The exhibition Victorian visions presents an impressive collection of some 45 paintings, watercolours, drawings and sculptures by some of the luminaries of Victorian art, including works by Rossetti, Holman Hunt, Burne-Jones, Leighton, Poynter, Watts and Waterhouse.
The collection has been assembled by John Schaeffer, Australia’s most passionate and highly respected collector of 19th-century European art. The exhibition is on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 20 May to 29 August 2010. This is the first time that many of these works have been seen in Australia.
Many of the works of art are superb examples from these significant artists. For example, the impressive 2.6-metre tall painting Mariamne by J W Waterhouse, which recently featured so prominently in the Waterhouse exhibition at the Royal Academy, London; Holman Hunt’s Il dolce far niente, recently in the Holman Hunt exhibition in Manchester and Toronto; Richard Redgrave’s The sempstress, one of the most important and most discussed early Victorian social realist images; and Leighton’s Athlete struggling with a python, long recognised as the seminal work in British new sculpture.
The Schaeffer collection complements the Art Gallery of NSW collection, expanding our experience of Victorian art in its various movements, including social realism, medievalism, pre-Raphaelitism, neo-classicism, aestheticism and symbolism. While the Gallery holds one of the richest collections of Victorian art in the world, many important artists either unrepresented or poorly represented in Sydney are now visible in the Schaeffer collection, for example, major works by Daniel Maclise, James Collinson, Frederick Sandys, Thomas Faed, Frank Dicksee and E R Hughes.
The prosperity of the Victorian era (1837-1901) transformed the British art world, creating a community of artists who were free to create paintings that depicted powerful stories from ancient history and contemporary life with a new richness of colour and wealth of detail. For example, Waterhouse’s painting Mariamne depicts the tragic story of the young wife of King Herod, who is leaving his throne room after being sentenced to death based on false accusations of infidelity. Frank Dicksee’s Chivalry is an iconic image of medieval gallantry as a knight in armour has slain his evil rival to rescue a classic damsel in distress. While Thomas Faed’s painting Worn out shows the weary carpenter who has been sitting all night at the bedside of his sick child and who finally falls asleep as the dawn rises.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue and a range of programs including two lecture series organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW.
The first lecture series, entitled Victorian visions, explores the works in the John Schaeffer Collection and also presents new perspectives on the Gallery’s collection. Dr Richard Beresford, curator of the exhibition, presents six mid-week lectures discussing visions of poverty, women, the past, literature, faith and sculpture. Begins 7 April 2010. Full program.
The pre-Raphaelites and great literature is the second lecture series associated with the exhibition. Susannah Fullerton presents five Thursday morning lectures examining the literary side to the pre-Raphaelite movement. The stories behind the paintings, the inspirations and controversies, the lives and loves of these remarkable artists featured in the exhibition will be told. Begins 3 June 2010.