Monday, March 28, 2011

Gustave Moreau - and the Eternal Feminine NGV

There are unicorns and classical nudes dancing and prancing about with Jupiter and flimsy gauze drapery in the National Gallery of Victoria (International) at the moment. There is a small but fabulous guest exhibition of French Artist Gustave Moreau's work on show. To put simply these sketches, paintings, watercolours and ink drawings are sumptuous. Moreau combined his fascination with myth with a eye for the female form and great technique. Revolutionary technique in some cases, with many details overlayed in black/white over the main painting. This intricacy has the effect of flattening the work when you were up close but take a few steps back and it opens an entirely new depth. Lovely. Lovely. Lovely. Also a treat were the excerpts of critical reviews contemporary to the work. We were able to read the cutting remarks that lead to to his exile. The painting which was so derided is below: There was considerable hatred directed not only at the painting (especially the weird head) but also the artist. Is it any wonder that he left the establishment and redeveloped himself for a splendiforous return. Again we were provided with critical praise and love which greeted this rejuvenation.

(Admittedly this is a crappy reproduction, it really is worth the admission price to see this painting in person, so head on down there!)


Much of that on show came from Moreau's personally established museum in Paris, so many works were in these delightful hinged frames that would have been collated together for patrons/art admirers to flick through. I know that when I eventually get to Paris a visit his museum will be high on my list of priorities.


Curating-wise, it was pretty good, although there wasn't a neat line through the rooms AND there was little or no discussion of the 'feminine' and the gaze of the artist apart from the fact that he liked painting nudes. REALLY! There was a lot of potential for a more interesting interpretation especially as they were often maligned classical figures. This annoyance aside, it just goes to show that even outside the Winter Masterpiece series we get hidden gems of touring exhibitions.