Love & Death
|Love & Death brings together some of the most dramatic paintings from late 19th century Britain – when Britannia ruled the waves, Queen Victoria had reigned for more than 50 years, and British industry and society were rushing headlong towards the tumultuous 20th century.|
The exhibition concentrates on the Victorian celebration of love, both earthly and divine, together with the Victorian reverence for death – particularly the ‘good death’, and the promise of loving reunions in the afterlife.
Rich in elaborate detail, sumptuous in colour and texture, and extravagantly emotional, the paintings were drawn from classical mythology and literature, ancient and modern history, contemporary life and morals. Depicted are popular stories that fascinated Victorian artists and audiences – the death of lovers like Shakespeare’s Juliet and the legendary Queen Cleopatra of Egypt; the myth of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the ancient world; or the tale of the sorceress Circe, who, mad with envy, turned a rival into a hideous sea monster.
Many Victorian artists were not only famous celebrities in their own day, but were also revered almost as national institutions. Frederic Leighton was raised to the peerage; many others such as John Everett Millais, Edward Poynter and William Quiller Orchardson were given knighthoods and baronetcies. GF Watts was among the first recipients of the Order of Merit. Still others were just wealthy – building and decorating sumptuous mansions for themselves and their families.
Fledgling art museums in the British colonies of Australia and New Zealand eagerly collected paintings by the Victorian artists, but by the mid 20th century Victorian art, with its large scale and seductive realism, had sharply declined in popularity and monetary value. With the triumph of early 20th century Modernism, Victorian paintings were held up to ridicule. Some museums consigned them to basements and warehouses. Some were sold for a song. Others, less fortunate, were destroyed.
Today, a century after the death of Queen Victoria, there is a worldwide revival of interest in the art that flourished during her reign. Avid collectors include Andrew Lloyd Webber and Forbes magazine tycoon Christopher Forbes. The enormous technical brilliance and seductive subject matter of many Victorian paintings make them both alluring and provocative to today’s public as well as to collectors.
Love & Death brings together nearly 70 paintings – the highlights of Victorian art in public and private collections in Australia and New Zealand. Included are 15 works from the collection of the distinguished Australian collectors John and Julie Schaeffer, regarded amongst the world’s foremost collectors of Victorian art. Recently, in recognition of their generous endowment, the Art Gallery of New South Wales named the Victorian galleries the John and Julie Schaeffer Galleries.
Victorian art combined the seductiveness of the state, the solemnity of liturgy, the urgency of political and social activism and the technical brilliance more usually associated with contemporary English poets like Alfred, Lord Tennyson – qualities which make it both alluring and provocative to today’s public.
Curator of European Art, Art Gallery of South Australia
Curator of Love & Death: Art in the Age of Queen Victoria
Love & Death: Art in the Age of Queen Victoria is an Art Gallery of South Australia Travelling Exhibition. The exhibition will be on view at the Queensland Art Gallery from 30 May to 28 July 2002 and Toi O Tamaki, Auckland Art Gallery from 24 August to 24 November 2002.
|On view:||16 March to 12 May 2002|
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road
The Domain, Sydney, New South Wales
|Telephone:||(02) 9225 1744 or recorded information|
(02) 9225 1790
|Hours:||10am to 5pm 7 days a week|
(closed Christmas Day and Easter Friday)
|Admission:||$10 adults / $7 concessions/students|
|Media Information and Interviews:||Jan Batten, Press Office|
Telephone 61 2 9233 1213
Lawrence Alma-Tadema Great Britain, 1936-1912 The vintage festival February 1871, Camden Square, London oil on oak panel, 51 x 119cm National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased 1888