydney (see SMH 5/8/1844), before the introduction of hand colouring (see SMH 9/1/1845) and before the introduction of decorative backgrounds (see SMH 25/4/1846). It was probably produced between November 1844 and early January 1845 – Alan Davies, Curator of Photographs, State Library of NSW, 1993. (Image used for research under fair use conditions).

 

Front cover of John Szarkowski's book 'The Photographers Eye'

 

Front cover of John Szarkowski’s book The Photographers Eye, originally published by The Museum of Modern Art in 1966

 

André Kertész. 'A Bistro at Les Halles, Paris' 1927

 

André Kertész
A Bistro at Les Halles, Paris
1927
Gelatin silver photograph
17.7 x 24.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1976
Photograph used under conditions of “fair use” for the purpose of academic research

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Mrs Herbert Duckworth, her son George, Florence Fisher and H. A. L. Fisher' c. 1871

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Mrs Herbert Duckworth, her son George, Florence Fisher and H. A. L. Fisher
c. 1871
Albumen silver photograph
31.0 x 22.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the Herald & Weekly Times Limited, Fellow, 1979
Photograph used under conditions of “fair use” for the purpose of academic research

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Leaf pattern' c. 1929; printed 1979

 

Imogen Cunningham
Leaf pattern
c. 1929; printed 1979
Gelatin silver photograph
33.0 x 26.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased 1979
Photograph used under conditions of “fair use” for the purpose of academic research

 

NASA, Washington, D.C. (manufacturer) 'Instrument called Gnomon to determine size and distance of objects on moon' 1969

 

NASA, Washington, D.C. (manufacturer)
Instrument called Gnomon to determine size and distance of objects on moon
1969
Gelatin silver photograph on aluminium
49.0 x 39.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by Photimport, 1971
Photograph used under conditions of “fair use” for the purpose of academic research

 

Neil Armstrong. 'Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module (LM)' 1969

 

Neil Armstrong / NASA, Washington, D.C. (manufacturer)
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module (LM)
1969
Colour transparency
50.8 x 40.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased 1980
Photograph used under conditions of “fair use” for the purpose of academic research

 

 

Endnotes

  • 1. Anon. “Photography in Australia,” on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 01/08/2014.
  • 2. “Daguerreotype Portrait of Dr William Bland circa 1845,” on the State Library of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 27/07/2014.
  • 3. Newton, Gael. Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988. Canberra: Australian National Gallery, Collins, 1988 [Online] Cited 02/06/2014.
  • 4. Fennessy, Kathleen. “For ‘Love of Art’: The Museum of Art and Picture Gallery at the Melbourne Public library 1860 – 1870,” in The La Trobe Journal 75, Autumn, 2005, p. 5 [Online] Cited 27/07/2014.
  • 5. Anon. “Pictures,” on the State Library of Victoria website [Online] Cited 02/09/2010. No longer available.
  • 6. Fox, Paul. “Stretching the Australian Imagination: Melbourne as a Conservative City,” in The La Trobe Journal 80, Spring, 2007, p. 124 [Online] Cited 27/07/2014.
  • 7. Tsara, Olga. “Linnaeus Tripe’s ‘Views of Burma’,” in The La Trobe Journal 79, Autumn, 2007, p. 55 [Online] Cited 27/07/2014.
  • 8. Crombie, Isobel. “Likenesses as if by magic: The early years 1840s – 1850s,” in Second sight: Australian photography in the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2002, p. 15.
  • 9. Fox, Paul Op. cit., p. 124.
  • 10. Newton, Gael. Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988. Canberra: Australian National Gallery, Collins, 1988 [Online] Cited 02/07/2014. Chapter 11 “Live in the Year 1929” and Chapter 12 “Commerce and Commitment.”
  • 11. Crombie, Isobel. Second sight: Australian photography in the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2002. See chapters “In a new light: Pictorialist photography 1900s – 1930s” (p.38), “New Photography: Modernism in Australia 1930s – 1940s” (p.50) and “Clear statements of actuality: Documentary photography 1940s – 1960s” (p.64).
  • 12. Anon. “The Family of Man,” on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 02/09/2014
  • 13. Newton, Gael. Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988. Canberra: Australian National Gallery, Collins, 1988 [Online] Cited 02/06/2010. Chapter 13 “Photographic Illustrators: The Family of Man and the 1960s – an end and a beginning” and Footnote 13.
  • 14. Ibid., See also the layout and size of the photographic murals on the Musuem THE FAMILY OF MAN, Chateau de Clervaux / Luxembourg website, the only permanent display of the exhibition left in the world. [Online] Cited 02/09/2014.
  • 15. “Benjamin’s work balances, often with paradoxical results, tensions between aspects of experience: the experiences simultaneously of being too late and too early (too soon) in the temporal dimension (c.f. Hamlet’s “the time is out of joint”) and being both distant and close (in the spatial dimension), and anyway of being both temporal and spatial. The concept of “aura,” which is one of Benjamin’s most influential contributions, is best understood in terms of these tensions or oscillations. He says that “aura” is a “strange web of space and time” or “a distance as close as it can be.” The main idea is of something inaccessible and elusive, something highly valued but which is deceptive and out of reach. Aura, in this sense, is associated with the nineteenth century notions of the artwork and is thus lost, Benjamin argues, with the onset of photography. At first photographs attempted to imitate painting but very quickly and because of the nature of the technology photography took its own direction contributing to the destruction of all traditional notions of the fine arts.”
    Phillips, John. On Walter Benjamin. [Online] Cited 02/06/2014.
    “One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence.”
    Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. 1936, Section 2. [Online] Cited 02/06/2014.
  • 16. Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. Shocken, 1969, p. 236.
  • 17. Frank, Robert. The Americans. Washington: Steidl/National Gallery of Art, Revised edition, May 30, 2008.
  • 18. Newton, op.cit., Chapter 13.
  • 19. Anon. “A chronology of events in the history of the State Library of Victoria,” on the State Library of Victoria website. [Online] Cited 03/06/2010. No longer available.
  • 20. See Cox, Leonard B. The National Gallery of Victoria, 1861 – 1968: The Search for a Collection. Melbourne: The National Gallery of Victoria; Brown Prior Anderson Pty Ltd, 1971.
  • 21. Ibid., p. 378.
  • 22. Crombie, Isobel. op cit., Introduction p. 7.
  • 23. Crombie, Isobel. op cit., Introduction p. 7.
  • 24. Westbrook, Eric. “Minutes of the Photographic Subcommittee” 22/07/1970 quoted in Tate, Suzanne. Photographic Collections in Victoria: Waverley City Gallery, Horsham Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria: An Analysis of Past History and Future Directions. The University of Melbourne: Postgraduate Diploma Thesis, Chapter One, 1998, pp. 12-13. Other institutions included the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, Berlin Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • 25. Crombie, Isobel. op. cit., Introduction p. 6.
  • 26. Westbrook, Eric and Brown, Albert. “Establishment of Photography at the Victorian Arts Centre,” in Minutes of Trustees Reports, NGV, 4th April, 1967, p. 886 quoted in Crombie, Isobel. op cit., Introduction p. 6. Footnote 2.
  • 27. See Crombie, Isobel. op cit., Introduction p. 8 and Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 14-15.
  • 28. NGV Trustees. National Gallery of Victoria Annual Report 1969 – 70. Melbourne, 1970, np quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 14-15.
  • 29. NGV Photographic Subcommittee. Report. Melbourne, 1970, p. 2 quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. p. 16.
  • 30. Crombie, Isobel. op cit., Introduction p. 8.
  • 31. Crombie, Isobel. “Creating a Collection: International Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria,” in Re_View: 170 years of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2009, p. 7.
  • 32. Ibid.,
  • 33. NGV Trustees. National Gallery of Victoria Annual Report 1971-72. Melbourne, 1970, np quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. p. 16.
  • 34. NGV Trustees. National Gallery of Victoria Annual Report 1972-73. Melbourne, 1970, np quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. p. 16.
  • 35. NGV Trustees. National Gallery of Victoria Annual Report 1969-70. Melbourne, 1970, np quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. p. 16.
  • 36. Anon. “Frantisek Drtikol,” on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 06/10/2014.
  • 37. Some of these images have been shown for the first time in over twenty years in the 2009 exhibition Light Years: Photography and Space in the third floor photography gallery at NGV International.
  • 38. “After Eureka Stockade Boddington went to work at Film Australia and in 1950 worked for the GPO Film Unit. With the introduction of television she went to work at the ABC as an editor. She and her second husband cameraman Adrian Boddington would then set up their own company Zanthus Films. After his death she became the curator of photography at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1971.”
    Allen, J. “Australian Visions. The films of Dahl and Geoffrey Collings,” in Eras Journal Edition 4, December 2002, Footnote 33 [Online] Cited 14/10/2014
  • 39. Minutes of the NGV Photographic Subcommittee. Melbourne, 16/05/1972 quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 17-18.
  • 40. Crombie, Isobel. “Creating a Collection: International Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria,” in Re_View: 170 years of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2009, p. 9.
  • 41. NGV Trustees. National Gallery of Victoria Annual Report 1974-75. Melbourne, 1975, p. 24 quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 17-18.
  • 42. Boddington, J. Overseas Travel by Assistant Curator of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1976, pp. 1-3 quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 18-19.
  • 43. Boddington, J. quoted in Crombie, Isobel. “Creating a Collection: International Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria,” in Re_View: 170 years of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2009, p. 9.
    See also Boddington, J. quoted in quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 18-19.
  • 44. Boddington, J. Overseas Travel by Assistant Curator of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1976, pp. 1-3 quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 18-19.
  • 45. NGV Trustees. National Gallery of Victoria Annual Report 1975-76. Melbourne, 1976, p. 26 quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 18-19.
  • 46. See Crombie, Isobel. “Creating a Collection: International Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria,” in Re_View: 170 years of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2009, p. 9.
  • 47. NGV Trustees. National Gallery of Victoria Annual Report 1975-76. Melbourne, 1976, p. 27 quoted in Tate, Suzanne. op cit., Chapter 2: The Photography Department of the National Gallery of Victoria. pp. 18-19.
  • 48. See Crombie, Op. cit., p. 9.
  • 49. Boddington, Jenny. Modern Australian Photographs. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1976. Catalogue essay.
  • 50. See Crombie, Op. cit., p. 7.
    “The first formulation of policy in the Gallery’s annual report of 1976/77 stated the aim was to ‘develop a department of photography which will include both Australian and overseas works. The Australian collection will be historically comprehensive, while the collection of overseas photographers will aim to represent the work of the major artists in the history of photography’. Since that statement of intent thirty years ago, the collection has grown to include over 16,000 works. There are approximately sixty per cent Australian to forty per cent international photographs, a ratio that has remained constant over the years.”
    O’Hehir, Anne. “VIP: very important photographs from the European, American and Australian photography collection 1840s – 1940s” exhibition 26 May – 19 August 2007 on the National Gallery of Australia website [Online] Cited 12/10/2014.
  • 51. See Crombie, Op. cit., p. 9.
  • 52. Crombie, Isobel. “Collecting Policy for the Department of Photography, National Gallery of Victoria (Revised October 1995),” in Tate, Suzanne. Photographic Collections in Victoria: Waverley City Gallery, Horsham Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria: An Analysis of Past History and Future Directions. The University of Melbourne: Postgraduate Diploma Thesis, 1998, p. 73. Appendix 1
  • 53. Crombie, Isobel. Second sight: Australian photography in the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2002, p. 9
  • 54. Boddington, Jennie. Modern Australian Photographs. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1976. Catalogue essay.
  • 55. Boddington, Jennie. International Photography: 100 images from the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Adelaide: The Art Gallery of South Australia, 1983. Catalogue essay.
    Here we must acknowledge the contradiction between the quotations at footnotes 52 and 55, where the former proposes a broad based collecting policy from all eras both internationally and locally and, a few years later, the other proposes a focus on the purest uses of straight photography (in other words pure documentary photography) as it reflects broad cultural concerns.
  • 56. Tate, Suzanne. Photographic Collections in Victoria: Waverley City Gallery, Horsham Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria: An Analysis of Past History and Future Directions. The University of Melbourne: Postgraduate Diploma Thesis, 1998, pp. 19-20
  • 57. Crombie, Isobel. “Collecting Policy for the Department of Photography, National Gallery of Victoria (Revised October 1995),” cited in Tate, Suzanne. Ibid., Appendix 1 ‘International Photography’ Point 2, 1900 – 1980,  p. 73
  • 58. Ibid.,
  • 59. Ibid.,
  • 60. This battle is still being fought even in 2014. See Jones, Jonathan. “The $6.5m canyon: it’s the most expensive photograph ever – but it’s like a hackneyed poster in a posh hotel,” on The Guardian website 11/12/2014 [Online] Cited 15/11/2014
  • 61. Crombie, Isobel. “Creating a Collection: International Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria,” in Re_View: 170 years of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2009, p. 9
  • 62. Crombie, Isobel. Second sight: Australian photography in the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2002, p. 10
  • 63. Ibid., p. 10
  • 64. Crombie, Isobel. “Collecting Policy for the Department of Photography, National Gallery of Victoria (Revised October 1995),” in Tate, Suzanne. Photographic Collections in Victoria: Waverley City Gallery, Horsham Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria: An Analysis of Past History and Future Directions. The University of Melbourne: Postgraduate Diploma Thesis, 1998, p. 73. Appendix 1
  • 65. McCaughy, Patrick. Review of ‘Securing the Past: Conservation in Art, Architecture and Literature’ by Paul Eggert on The Australian newspaper website [Online] December 2nd, 2009. Cited 01/01/2015
  • 66. Ibid.,
  • 67. Crombie, Isobel. “Creating a Collection: International Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria,” in Re_View: 170 years of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2009, p. 9
  • 68. O’Hehir, Anne. op.cit.
  • 69. Dean, Robert. “Foreign Influences in Australian Photography 1930 – 80.” Lecture delivered at Australian Photographic Society Conference (APSCON), Canberra, 2000, p. 10. [Online] Cited 01/01/2015 Download the lecture (40kb pdf)
  • 70. Ibid.,
  • 71. Ibid., See also footnote 28
  • 72. Ibid., p. 11
  • 73. Ibid.,
  • 74. Lobb, Ian. Text from an email to the author, 20th May, 2014
  • 75. Ibid.,
  • 76. Ibid.,
  • 77. Ibid.,
  • 78. Evans, Joyce. Text from an email to the author, 6th September 2014
  • 79. Crombie, op. cit., p. 10
  • 80. Ibid.,
  • 81. Ibid.,
  • 82. Vaughan, Gerard. Lecture to Master of Art Curatorship students by the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne, 30/03/2010.

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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