Saturday, 27 July 2013

The French Connection

The Green Parasol by E. Phillips Fox
The Monet blockbuster at the NGV International has rather overshadowed the magnificent exhibition of Australian Impressionists currently showing at the Ian Potter Gallery. No long queues and jostling crowds here. They're all across the road goggling at Monet.

The exhibition is called "Australian Impressionists in France", but it should really be called "Australian and French Impressionists in France and Australia". Although predominantly Australian, the artists on show include French, British and American masters. The 120 works are sourced from various international galleries, private collections and from all the major Australian art galleries.

Ambrose Patterson
The theme of the exhibition is how expat Australian artists became part of the international community of artists who lived and worked in France from the 1880s to the beginning of the 20th century. France was the hub of the art universe, and those years changed the course of art.

E. Phillips Fox
We are told of friendships that developed: Monet dined with John Russell and they painted together; Charles Conder trawled the nightclubs with Toulouse-Lautrec, where they sketched, drank absinthe and contracted the syphilis that killed them both.

I liked the way the curator juxtaposed works with similar subjects by different painters: street scenes by Pisarro and Ambrose Patterson; nudes by E.Phillips Fox and Pierre Bonnard; seascapes by Monet and John Russell.

The paintings depict not only Parisian scenes, but find a wealth of subject matter in the countryside - no shortage of haystacks and peasants, orchards and cottages. The French countryside is very beautiful - it is the only reason I watch that bunch of drug-addled cheats on the Tour de France.

Some of my favourites in the show are by women: Jane Sutherland, Bessie Davidson and Ethel Carrick among others. I have always thought it a shame that Ethel Carrick's work is so overshadowed by that of her husband, Phillips Fox, and I agree with Grace Carroll that that says more about attitudes to women than about her artistic talent.

This marvellous exhibition is still on until 6 October 2013 - plenty of time to pay it a visit and see for yourself all the delights that I have no room to describe here.

Having spent a pleasant couple of hours at the Ian Potter with the painters, I went next door to ACMI to visit the Thespians. The Hollywood Costume exhibition is a real treat for movie fans.

I loved it all - Scarlett's green velvet curtain dress, Holly's little black number, Dorothy's blue gingham, Superman suspended from the ceiling in full flight, wearing his underpants outside his leotards as usual. That's what happens when you change in a hurry in a phone booth.

There was the Meryl Streep area: the French lieutenant's woman in her cloak, the Devil in her Prada, Lindy in her pink sundress (sans baby). There was the Queen Elizabeth area: the Flora Robson, the Bette Davis and the Cate Blanchett, each more opulent than the last. And the very best one … Hedy Lamarr's magnificent peacock dress from Samson and Delilah. Edith Head's masterpiece!

Oh, the glamour. And oh, what tiny waists all those women had!

The show closes on 18th August. Last chance to see!


No comments: