By Lilian Harrington
Caravaggio / 'The Musicians' 1597 / Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Set alongside the beautiful Brisbane River adjacent to the State Library and the National Queensland Art Gallery is the new Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. (G.O.M.A) replete with its cafes and three well organised floors of art displays and cinemas; It provides Brisbane with a much needed artistic facility where viewers can explore and reflect.
The amazing masterpieces currently featured in the downstairs gallery come from the works of notable European artists dating back to the 15th Century. There are sixty five famous artworks from the European Masterpieces New York Collection. The works feature paintings up to the 20th Century.
The exhibition is set in sections through several rooms that are carefully coloured and labelled so that there is no confusion. Viewers are given a list of the masterworks and can follow the display with a well organised numbered process.
Earlier works feature a lot of religious themes as well as the contemporary thinking of the day around family and the laws of the time
e. g. the Madonna and child, the death of Christ, as well as the artist’s impressions of scenes being enacted of battles and spiritual or family gatherings.
e g. Flanders by Peter Paul Rubens.
There is a range of still life paintings, but some are particularly poignant because of the way they have been composed e. g. “Still Life with a Skull” a painting that depicts a skull and a writing quill from Pieter Claesz from the Netherlands, 1628. It would appear that the subjects chosen in the earlier periods are politically correct for the era, while some self -portraits of the period show more emotions and feelings, such as the painting by Hugo van der Goes “Portrait of a Man” 1475. The story behind the painting is easier to follow because of the way the exhibition has been laid out.
The European works from the Netherlands and Italy in particular, provide a contrast and show how they have influenced later artists. They show a remarkable attention to style and detail. Later artists were influenced by these early subjects and styles and have developed their paintings on the intentions and emotions /or ideas from earlier paintings in some cases, as seen in the later displays from more well- known and popular artists such as Monet, Edgar Degas, Gaugin, Vincent Van Gogh, as well as Paul Cezanne; e.g. ”Still Life with Apples and Pears” France 1891-92.
One innovative feature of the exhibition is an interactive display which provides a different filmic perspective on all the earlier works as it brings the paintings to life; it is particularly of interest to younger viewers. E.g. there is a live statue in period costume attire that holds her position for some while and keeps an audience guessing, plus there are activities to fill in and look at.
Further, the Queensland Conservatorium students play a musical accompaniment each day between 11 am to 1 pm; they play the classical music of the era for viewers to listen to.
This not to be missed exhibition of the European Masterpieces runs until 17th October daily. The cost of admittance is not prohibitive, and concessions are available; Viewers should book ahead either on- line or in at GOMA, if they plan on going, because queues start to form early. At present, you must remember to wear a mask and you must have your Q.R. app. ready so you can sign in.