Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Fifteen Fingers

I'm not that wild about most aboriginal art.  I think I can do dots pretty well, though I could be mistaken.  So why go to an Australian art gallery? We went to the free art gallery in Sydney on our last trip over and found it had wonderful things to look at.  This Victoria National Gallery in Melbourne was also free and wonderful. 

Silly me, I forgot that photography was allowed in Sydney or I would have asked sooner.  I didn't have my notebook with me so I was frantically listing items to remember on my fingers (Brack, rock, Jackson, chairs...I figured I might just about manage 20) when I saw someone quite openly square up a camera with a painting.  I went in search of a guard to ask and then dragged a willing Bill all the way back to the beginning to capture our favourite pieces (without a flash).

So, I can share with you my Fifteen Fingers...and a few more.  I hope you like some of them.  Suggestion:  look at the pictures.  If you like them, read about them.  If not, walk on past...

John Brack:

Two Typists

Collins Street, 5pm

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The Bar

Jon Campbell

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So you wanna be a rock n roll star

Stephen Bush

Rainbow Parrot Costume

Jackson names many of her dresses, but the lighting didn't allow me to catch many of the names.

The Cricketers
One of Australia's most famous paintings.  I thought it quite eerie, but then there is a lot about Australia that strikes me that way, particularly the natural beauty.  This picture "...of 'cricketers' under leaden skies in the wide open spaces of burning sands dramatises the 'outback'..."

Three chairs.

I don't know who made/designed them.

I just liked them.

Pioneer of skincare Helena Rubinstein was one of the greatest female entrepreneurs of her time. Born in Poland she immigrated to Australia as a young woman and opened her first beauty salon in Melbounre in 1902, the beginning of her international beauty empire. She later became a voracious collector of jewellery and modern art of which she said 'I am a business woman, I am used to buying in bulk.' Dobell painter Rubinstein during her last visit to Australia in 1957 wearing a Balenciaga gown and magnificant jewels. Dobell's portrait emphasises Rubinstein's presence and dynamic personality which belied her tiny stature of four feet ten inches.
Helena Rubinstein, who told us 
"There are no ugly women, only lazy ones."

William Frater

The Red Hat
a portrait of Lina Bryans - see next artist

Lina Bryans

The Babe is Wise
portrait of Jean Campbell, author of then recent
novel by the same title.

Rupert Bunny  I not only liked this man's paintings, I loved his name.  A long time ago my friend Vivien told me about having an artist do a piece reminiscent of Rupert Bear, a children's comic strip character, for her brother Rupert's birthday.  Somehow Rupert Bunny just hopped up and twitched his furry nose at me. 

Shrimp Fishers at St. Georges, c. 1910 Paris

Bunny tended to use his former art student wife, Jeanne Morel, as his model and he apparently developed a liking for painting women next to water. 

Such images of predominantly female figures engaged in leisurely pursuits, Bunny captured the elegance of the Edwardian age that was shattered by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

circa 1910, Melbourne

The Pioneer

This painting is considered one of the masterpieces of Australian art.  We both stood long in front of it, trying to read the story it tells.  I was struck by how much the pioneer theme echoed for me as an American in spite of the fact that the colours in this painting seem very Australian.  It was apparently not uncommon - as I learned at the Immigration Museum - for women to be reluctant to leave Britain (or perhaps other homes as well) to immigrate to Australia.  It was more a man's dream than a woman's.  I guessed that in the first picture the woman is homesick.  In the middle picture she has a child in her arms and their is a homestead in the distance instead of a tent.  In the third, the man is visiting a grave, presumably her's.  Bill noticed the town has grown up in the distance.  This was painted three years followed the Federation of Australia in 1901.

It was this woman that initially caught my eye, and then the phrase 'quiet refinement and strength'.  There is an aspirational phrase if I ever met one.

Madame Pfund

Elise Pfund was the proprietor of Oberwyl, an exclusive girls' school in St. Kilda.  A reviewer of Tom Roberts' painting of her refers to it's 'completely beautiful modelling and colour and its quiet refinement and strength.'    I can't help but wonder if the latter qualities belonged to the painting because of the skill of the artist or because of the character of his subject.

There was an entire room of gold and silver artifacts, commissioned around the time of the gold rush by incredibly wealthy people...with perhaps questionable taste.  Bill walked straight through but, magpie that I am, I had to at least look at a few.  This one was pretty amazing.  No idea what it was for - other than to proclaim the owner's wealth. 

The sculptures around the base included an Aboriginal man,

a gold miner

and a shepherd.  These pieces reminded me vaguely of all the gold nugget jewellery that was so popular (along with ostrich skin cowboy boots) in Oklahoma during the 1980's oil boom.

R.H. Rocke & Co, Manufacturer, John Mather, Decorator

This cabinet caused a stir at the 1880-1
Melbourne International Exhibition. 

Ugo Catani

Lovers' Walk, Mount Macedon

Emma Minnie BoydCorner of a Drawing Room.  Did you ever stand in front of a painting so wonderful that you wanted to move in and live in it?  Where do I buy the decorating book that explained how this room got so cozy?

Circe gets me every time.

This is a larger version of the one we saw (and I snapped)
in Sydney.

Flannel Flowers

In the 18 inch seam, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi

The Cough...stone dust

Counihan's work grabbed me because of the subject, my maternal ancestors having been miners.

Kapunda Mines

The stark nature of this reminds me of a book my parents had.  It was a collection of ironic comics full of skinny naked people in hell.  I thought it scary and sad, but I think my parents though it funny.  I've no idea who it was by but I've always remembered it and though it gave a clue about my parents' life experience and outlook that I never quite understood.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief tour and that it will encourage you to go look at art more often, if you don't already.  My photography in no way does these works justice.  If you wish, I'm sure you can find most of them by artist and title in Google images.  And you won't even need fifteen fingers to do that...


Sandra said...

Shelley...these are just AMAZING...I love every one of these photos and feel like I have had a major tour...thanks and again happy birthday and many more.

Anonymous said...

I stopped the longest on "The Pioneer" too. What a beautiful work. I enjoyed this post. Did not know this about Helena either.