Leanne Barrett: Autumn Visits to The National Gallery of Australia

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Autumn Visits to The National Gallery of Australia

John Everett Millais, Spring (Apple blossoms), 1859
Autumn is my favourite time of the year. The morning air begins with a real freshness and the days are warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the changing colours of our many deciduous trees in Canberra. It's a season of change, and as April rushes towards May we suddenly realise that the year is skipping along and the NGA summer block buster is about to close.

This year we were delighted by the exhibition Love & Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate, closing 28 April 2019. While I have always loved this era of art, especially the wallpaper of Morris and Co,  Kate Forsyth's story Beauty in Thorns made me fall in love with this art era even more.   

When Kate's book Beauty in Thorns was launched she came to the National Library of Australia and spoke about the Artists their Stunners and Love. In this talk Kate took us into the world of some of the Pre-Raphaelite artists and their lovers. She showed us images of some of their artworks including John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851-2. So I knew that the NGA Exhibition Love & Desire was a must on my list of things to see this year. 

While looking at some of the artworks I made sure that I spent some time looking at the details within them. How the artists painted lace, shadows, skin and the decorative details plus how they painted birds.

Birds like those in the Ophelia painting or the ones featured in the wood block print on cotton by William Morris, Strawberry Thief, 1883. As a collector of Moorcroft vases (many pieces in my collection includes: birds, butterflies and flowers) I recognised the pattern of the Strawberry thief as it was incorporated on Moorcroft Pottery in 1995.



Plus another bird in The Lady of Shalott painting by John William Waterhouse, 1888, caught my attention as The Lady of Shalott by Lord Tennyson has always been one of my favourite poems. 



The other visit to the NGA during autumn was on my birthday to see the Australia Collection. I spent time just sitting in font of paintings and soaking in each square inch. Looking at colours, shadows, brush strokes, composition including the shapes and repetition of these shapes. I followed lines and thought about how something static can be given the appearance of so much movement and life. It was truly wonderful to spend part of a birthday with some of my favourite artists: Tom Roberts, Julian Ashton, Frederick McCubbin and John Olsen. 




This quite time was inspirational. There was one artwork in the Asian Collection by Moshizuki Gyokusen named Wagtails by a rock torrent, it made my mind swirl with the future possibilities in my own art creations. It was so inspiring that few days later I bought some sliver acrylic paint. 


Reflecting on my gallery visits helped me decide to take up the Acrylic April Challenge with The Art Sherpa, Cinnamon Cooney. I have been watching and painting along with Cinnamon's videos, learning how to paint with acrylic. I have learnt a lot about colour and technique. Below are two of the bird paintings I created from Cinnamon's video, the original design is by Cinnamon Cooney, The Art Sherpa. www.theartsherpa.com


To see more of my Acrylic April paintings go to my Facebook or Instagram page.

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