The European Masterpieces exhibition from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, has been open for about two weeks now and I have been three times already. I was there on the very first Sunday and could hardly stop my heart from beating wildly as I approached Brisbane's GOMA.
As you can see the queues were not huge and I walked straight in. The entry was through a newly constructed set of arches which set the scene and atmosphere of approaching hallowed halls to see masterpieces. I have missed seeing paintings up close since Covid reared its head, but this makes up for it and has been worth waiting for.
First painting I encountered was this wonderfully patterned tapestry-like composition by Giovanni di Paolo from 1445 entitled Paradise. The pigments are so lush even after all this time. I love the inclusion of details such as the costume attributes, botanical specimens and tiny animals. My little one year old granddaughter (who came on visit three) was taken with the hiding rabbits. Something for everyone I guess!
Madonna and Child by Carlo Crivelli 1480 repays quiet contemplation. So many symbols and details such as the intricately painted fly on the flat railing at left and the gemstones on the halos have been given such absorbed attention. There was constantly a crowd around this one.
Venus and Adonis by Titian 1550's. The Roman Goddess of fertility, love and sexuality is being resisted by Adonis who is leaving for the hunt. Little winged Cupid on the left protects a dove from the events to come. Angles of the limbs and dogs provide movement in opposing directions.
The Judgement of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder 1528. This painting illustrates the Greek myth of the events that eventually led to the Trojan war. In this image Paris looks to be at a distinct disadvantage seated and immobilized due to his armor. Tonally the three pale bodies of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite glow against the dark foliage. I love the closely observed tree branches disappearing off into the distance.
Hans Holbein the Younger painted this portrait of Von Hertenstein in 1517. I have always been a little in awe of Holbein as his paintings of Henry the 8th and his six wives have defined an entire era for many of us. His accurate drawings are especially beautiful. His compositional arrangements make the most of the large shapes of clothing and patterns. The clothes provide pomp but the sensitive face betrays it. It's interesting to analyze this one as a series of circles and ovals working so well overlapping each other.
Selfie enhanced by lots of mirrors! This illusion of a large hallway was cleverly arranged with mirrors. I couldn't believe my luck that there was no-one else around. It looks like I have the whole gallery to myself for my selfie! I was also listening to the ABC Classic radio countdown of "Music you can't live without" on my headphones and I had goose pimples all over as Carl Jenkins' The Armed Man filled my head.
My favourite painting in the whole exhibition would have to be this Rubens of the Holy Family. 1630's. Rubens has long been my absolute favourite artist. There is smaller version of this work in Madrid that I have painted a copy of.
The central area between sections of the exhibition is filled with interactive, drawing and photographic opportunities. Haven't spent any time here as yet but looking forward to going back.
A few other painting highlights below.
I had no idea that the Met owned this Watteau of Mezzetin 1718. It is work I have always found profoundly moving and have appropriated several times, as seen in the drawing below.
This is a work of mine entitled, Skeleton, Owl and Watteau's Minstrel.
Woodland Road by Hobbema 1670. Not many landscapes in the exhibition but this one has everything. Everything feels so closely observed and cherished, not to mention beautifully painted.
Another surprise was finding this Daumier included. It his Third Class Carriage 1862. I had no idea that the Met owned this one also. I remember it so clearly from the old days of my art history lectures with Nancy Underhill at the University of QLD Fine Art Department. I found it such brave subject matter back then.
The surface of this Degas Dancers, Pink and Green has to be seen up close. So much roughness and scumbling. He doesn't mind that thirty canvas look peeping through everything.
The last one I focused on during my visits so far was this Van Gogh of The Flowering Orchard 1888. I had to include some interpretations of trees and this is a lovely fresh piece.
So much more I could say but first impressions couldn't be more positive. Well done to the Queensland Art Gallery for pulling this off. I can't believe I'm seeing all these and that I am still in Brisbane.