You only need 24 hours in Sydney to experience the finest selection of international art and culture. At the moment, you can catch Sir Ian McKellan (otherwise known as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings movies) at the Sydney Opera House in Beckett’s classic play Waiting for Godot; stroll through the beautiful botanic gardens to the Art Gallery of NSW and see a stunning exhibition ‘David to Cézanne’ master drawings from the Prat Collection, Paris and learn about Australian Aboriginal art with the ‘Art + Soul’ exhibition. You can then wander over to Hyde Park and indulge in the International Wine and Food Festival, exploring culinary delights.
You get the picture…Sydney hosts a never-ending array of world class exhibitions and events against a stunning backdrop of harbour, gardens and historic buildings.
Season major events
One way to combine art and nature is to get outdoors and the amazing Australian coastline is to visit SCULPTURE BY THE SEA on till 14 November. Bondi Beach is the place to start.
Kevin Draper, canopy, Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe 2006. Photo Louise Beaumont.
NOVEMBER 2010: Don’t
Sydney Christmas Spectacle from 17 November when the city lights burst
colour for the festive season.
Follow this up with a top class complete performance of HANDEL’s MESSIAH at the Town Hall Sunday 21 November from 15.00PM.
Hall Christmas Event
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE: you don’t need to like opera to enjoy a night out at one of the world’s most famous masterpieces of modern architecture. Why not go to see Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT on now till 27th November.
David to Cézanne: master drawings from the Prat Collection, Paris
Art Gallery of New South Wales, The Domain, Sydney
On till 5 December 2010
Having been fortunate enough to spend my student days examining Old Master drawings firsthand in the cabinets of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and the Uffizi Museum, Florence, I have never understood the lack of attention drawings are given in comparison to paintings. Despite our far-flung status on the global map blockbuster exhibitions are now frequent in Australia and virtually all concentrate on paintings; the ultimate example being this year’s record-breaking Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and beyond at the National Gallery, Canberra. It featured 112 of some of the best-known works of modern art from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, including Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles 1889 which curiously, they re-created in virtual format for child visitors to the gallery. The queues were legendary and in the end, the National Gallery resorted to opening 24 hours to accommodate the legions of art-lovers thirsty for all that saturated post-impressionist colour.
How refreshing then to not have to queue and yet to be treated to a beautiful exhibition of important European art in the heart of Sydney. Showing a single collector’s selection is terribly old-fashioned and in a way, terribly radical. A Frenchman, obsessed with the first inspiration, the “prime pensieri” of great artists when they put their ideas to paper. I have always thought that the true genius of an artist is revealed in those first scribbled lines, those rushed figures that leap from the mind, through the hand and straight onto the surface; paper, canvas, slate, wall, whatever is at hand.
The Prat Collection neatly delivers an in-depth exploration of the development of French art over the 19th century through drawings by David, Ingres, Géricault, Delacroix, Millet, Manet, Degas, Moreau, Seurat, Cézanne and others. Naturally, it is the first time the collection has appeared in this sub-continent. We don’t only gasp at the virtuoso draughtmanship on display but we are also instructed on the development of French art over the course of the 19th century. The catalogue accompanying the exhibition is a surprise. I bought it thinking what fine quality the reproductions were for the price ($45) and because I thought the author was Stéphane Guégan from the Musée d’Orsay. Can you imagine my amusement when I started to read the extraordinary text and realized that most of it was composed by the owner of the drawings himself: Louis-Antoine Prat. This vanity catalogue written in the first person is splattered with archaic gems like: “This is my only Daumier drawing. Will I one day have another? I don’t think so. There are some great artists that one can appreciate without really loving them, without pursuing them with passion.”
A watercolour portrait by Gustave Doré given the title “The English beggar girl” dated to 1872/79 (the dating in itself, curious) is described by Prat as having:
“an astonishing presence and force, the chlorotic appearance of the girl poignantly suggesting her imminent end. She is the sister of a number of small girls depicted in several of the plates in the publication – an Eliza Dolittle who will never meet her Pygmalion in Professor Higgins.”
The publication Prat refers to is London, a pilgrimage (1872) in which Monsieur Prat’s watercolour did not appear. I thought the portrait rather typical of sketches of young girls that followed the fashion from the Pre-Raphaelite movement through to Lord Leighton’s delectation for models in this age bracket. How Prat worked out Doré’s model was deficient in chlorophyll and would die before her first kiss, is quite beyond me. The analogy is even harder to digest when you think that George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion was not published till 1912.
Nevertheless I do recommend the Sydney exhibition; if only to escape the crowds.
Pierre-Paul Prud’Hon, Fortune, c 1800. Prat collection, Paris.
Raichel Le Goff © 2010