Started in 1961 in Melbourne, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is an art museum which is known to be the oldest museum of its kind and the most visited gallery by public (NGV, 2017). The museum has two buildings namely NGV International and NGV Australia, which is also known as Ian Potter Centre. The art of this gallery is exclusively committed to the Australia’s art. The gallery has witnessed various forms of initiatives by its department in the past few years which have let the visitors to see some of the deepest forms of the Australian art. Some of the initiatives taken by the department have been highlighted later in the paper.
The economic advancement due to the gold rush experienced by the Victorian colony in the period between 1850s and 60s resulted in the inception and development of the museum. Due to this period, Melbourne emerged as the largest city of Australia in 1835, though it was considered to be an illegal settlement. During this phase the region was able to explore the global trade which has different cultures. The need to acquire artworks from various regions at international level arose from the growing economy while preserving the regional and local art at the same time to encourage national existence (NGV, 2017). All these developments resulted in the upgradation of NGV.
Australian Art’s evolution
The NGV serves as a great source in 1968 for the upgradation of various art museums all over the Australia region (Thomas, 2011). The diverse subdivisions of the gallery are co-related with different responsibilities and tasks which aim at showcasing and preserving different forms of art of Australia. Few of the crucial tasks have been reported in this paper.
Artworks at NGV
The NGV art comprises of variety of the artworks, almost 5000 in number which includes various artifacts, objects and paintings composed of organic materials (NGV, 2017). The Indigenous Art Department looks after its sub-section which aims at developing the collection of art of global prominence, Aboriginal art and Torress Strait Islander that can be easily accessed from various international platforms. It is also the duty of the department to showcase the image of the NGV as a place where visitors can comfortably visit, which enlightens the society and culture of the Civilzations of the First Nations and also has the reverence of a set of people of that society. The artworks of Robert Thomas’s ‘Dreamtime Story of the Willy Willy’ and William Barak’s ‘Figures in possum skin cloaks’ forms a part of the collection.
Colonial Art of Australia
The Australian Art Department is bestowed with the onus of acquiring the Australian Art and showcasing the emergence of Europe’s early settlements till 1980 starting from the period between the 17th & 18th centuries (NGV, 2017). This section consists of almost 1250 artifacts consisting of ceramics, furniture, metalwork and others, 200 sculptures and 1500 paintings. The valuable information related to the history of art of Australia is provided by the curatorial staff along with the expert advices and suggestions related to the importance and significance of the same. This is done by having centralized inspections and researches into various manifold disciplines which provide a constant updated knowledge database related to the Australian Art. The cohort has also been contributing by providing recommendations for acquiring different types of artworks through various sources like purchase and donations.
The Australian Art’s curators have also joined hands with the Assistant Directors of the gallery so as to showcase the collection of the Ian Potter Centre in the NGV permanently. This display of collection at second level also comprises of the collection of Joseph Brown in order to depict the Australian Art’s history (NGV, 2017). The display is prepared with different paintings and sculptures and the custodians of it confirm that the gathering owns its needed depth to showcase the broader vision of the Australian Art’s history, which is done by collaborating with various departments like Indigenous Art, Prints and Drawings, Photography Domains and the Fashion and Textiles.
The collection includes some major artworks in form of canvases like John Russell’s ‘Peonies and head of a woman’, Henry Burn’s ‘Swanston Street from Prince Bridge’, sculptures including Bertram Mackennal’s Circe and Sydney Nolan’s Footballer’s enamel paintings (NGV, 2017). The showcase of the depth of the art within diverse subdivisions of the art of Australia has resulted in acquiring knowledge of different sectors like Impressionism and Surrealism. This knowledge helped to get understanding of the evolution of the art of Australia in stages, which has facilitated the visitors to understand the society and national culture deeply.
The Era of Surrealism
The concept of Surrealism is way different from Impressionism in respect to presenting conventional art which focuses and emphasizes on experimentalism in thoughts and forms. The results of adoption of playful approaches were accidental and unexpected. The applied techniques included the automatic drawings and collages which concentrated on the liberation of the mind to engender social and political actions of revolutionary nature at an unconscious level. It also aimed at demonstrating the world of hallucinations and dreams to explore the psychological initiations and innermost desires.
During the 1930s, Surrealism emerged in the Australian Art which provided a roadway to many young creative mind artists who later became some of the best artists of that time period. The manifold aspect of characterizations depicts the rich legacy of their works that showcase the practices of various artists of modern era.
‘Lurid Beauty: Australian Surrealism and its Echoes’, named exhibition was recently launched by the National Gallery of Victoria which presented the impressions marked by Surrealism through drawings, collages, paintings and sculptures of renowned artists in the Australian Art. These artists included famous names like Albert Tucker, Sydney Nolan, Eric Thake and others. The exhibition also showcased fashion elements, films and photographs which were related with the movement. Beside this, the gallery also organized an exhibition with free entry of ‘Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952’ by Jackson Pollock, who had a strong impact of surrealism automatic techniques. This exhibition was organized by the NGV so as to celebrate its 20th anniversary (NGV, 2017).
Started in the period of 1880s, Impressionism in Australia emerged as a result of manifold occurrence in Melbourne which was connected socially like encouraging the nation’s identity, economic advancement, increased travelling activities and trade and enrichment of sophistication and culture. The increase in international trade resulted in opening up to different types of cultures which provided a positive influence on its personal domain. All these activities acted as a backdrop for the emergence of Impressionism. The artists depicted this through their paintings of life stories based on their daily encounters in respect to lives, trade and transportation areas. Melbourne experienced a significant growth and change over in terms of economical, social and cultural aspect in this period which was reflected by the impressionists by making their artistic works a source.
The artwork of NGV includes rich materials which show the incidents of graceful practices that occurred in that flourishing period which included specimens like, Tom Robbert’s ‘Shearing the and ‘The Pioneer’ by Fredrick McCubbin. ‘Shearing the Rams’ by Tom Robbert is considered to be as a great icon and one of the greatest masterpieces of the Impressionism era (NGV, 2017). Some other significant works which speak of that era include ‘Summer Idyll’ by Charles Conder and ‘Lost’ and ‘Old Stables’ by McCubbin.
The National Gallery of Victoria also hosted some exhibitions which highlighted works from that era and consisted of works of some important artists of that era. These artists were Fredrick McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder and Jane Sutherland. The purpose of this initiative was to depict the journey of the 14 years starting from 1883 till 1897, which began from the Tom Roberts’s direct painting in Grenada and ended at Arthur Streeton’s departure for Europe. Hence, the focus was on the direct painting during the 19th century period along with inspecting the ‘plein air’ concept (NGV, 2017). The exhibition was the pioneer crucial action since 1985 and was organized with a purpose to reintroduce the Australian Art’s rich culture to the young genre.
The exhibition also showed the upgradation of the enhancing inceptives of landscapes at Heidelberg and Box Hill and Mentone, which focused on the ‘Marvelous Melbourne’ Art. It firstly occurred on 17th August, 1889 and is known as an ancient event for its celebration in the dimension of art of Australia as it staged the ‘9 by 5 Impression Exhibition’. The exhibition aims at reexplore that period by backing Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton to Sirius Cove , New South Wales in their camp along with an expedition near Hawkesbury River and in its countryside area (NGV, 2017). It also attempts to evaluate the portraiture practiced by Arthur Strreton and Tom Roberts along with understanding how Symbolism became part of the practices of Charles Conder and Streeton. Lastly, it resulted in the inspection and demonstration of the pioneer great paintings which symbolized and promoted nationalism of Australia during the European establishment’s centenary ceremony in 1888.
artsdiary365 (2011). National Gallery of Victoria. Available: https://artsdiary365.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/national-gallery-of-victoria-%E2%80%93-european-old-masters-part-i/. Accessed: 14th Jan, 2017.
Expedia (2017). National Gallery of Victoria. Available: https://www.expedia.com.au/National-Gallery-Of-Victoria-Melbourne.d501714.Attraction. Accessed 14th Jan, 2017.
NGV. (2017). about. Available: http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/. Accessed: 14th Jan, 2017.
Thomas, D. (2011). Art museums in Australia: a personal account. Available: http://nma.gov.au/research/understanding-museums/DThomas_2011.html. Last accessed 14th Jan, 2017.