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