20 January 2017

New art exhibitions in Europe, USA and Australia, starting Jan 2017

I only get to enjoy one overseas excursion a year, so I am paying very close attention to Christopher Allen’s Caravaggio and beyond: exhibitions in US, Europe, Australia. Allen wrote that this has been an eventful year for Caravaggio and the Caravaggisti, starting at Easter with the flurry of excitement about a picture found in an attic, claimed to be an original Caravaggio but was quite obviously a copy by another hand of the famous Judith Beheading Holofernes. Then the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid showed Caravaggio and the Painters of the North from June-Sep.

Now Beyond Caravaggio is at the National Gallery in London, showing works by Caravaggio and his followers in Italy and further north. The show includes some master-pieces by Caravaggio and other important figures. It is particularly interest­ing for us to realise how certain themes that Caravaggio occasionally dealt with, eg card cheats or gypsies, became the stock in trade of later imitators.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York has Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio. Valentin (1591-1632) was Caravaggio’s most interesting direct follower, after Caravaggio’s death. He had a poetic depth that went far beyond most of his contemporaries, and he aspired to the seriousness of history painting. In the 1620s, Valentin de Boulogne and another young French­man, Nicolas Poussin, were regarded as the two most promising emerg­ing artists in Rome; but while Poussin went on to become a giant, Val­entin’s career was cut short by his untimely death in 1632. So only Poussin remained a hero to modernists like Cezanne. This exhibition, with a scholarly catalogue of the highest quality, marks the belated rehabilitation of a great painter.

Beyond Caravaggio exhibition
National Gallery in London
ends 15th Jan. 2017

Among other international exhibitions of art-historical significance are Drawings for Paintings in the Age of Rembrandt at the National Gallery in Washington, which will be followed at the same museum by Della Robbia: Sculpting with Colour in Renaissance Florence — a comprehensive exhibition of the distinctive Florentine style of poly­chromatic ceramic sculpture.

Paris' most remarkable exhibition is Icons of Modern Art at the new Fondation Louis Vuitton. This show brings together important works from the later C19th and early C20th that were assembled by Sergei Shchukin, a wealthy collector and art lover. The collection was confiscated during the Russian Revolution and later broken up under Stalin, so we are lucky the works are now being seen together.

Another collection that suffered from the disapproval and censorship of a revolutionary regime is that of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran; works of modern art acquired in the time of the Shah were largely deemed unsuitable for exhibition after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but attitudes have recently grown more liberal. Now 60+ of this art will be shown in an exhibition at Berlin’s Gemaldegalerie.

The Gemaldegalerie also has an exhibition on Hieronymus Bosch and His Pictorial World in the 16th and 17th Centuries. It marks the 500th anniversary of the death of this eccentric but highly sophist­ic­ated painter best known for his intricate and proto-surreal comp­ositions like The Garden of Earthly Delights in the Prado. Note its dis­quiet­ing depiction of the earthly paradise, and its evocations of sinful humanity and grisly punishment in hell.

An even more dramatic story of the impact of war and revolution on art collecting is told in an exhibition at Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome: Il Museo universale marks the 200th anniv­ers­ary of the return of hundreds of paintings and sculptures looted from churches, convents and palaces by the French army in the time of Napoleon. The return to Italy of so many masterpieces that had been rendered homeless by the suppression of monasteries led to the creation of important museums in Italy. Think of the Brera in Milan and the Accademia in Venice.

Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin Collection
starring Henri Matisse 
Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris
end 20th Feb 2017.

The Tate in London has a survey of the art of Paul Nash, while the British Museum has South Africa: The Art of a Nation and an exhib­it­ion of French Portrait Drawings from Clouet to Courbet. For something completely diff­erent, the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich has an exhibition devoted to the beautiful and ultimately tragic Emma Hamilton, best known as the mistress of Lord Nelson. And the National Gallery has a wonderful exhibition on the artists of the Heidelberg School: Australia’s Impressionists.

Here in Australia, there are significant exhibitions in most of our big cities over the summer period. In Canberra, the National Gallery’s Versailles show is open and runs until Easter. It stars 130 paintings, tapestries, gilded furniture, monumental statues and personal items from Louis XIV to Marie Antoinette, The gallery also has a long-running exhibition on Artists of the Great War. The National Museum’s History of the World in 100 Objects, from the British Museum, continues until the end of January.

Sydney's Art Gallery NSW has Nude, an interesting if uneven loan ex­hibition from the Tate, as well as a survey of Oriental callig­raph­ic tradit­ions. The State Library has Planting Dreams, an exhibition devoted to the art of the garden.

The National Gallery of Victoria has a number of substantial exhibit­ions. Its main summer show devoted to David Hockney who is said to be Britain’s greatest living painter. They also have a retrospective of John Olsen, for whom an equivalent claim is made in Australia. Lat­er on the NGV will host an impressive exhibition of work by Vincent van Gogh, who has also been the subject of a recent forging controversy. And the Heide Mus­eum has an exhibition devoted to Georgia O’Keeffe, Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith, which will later come to the Art Gallery NSW.

Madame de Pompadour as the beautiful gardener, 1754–55 
by Carle Van Loo
Château de Versailles
Now at the National Gallery, Canberra

In Brisbane, No 1 Neighbour is a survey of recent art in Papua New Guinea, from the last decade of Australian rule to the present. In W.A, Travellers and Traders at the Maritime Museum in Fremantle is a fascinating exhibition about the Dutch connection with Western Australia and, more broadly, the trading networks the Dutch estab­lished between Europe and East Asia during their heyday in the C17th. Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art has an exhibition in which four scientists have been invited to ponder On the Origins of Art.


If I, Hels, could only select one exhibition, it would be a] Emma Hamilton in Greenwich, b] Icons of Modern Art at the new Fondation Louis Vuitton or c] Travellers and Traders at the Maritime Museum in Fremantle. The beloved would have opted for the Caravaggio and the Painters of the North, at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.


Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, How lucky we are to live in a time where there are such abundant choices for viewing great art, although I do miss the "Grumpy Art Historian's" reviews of these exhibitions. I don't think that I would travel internationally specifically to view an exhibit, but often try to see what is available where I happen to be (or at least reasonably close). Perhaps a special show of Herter Brothers furniture would drag me the greatest distance!

Hels said...


Understood! Because I have only one long holiday a year (our winter, your summer), the time had to be carefully planned. I am not sure if the Summer Academy is still being organised by Canterbury University, but they used to be amazing courses of lectures, tours and exhibitions, each lasting one week. Or organised week long tours and exhibitions in other parts of Europe, the Middle East, India or North America.

As long as it was all advertised and booked many months ahead!

Parnassus said...

Hi again, It all sounds like the cosmopolitan version of the Chautauqua!

bazza said...

I will be seeing both the Caravaggio and the Paul Nash! (By the way, the German film about Wansee is available in full on You Tube ad are sections of the Kenneth Branagh one).
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Hels said...


Right! I have been a lecturer in a TAFE institution since 1991 and have taken a keen interest in the history of adult education in this blog. But British and Australian adult education systems were always secular. Chautauqua, which sounds fascinating, was religiously based.

I feel a new blog post coming on :)

Hels said...


Now I want to go back to our old house in St Albans Herts and settle back into our life there.

_You_ can wake up one morning and say "let's see the Paul Nash collection today, luv". _I_ have to plan ahead to see what exhibitions are on in the next year, negotiate with Qantas for long haul flights at the appropriate time, book hotel rooms and hire a car for a week or so.

bazza said...

But I have to do the same if I want to see my friends in Melbourne, Cairns and Sydney! Also, although the museums and galleries are all free, the major temporary exhibitions have long waits even after one has booked the tickets. (St Albans is a great place to live!).
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’