|Bendigo Art Gallery |
42 View Street , Bendigo VIC 3550
|01 Jan 22 - 09 Oct 22|
Bendigo Art Gallery is home to one of Australia’s most significant collections of Australian and European paintings, ceramics, and decorative arts from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The historic collection is displayed across three classical exhibition courts, modelled in the grand European tradition with fine finishes and high ceilings for spectacular salon hangs.
The current displays trace the evolution of European painting traditions as they were introduced to the colonial Australian context, and the search for a uniquely ‘Australian’ painting vernacular. The displays offer thought-provoking new lenses on the familiar scenes of colonial-era painting, exploring how the visual arts reflected, promoted, and absorbed the spoils of the expanding European Empires.
Western fantasies and Oriental influences
The 18th and 19th century European classification of ‘the Orient’ was a reductive notion, which defined the diverse cultures and countries of East and Central Asia and North Africa in contrast to the West. While there were centuries of artistic and economic exchange between the two regions, a popular fervour for ‘Oriental’ arts and culture peaked in Europe during this period. Edward Said’s seminal 1978 text Orientalism examined this problematic construct of ‘the East’ and its ongoing legacies.
Colonial propaganda: symbols of empire
The colonial mission to ‘civilise and educate’ rested on a belief in the enlightenment of British thought. This ideology is evident in many 18th and 19th century artworks in Bendigo Art Gallery’s collection, conveying a set of sanctioned values that elevated British pride, affirmed patriotic allegiances and assisted in a cultural transplantation that appealed to new migrants pre-occupied with nostalgia and homesickness, while omitting the voices of First Nations People and those counter to the dominant colonial narrative.
Revelation: Light in painting
The idea of a painting being a ‘window upon the world’ was first explored in 14th century Italy as artists explored a suite of new techniques, including the use of proportion and foreshortening, in order to achieve an illusion of realism in their works. Artists soon discovered that the principle of ‘lights advance, darks recede’ was a key convention to accurately describe form, and that the inclusion of a strong light source within an image enabled the depiction of depth or three-dimensionality.