Showing at GOMA until 17 October ‘European Masterpieces’ is a remarkable journey through five centuries of European painting from exquisite devotional scenes of the early Renaissance to fleeting glimpses of nature captured by the Impressionists.
The exhibition covers a period of significant religious, societal and cultural change as it charts the most important movements of Western art history through 65 paintings by Fra Angelico, Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens, Raphael, Goya, Turner, van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet and others.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the exhibition was a unique opportunity for art lovers to experience a collection of this calibre in Queensland and a testament to the state’s growing reputation as a destination for arts and culture.
‘It’s an exciting time for our arts community. This incredible drawcard exhibition will give Australians a rare chance to experience 500 years of European art here at home when our international borders remain closed,’ the Premier said.
Since 2016, the Palaszczuk Government has committed more than $20 million to support QAGOMA to present exclusive exhibitions, which have to date injected $85 million back into Queensland’s economy.
Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) Director Chris Saines said ‘European Masterpieces’ was presented by QAGOMA in partnership with Art Exhibitions Australia and curated by The Met in consultation with the Gallery.
‘After several years of development and planning, we are thrilled to bring these extraordinary works of art from New York to Brisbane,' Mr Saines said.
Mr Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, said the exhibition presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in which The Met — during the renovation of their galleries for European paintings — could share these masterpieces with the people in Australia.
‘It brings great joy to see such magnificent paintings, and the many stories they tell, come to Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art,’ Mr Hollein said.
Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said the exhibition told the stories of hundreds of years of European art history.
‘It features works by some of the greatest European painters of all time, and it’s through support from the Queensland Government that we’re able to see a world class exhibit like this come exclusively to Queensland.
'The arts are key to delivering our plan for economic recovery, each year injecting $8.5 billion into the state’s economy and supporting more than 92 000 jobs for Queenslanders,’ she said.
Mr Saines said visitors will experience remarkable works that rarely leave permanent display in the United States, installed at GOMA in impressively designed, purpose-built spaces inspired by the motif of the arch in European architecture.
‘The show goes above-and-beyond a traditional masterpieces exhibition. In addition to engaging with these great works of art, visitors can also immerse themselves in The Studio, an expansive space at the heart of the exhibition which features a range of interpretive and interactive experiences including live music performances and figure drawing from 11:00 to 3:30pm daily.’
‘Over three chapters, ‘European Masterpieces’ traces the development of art and artists from a time when creativity was closely controlled through the patronage of church and state, to a period in which our contemporary idea of the independent artist was born,’ Mr Saines said.
The first chapter of the exhibition, ’Devotion and Renaissance’, begins in 15th Century Italy and includes such highlights as Giovanni di Paolo’s Paradise 1445, a beautiful, imagined garden in heaven filled with saints and angels, where animals frolic and flowers bloom and The Crucifixion c.1420–23, a finely painted, emotionally charged altarpiece panel by Florentine artist Fra Angelico. It also includes Titian’s grand and poetic Venus and Adonis 1550s capturing a luminous Venus reaching to embrace her lover one last time before he leaves to go hunting and meet a tragic end.
The second chapter, ‘Absolutism and Enlightenment’, traverses the Italian Baroque, Dutch Golden Age, French Rococo and Neoclassical movements. The gallery spaces evoke a sense of sumptuous, baroque grandeur and feature must-see works including Caravaggio’s allegory of music and love The Musicians of 1597; Rembrandt’s portrait Flora c.1654 and Johannes Vermeer’s elaborate Allegory of the Catholic Faith of c.1670‑72.
The exhibition's third and final chapter, ‘Revolution and Art for the People’, heralds the new Modern era of artistic freedom where the radical notion of the creatively independent artist took hold. Included are works such as Joseph Mallord William Turner’s atmospheric, light-filled scene Venice, from the Porch of Madonna della Salute c.1835; Paul Cézanne’s Still Life with Apples and Pears c.1891–92; Vincent van Gogh’s The Flowering Orchard 1888 and Water Lilies 1916–19, a late work by Claude Monet that captures the artist’s 30-year, 250-painting obsession with his garden in Giverny, France.
‘European Masterpieces’ is accompanied by a public program, Up Late event, an onsite digital companion experience and a major publication.
‘European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York’ is supported by the Australian Government International Exhibitions Insurance (AGIEI) Program, which provides funding for the purchase of insurance for significant cultural exhibitions. Without AGIEI, the high cost of insuring significant cultural items would prohibit this major exhibition from touring to Australia.
Funding for insurance has been provided through the Queensland Government Exhibition Insurance Scheme administered through Arts Queensland.