Visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales

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NSW Art Gallery (1)

I recently visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. There were many stunning paintings by masters of our craft, some of which I have previously written about on this website.

I will walk you through some of the paintings I saw, as I understand many of you may not be able to make it down to Australia to see the gallery for yourself.

The first thing I noticed was how a photo does not really give a painting justice; you really need to see original paintings in person to fully appreciate them. A photo does not give you a sense of scale, brushwork or craftsmanship that you get from seeing a painting in person.

The other thing I noticed was how art seems to have moved away from the technical craft it once was. The gallery was segmented into different time periods – 18th-century art, 19th-century art, 20th-century art and contemporary. Artists no longer seem to be as appreciated for careful rendering, accurate values or capturing the likeness of the subject. Rather, contemporary art seems to be focused on pushing the concept at all costs. Not that there is anything wrong with pushing the concept, but I do not think it should come at the complete sacrifice of technical display. As Nicolai Fechin once said:

“… a high degree of expertise in technique has always had, and always will have, a predominant place in art. The subject, in itself, has value only according to the mode of the day. Tomorrow it will be superseded by a new fashion or fad. With the passing of time, the subject loses much of its meaning. But the fine execution of that subject retains its value…”

Anyway, here are some of the paintings along with my commentary, starting with some stunning landscapes by Sir Arthur Streeton. I was excited to see so many paintings by Streeton at the gallery, as I have used many of his paintings as examples of fundamental painting techniques in previous posts. To me, his paintings are a perfect blend of abstraction, loose brushwork and accuracy (where it matters).

Arthur Streeton, Fire's On, 1891
Arthur Streeton, Fire’s On, 1891
Arthur Streeton, Fire's On, 1891 (2)
Arthur Streeton, Fire's On, 1891 (1)
Arthur Streeton, Still Glides the Stream, and Shall for Ever Glide, 1890
Arthur Streeton, Still Glides the Stream, and Shall for Ever Glide, 1890

In the gallery, Streeton’s paintings appeared remarkably realistic, despite them being painted with such a relaxed technique (which you can see in the close-ups).

Arthur Streeton, Villers-Bretonneux, 1918
Arthur Streeton, Villers-Bretonneux, 1918
Arthur Streeton, Villers-Bretonneux, 1918 (3)
Arthur Streeton, Cremorne Pastoral, 1895
Arthur Streeton, Cremorne Pastoral, 1895

A key part of Streeton’s paintings is how he painted intricate details on top of a rough, colored ground (notice the delicate plants and flowers shooting up from the ground in the close-up below). This adds a level of sophistication to the paintings which is not obvious on first glance.

Aurthur Streeton, Cremorne Pastoral, 1895 (3)
Aurthur Streeton, Cremorne Pastoral, 1895 (1)

I saw paintings by many other familiar names, like Eugene Boudin.

Eugene Boudin, The Beach, 1864
Eugene Boudin, The Beach, 1864

I also saw paintings by artists who I was not familiar with which stopped me in my tracks, like A Spring Day by Friedrich Kallmorgen and The First Born by Gaston La Touche. It just goes to show how many brilliant artists there are to discover, both famous and less known.

Friedrich Kallmorgen, A Spring Day, 1889
Friedrich Kallmorgen, A Spring Day, 1889
Gaston La Touche, The First Born, 1887
Gaston La Touche, The First Born, 1887

The three landscapes below are incredibly large, so the photos do not give them justice. They remind me that sometimes you need to paint on a large scale to faithfully render the grand landscapes like these.

Eugene Von Guerard, Milford Sound, New Zealand, 1877-1879
Eugene Von Guerard, Milford Sound, New Zealand, 1877-1879
WC Piguenit, Kosciusko, 1903
WC Piguenit, Kosciusko, 1903
Wc Piguenit, The Flood in the Darling, 1890
Wc Piguenit, The Flood in the Darling, 1890

The delicate rendering of the subject below was amazing to see in person. Gordon Coutts created a beautiful contrast between the sharp edges and intricate detail used for the subject and the soft, tinted background which surrounds her.

Gordon Coutts, Waiting, c.1895
Gordon Coutts, Waiting, c.1895

I was not familiar with Albert Hanson but I loved the way he captured the glimmering colors through the dark foreground.

Albert Hanson, Pacific Beaches, 1898
Albert Hanson, Pacific Beaches, 1898
NSW Art Gallery

When I first looked at A Sailor’s Yarn by Henry Scott Tuke I did not even notice the third subject (the man reclining in shadow). This is a great display of how to paint detail in dark areas.

Henry Scott Tuke, A Sailor's Yarn, 1887
Henry Scott Tuke, A Sailor’s Yarn, 1887
James Tissot, The Widower, 1876
James Tissot, The Widower, 1876

I wrote about John Russell not that long ago (you can read the post here), so it was a pleasure to see some of his paintings in person.

John Russell, In the Afternoon, 1891
John Russell, In the Afternoon, 1891
John Russell, In the Afternoon, 1891 (1)
John Russell, Rough Sea, Morestil, c.1900
John Russell, Rough Sea, Morestil, c.1900
Pierre Bonnard, Bust in Profile, Red Background (Study), c.1920
Pierre Bonnard, Bust in Profile, Red Background (Study), c.1920

There were several artworks by Sir Peter Paul Rubens at the gallery which were inspirational in terms of drawing.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Constantius Appoints Constantine as His Successor, 1622
Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Constantius Appoints Constantine as His Successor, 1622
Tom Roberts, Holiday Sketch at Coogee, 1888
Tom Roberts, Holiday Sketch at Coogee, 1888

Below is a portrait by Tom Roberts of Sir Arthur Streeton at the age of 24.

Tom Roberts, Smike Streeton Age 24, 1891
Tom Roberts, Smike Streeton Age 24, 1891

The Golden Fleece by Tom Roberts is a classic Australian painting. I remember studying this painting in my high school art classes, though I did not appreciate art history back then.

Tom Roberts, The Golden Fleece, 1894
Tom Roberts, The Golden Fleece, 1894

In the corner of the gallery was a small painting by Vincent van Gogh (the only van Gogh painting in the gallery). I think I prefer his more colorful works…

Vincent van Gogh, Head of a Peasant, 1884
Vincent van Gogh, Head of a Peasant, 1884
Vincent van Gogh, Head of a Peasant, 1884 (1)

Here is a small study by William Holman Hunt, who I wrote about here.

William Holman Hunt, Study of a Bloodhound, 1848
William Holman Hunt, Study of a Bloodhound, 1848

One of my favorite paintings from the day was by an artist who I had never heard about before, The Sea Hath Its Pearls by William Henry Margetson. The painting is actually circular, with a large, gold-colored frame (I had to crop the photo as it was too large). It was painted with mostly soft, pastel colors and appeared calming, especially when surrounded by the more dramatic paintings.

William Henry Margetson, The Sea Hath Its Pearls, 1897
William Henry Margetson, The Sea Hath Its Pearls, 1897

Thanks for Reading!

I hope you found these paintings as inspirational as I did. I was eager to pick up my brush as soon as I left the gallery with the thought that maybe one day I could create something as beautiful as the work by Streeton, Russell or any of the other master artists whose work was on display at the gallery.

If you have been to any inspirational art galleries yourself, please share them in the comments (I will put them on my list of places to visit).

Also, thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it! Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my Painting Academy course.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

63 comments on “Visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales”

  1. Thank you for the wonderful trip thru the art gallery! MOST inspirational tho that word is hardly strong enough to describe my feelings. Again. Thank you!!

    Reply
  2. Thank you so much for sharing. I don’t think I have had the pleasure of going to this gallery since I was a kid.
    What I found really pleasing was the painting by
    William Henry Margetson, The Sea Hath Its Pearls, 1897.
    I have only just started my art journey, but purchased a print of this painting over 25 years ago as it sppealed to me and still does. How exciting to now find out that it is in the gallery.
    Thank you, you have made my day.

    Reply
  3. I very much enjoyed reading all your review of the artworks in the gallery. I am a novice with little knowledge of great artist past or present but I am enthusiastic to know more, thank you

    Reply
  4. Thank you for sharing your visit to this gallery, and for helping us understand the works.. Such wonderful, inspirational paintings. I was especially moved by the final painting by Margetson.
    If ever you are in Toronto, pay a visit to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg. I think you will enjoy the art of Canada.

    Reply
  5. A wonderful read. Thank you for taking me to Australia. It was a much needed vacation and a pleasure to wake up to after an extremely stressful day preceded and followed by months of more stress.

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  6. It is very interesting your comment. I have enjoyed to look the paintings but also your review of the masterpieces and the not so famous painters, it was super. It was like a beautiful journey.

    I wait for more

    Reply
  7. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Very inspiring.
    I have signed up and payed for your painting class but have not been able to get in . It keeps telling me that it doesn’t recognize my email address or my password.
    I gave up trying , but I have paid for it. I’m still interested in seeing those classes. Hopefully you can point me in the right direction of what I should do
    Thank you

    Reply
  8. It is a shame that some of these artists are not better known. Streeton’s paintings remind me somewhat of a combination of
    some of the Russian Masters and Sargent.

    Reply
  9. Beautiful Since my pc will only let me see segments at a time (of the paintings)…. it reminds me of a teacher’s comment long ago……that in a fine work of art, any portion of the work could stand alone as a painting. Thank you for all you give. frances in NM USA

    Reply
  10. Thank you for a wonderful and insightful trip to the Gallery. I will likely never get to Australia or this Gallery, so the visit was wonderful.

    Reply
  11. As with other posts, I can’t believe how much I learn and appreciate, different aspects of art history, techniques, etc. Thanks again for sharing your experiences and comments.

    Reply
  12. The Martin Lawrence Gallery (433 Royal St.) in New Orleans is magnificent. I have never seen so many Erte sculptures in one place. Well worth a visit.

    Reply
  13. Thank you for the tour through that wonderful Gallery. I agree that a photo does not do a painting justice, however, it’s better than nothing. I loved Kollmorgan’s A Spring Morning”. Such beautiful use of light. I can’t even put into words how much I love it. Also the One with the lady and the pearls. But all were interesting in one way or another. I enjoy your posts.

    Reply
  14. You mention you saw only 1 van Gogh. Kröller Müller in Otterlo in Holland has a beautifull collection of paintings of van Gogh.

    Reply
  15. Thank you for sharing these. They are beautiful. Despite differences in style, it seems like one thing they almost all share is a distinct movement in the composition.

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  16. Thank you for sharing your tour of the gallery in Australia. Inspiration at its peak in these beautiful paintings. We are opening a fine art gallery in Willow Glen in San Jose, CA.

    Reply
  17. Dan,
    First I thank you so much for all the articles you write and share on line. Enjoying painting landscapes, I am learning so much from your writings!
    Today, I enjoyed discovering Sir Arthur Streeton’ works. Now, I would like to purchase a book about Stratton s paintings. Do you have one in mind you could suggest? Thank you.

    Reply
  18. Thank you for a wonderful visit to the NSW Art Gallery. I used to live in Sydney for many years, and always enjoyed th Gallery. I paint in oils, and love to get inspiration from other artists.
    I have a book on the Australian Aboriginal artist, Albert Namatjira, who did watercolours, of the outaback landscape. I think you would enjoy those too.
    I now live, retired on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. Nice to be connected to Australia again.

    Reply
  19. Hi,You made my day by taking on journey of gallery New South Wales. Each painting has its charm and story to tell. Thank you for giving such opportunity.

    Reply
  20. Thank you. You’re right – I won’t get to Sydney! However, on my last visit to Cardiff , Wales I visited the National Museum of Wales, which houses many great painters and sculptors. I really enjoyed Walter Richard Sickert’s “Palazzo, Venice” painted in 1901. On one of my visits the museum was featuring a show on Moghul art which was quite enlightening.

    Reply
  21. Brilliant article Dan, thanks. I especially appreciated those close ups of brushwork. And your observation of the huge size of some paintings—something which always amazes me on trips to galleries. Small paintings are sometimes SO small and large ones are SO very large, and often the mastery in the big ones is mind blowing…something we can never appreciate on the web.

    Reply
  22. oh my….a visit to this awesome gallery right from my home. and gratitude for the introduction to william henry margetson…my fav portrait is GIRL IN THE PINK KIMONA by john carlson and now THE SEA HATH ITS PEARLS is a close second. would be a treasure to see this in person.

    Reply
  23. Thank you for sharing your fascination with all things art, I love reading your emails and your commentary on paintings and artists I I would never have known existed!

    Reply
  24. Thank you so much for sharing these painting and artists I have never heard of. So very interesting and in formative!

    Reply
  25. What an inspiring time going through this gallery with you this morning with my tea! Each painting is a breath-stealer – each for a different reason. I love abstract, and having a visual of Arthur Streeton’s detail on top – ah, stunning! Thank you so much, Dan.

    Reply
  26. Dan, vocĂŞ tem razĂŁo quando diz que há uma grande diferença em apreciar uma pintura nos museus e olhar uma foto. Eu pude comprovar isso quando estive no MASP, em SĂŁo Paulo. Levei um livro que continha as fotos das pinturas, mas, realmente os originais… as cores sĂŁo totalmente diferentes. Mais uma vez, obrigado e um grande abraço.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment. I will translate for others:

      “Dan, you’re right when you say there’s a big difference in enjoying a painting in museums and looking at a photo. I was able to prove it when I was at MASP in SĂŁo Paulo. I took a book that contained the photos of the paintings, but really the originals … the colors are totally different. Once again, thank you and a big hug.”

      Reply
  27. Thanks, Dan, for your tour of this gallery, especially since U may not get there to see it myself. Just returned from Amsterdam and was most fortunate to visit the Reiksmuseum ( where 22 Rembrandts were on display), but also the Van Gogh museum where there was a special David Hockney exhibit. You are so right. It’s one thing to see a picture of a Van Gogh, but to stand in front of his self portraits or “The Bedroom” is a whole different experience.

    Reply
  28. Thank you Dan for these exciting discoveries. You’re right : the best experience of a painting is standing in front of it and looking at it quietly. I remember the happy time discovering the famous Canaletto’s « vedute » of Venice… Congrats for sharing.

    Reply
  29. A million thanks for a wonderful and educational “digital” trip to the Art Gallery in Sydney.

    You were right when saying : “a photo does not really give a painting justice; you really need to see original paintings in person to fully appreciate them” … so now I will have to start saving and hopefully one day I can pay a visit to the gallery and follow your footsteps…

    Reply
  30. Thanks for the beautiful journey from my balcony in Florida to a time machine of art. I am new to your site and can’t wait to see what you share next.
    Have been painting off and on for many years. Still searching for the right direction.

    Reply
  31. There’s so much about great works of art that I don’t know and your comments help me greatly in noticing points of technicality that I would normally overlook. I’m thoroughly enjoying my art classes with you. Thank you for sharing your visit to this art museum which I’ll never be able to personally visit.

    Reply
  32. Thank you for the tour which I thoroughly enjoyed. I really like Van Gogh’s darker earlier works. I managed to visit the museum in Amsterdam which exhibits the potato eaters, a stunning work with the features of the people very much like the portrait displayed in your gallery.

    Reply
  33. Crystal Bridges American Art Museum has some delightful art. It is in Bentonville, Arkansas of all places, but it is world class!

    Reply
  34. I really appreciate all that you have shared regarding your journey through the Art Gallery. Nothing can be better than seeing art up close. My favourite museums are The Louvre and The Dorsey in Paris. Sitting in a very large room surrounded by Ruebens was incredible. You felt like you were in the pictures yourself as they were very large, colourful and lifelike. I really enjoyed Van Gogh in The Dorsey. That museum is full of impressionists. Thank you for sharing your love of art with us.

    Reply
  35. Hello Dan,

    Thank you for sharing this visit with us.
    I was particularly strucked by the last painting « The Sea Hath it’s Pearls » I think I now understand what you meant when the color tone properly reflects the mood and temperature of the painting.
    When I looked at it, I immediately felt the warmth of the air and the ocean breeze.
    Wow….really impressed with this painting.

    Reply
  36. Thank you for all of your articles. I especially loved this one as I just got back from the Met in NYC and took a few photos for inspiration. I also save photos of paintings you post that inspire me. Your course is very informative and you are a very talented artist and an excellent teacher. Thank you

    Reply
  37. If you ever get to Savannah, Georgia, the Telfair Museum of Art is a small jewel. Each time I go to Savannah I visit. A favorite painting is “The Black Prince at Crecy” by Julian Story, English, (1857-1919)
    Thank you for your inspirational blogs.

    Reply
  38. All l can say is WOW! As a backwoods American, l had no ldea you Aussies had such an artistic heritage. Maybe it’s just because they suit my taste so well, but l think your guys are better than European , for sure.

    Reply

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