As a blogger sometimes you are lucky enough to be invited to events you truly want to go to. I had the privilege to be invited to a special preview of the National Gallery of Australia’s new exhibit which has pulled together an immense collection of paintings by Tom Roberts. Paintings that span his entire life time, reaching right back to when he was a student.

Bloggers taking pictures in the Tom Robert's Gallery

While there were a few at the event who criticized the exhibit as ‘playing it safe’ – for me it was a trip down memory lane. I remember studying his paintings when I was at school. Wandering around the gallery was like putting on an old pair of comfy boots. It felt like home. I’m excited to bring my children in, to not only share my love for his work which I grew up with, but for them his paintings represent a lot of their experiences (albeit from a different era). They’ve been in the shearing sheds watching the sheep being shorn, when they look out their window, all they see is Australian countryside. I’m hoping they’ll connect with his paintings because they represent a familiarity to them that is completely different from mine. On a purely selfish level, I don’t care that the exhibit is ‘safe’. I loved it and I can’t wait to go back.

The opening signage to the Tom Roberts exhibit. His famous shearing painting is enlarge down the left wall, while his name appears huge in white text on a navy background on the right.
"Bailed Up" painted by Tom Roberts in 1895 is a narrative painting which present a re-enactment of the story of Captain Thunderbolt and the painting which brings back all my memories from my high school days. It is recognised as one of the most powerful painted evocations of the heat and light of a high summer's day in the Australian bush, the enclosed landscape and pervasive stillness emphasise the suspensful narrative scence. Roebrts set out to portray a distinctive subject: bishrangers holding up a stagecoach in a crackingly dry landscape.

“Bailed Up” painted by Tom Roberts in 1895 is a narrative painting which present a re-enactment of the story of Captain Thunderbolt and the painting which brings back all my memories from my high school days.

As with all exhibits, I find myself learning something new every time I go. While Tom Robert’s paintings of the Australian landscape are some of his most famous, I learnt that most of his ‘bread and butter income’ had come from his portraits.

Tom Roberts painted this self-portrait in Victoria, 1924. He is seated side on, looking slightly over his left shoulder. The paining is quite sombre, painted in dark oil paints. His white hair stands our against the dark colours.

Tom Roberts painted this self-portrait in Victoria, 1924

My favourite of Tom Robert's portraits - "A French Hat" was painted in 1900. It shows a woman, dressed in black, wearing an elaborate black hat with a magnificent red feather sweeping across the front. She is casually looking, over her shoulder, back towards you.

My favourite of Tom Robert’s portraits – “A French Hat” was painted in 1900

And of course, you couldn’t have a collection of Tom Robert’s work without look at ‘The Big Picture,’ as it’s affectionately known. This painting weighs approximately 450kgs and it took Roberts two years to paint. He started painting it in Melbourne in 1901. Then in 1903 it was rolled up and shipped to England, where he finished it. In 1957 Robert Menzies, our Prime Minister at the time, requested that Queen Elizabeth return it to Australia as a permanent loan as it depicted such an important moment in our history. Of course she consented and it was sent back to Australia in 1958. Appropriately, it was decided that it should reside in, what is now, Old Parliament House. Unfortunately nobody thought to measure the walls and the painting didn’t fit on the wall! So instead it travelled around Australia, until finding it’s home in our current Parliament House, where a wall was built purely to house this painting. But for now, it will reside in the National Galllery of Australia. 

Opening of the first Parliament of Australia 9th May 1901 - Tom Roberts painstakingly painted hundreds of faces in remarkable detail, capturing this momentous event perfectly. The painting is huge.

“The Big Picture” 1901-1903
Opening of the first Parliament of Australia 9th May 1901

The Tom Robert’s exhibit is open until March 28th 2016. Tickets are $20 for adults and there are multi-media tours available for those that are hearing impaired or deaf. Please check out the National Gallery of Australia’s website for more information. Make sure you have a look at the events page too as there are a lot of things happening at the gallery linked with the Tom Roberts exhibition, including curator talks – which I highly recommend!

Tom Robert's 'The Sunny South' was painted in Melbourne in 1887.  Tom Roberts was passionate about outdoor painting, developing a campaign with Frederick McCubbin (another favourite of mine) and Louis Abrahams. They meet Arthur Streeton at their campaign at the seaside in January 1887. In this painitng. Streeton, McCubbin and Abrahams are his models.  The text from the gallery reads, "One day, the headed to a secluded sandy beach at Ricketts Point. Roberts' models were Streeton at the left, lilywhite skin and slim; McCubbin standing centre, sturdier; and Abrahams seated right. McCubbin, arms raised behind his head, taking up a conventional life-class pose, but also suggesting a pleasureable real-life loosening stretch after stillness. He is preparing for the immersion in salt water; while Streeton hastens towards a glimpse of white sand, and lapping wavelets."

Tom Robert’s ‘The Sunny South’ was painted in Melbourne in 1887.
Tom Roberts was passionate about outdoor painting, developing a campaign with Frederick McCubbin (another favourite of mine) and Louis Abrahams. They meet Arthur Streeton at their campaign at the seaside in January 1887. In this painitng. Streeton, McCubbin and Abrahams are his models.

And as it’s Tuesday, remember to check out all the other great blogs who link up with Jess for I Blog on Tuesday!

 

Written by Nadia

19 Comments

nadiamc

For sure! Any reason is a good reason to get back into an art gallery. I really like how at these special exhibits they give you so much background about all the paintings. Then I don’t feel like so ignorant!

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nadiamc

I think Tom Roberts was a right of passage, kind of like studying about Captain Cook!

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EssentiallyJess

That’s very funny that they haven’t been able to do anything with that painting for all these years! Who would have thought you need a specific wall? It must be huge!

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nadiamc

Oh my goodness – it’s massive! I always knew it was big, but seriously this painting is as big as the entire length of my bedroom wall.

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nadiamc

It took him (on and off) three years to paint. I can’t imagine being able to have the perseverance to stick with a project that long. I’m sure I’d get bored after a few days, let a lone a few years!

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Vanessa

I have to admit, art galleries and me don’t usually mix! But these are great parts of history, “safe” or not, it is all history.

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nadiamc

What about modern art? I must admit, I find it a lot easier to appreciate a piece of artwork if there’s a good story behind it.

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Amanda

I’m very much looking forward to our drive down to Canberra next weekend to see this exhibition! I have just found your blog. I did a bit of googling to find Christian country women bloggers as we have just returned from a long drive to Perth from Sydney and back! I’ve added you to my reader.

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nadiamc

Thanks Amanda! Wow, that is one long drive! How long did you spread the drive out over? I’ve found your blog. Such a lovely read. I couldn’t find a subscribe button? In the meantime I’ve found your twitter account!

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Renee Wilson

I do love a walk through an art gallery. My husband is more into art than I, but I quite like going to galleries with him and imagining details about the artist’s life and why they painted what they did 🙂

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Renee Wilson

My husband is more into art than I am, but I do like wondering through art galleries and imagining details about the artist’s life and why they painted what they did 🙂

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