Early Wednesday morning I trekked into the Art Gallery of NSW to see ‘The Greats: Masterpieces from The National Galleries of Scotland’
And in short - it was an amazing exhibition. Starting with a Da Vinci, and finishing with a Monet it had every base covered completely. To have stood in front of a Da Vinci sketch dated 1480 was a surreal experience. The one thing these pictures can’t convey is the power these paintings and drawings have, to get up close with a Botticelli, and to see the brush strokes of Titian was something you can only experience in person. Standing in front of Gainsborough’s portrait of John Campbell, a reproduction on the page will never be able to show you the immense scale and sense of being the real thing has when you are dwarfed by it. When Mark Rothko said ‘a painting is not a picture of an experience but is the experience’ he wasn’t kidding.
Experiencing this had a real impact on me and I think it will for some time.
The absolute highlight of the exhibition for me was being to see Sargent’s Lady Agnew of Lochnaw in person. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an emotionally overwhelming experience to stand in front of what is my personal favourite of not only of his work, but my favourite piece of art, period. It was another case of pictures in books not doing the real thing justice, when you stand in front of her you are immediately having a conversation, and you are the on display; not her. And at the same time it’s like catching up with someone you haven’t seen for years and as if you’ve just met. There’s really no way to describe how I felt when I just stood back and looked. The gallery this morning was completely empty when I went in so I was fortunate enough to just enjoy the painting in silence.
I can’t collect my thoughts any better than that, it was an incredible and moving and very personal experience and if the rest of the exhibition had been a let down it was worth it just to see this painting. All you need to do is look at her and see why.
Art is strange like that.
One final hidden gem I was not expecting to see upstairs at the gallery today was a handful of paintings by Ian Fairweather.
I absolutely love his work and it was a real treat to get up close and see them in person. He truly was the real deal. You just can’t fake work like that. I don’t even need to add anything else, just look and appreciate. Incredible.