For the first time in more than 30 years, 27 magnificent works by some of the leading Italian, French and British artists of the High Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and Romantic periods left the walls of the Art Gallery of New South Wales for an exhibition at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery
, European Old Masters: 16th 19th Century.
Dr Michael Brand, Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales said while we will miss those 27 works as they have been on the walls of the gallery for more than 3 decades, we are delighted to collaborate with Hazelhurst Regional Gallery to give people an opportunity to see some of the finest works in our European collection.
This exhibition is the first occasion these important European paintings have been shown together outside their permanent home said Belinda Hanrahan, Director, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery. We are thrilled the Art Gallery of New South Wales has given us this opportunity for people to see the works by some of the greatest artists in Europe at the time like William Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Bernardo Strozzi and Frans Snyders.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales did not embark upon collecting old masters until the 1950s, some 80 years after its foundation. Previously, the great masters of the past could only be experienced through copies intended for educational purposes. The focus of the Gallerys acquisitions policy since the late 19th century had been primarily on works by living artists initially British, later Australian and European.
Between 1951 and 1976, the Gallery acquired an outstanding group of English 18th-century portraits, including works by three of the leading painters of the age: William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds. During these years the Gallery also purchased landscapes and subject pictures representative of British Neo-Classicism and Romanticism by artists such as Richard Wilson, John Glover, Richard Westall, William Hamilton and Francis Danby. Although accessions of non-British painting were rare, three powerful and imposing figural compositions by the Baroque painters Bernardo Strozzi, Jan van Bijlert and Matthias Stomer expanded the scope and ambition of the collection.
The extraordinary donation by James Fairfax AC during the 1990s significantly enriched the Gallerys holdings of European old masters, particularly in the area of 18th-century French and Italian art such as the works by Nicolas de Largillierre and Canaletto. The collection has continued to develop with the acquisition of major Italian Renaissance and Baroque works such as the work of Giulio Cesare Procaccini.
The works in European Old Masters: 16th 19th Century offers an insight into ages and cultures so different from our own.