Write a short summary of your gallery visit today. Mention 2 or 3 of the paintings that most appealed to you and why.
The Art Gallery of NSW… there’s not much to say about it except for how complex it is, in its different narrations of human history through art. As a rewarding experience, visiting the paintings of Australian Romanticism, Victorianism and European Romanticism, was an eye-opening experience on the different lives of those in the 19th century.
A few stand outs are worth mentioning. Frederic Lord Leighton’s “Cymon and Iphigenia” (1884) was the first during our excursion that really grabbed my attention, as I could create two very drastic interpretations of its take on a person’s intimate life. At first glance it appears to be an opinion piece on the promiscuous behaviour of women, and the commonality to sleep with many men, or for men to sleep with many women. The display of multiple females shows me a promiscuous nature from the male as well, given his upper hand standing position. However, the painting metaphorically can also be taken as an idea of moral change. While he is seemingly stuck in a loop of careless sexual behaviour, there is a light of hope behind him in the small feature of the sun. There is regret by his feet but there is also a sign of contemplation for second chances and moral adjustment.
“The Widower” by Sir Luke Fildes (1875-1876) shows a less intimate, yet still quite personal, view on the life of someone during the 19th century. Bleak in colour and void of joy, this painting shows a depressing and endless cycle of the lower working class. The display of a child working yet still surrounded by ragged clothes and unpleasant living conditions struck a chord in me. The cycle of putting all your effort to better your family yet receiving next to nothing shed a light on the reality of the 19th century underneath all the extravagance that is often so brought to the forefront in art or media, particularly today.
As a modern generation, it is harder to understand all aspects of 19th century society and through both “The Widower” and the former painting mentioned, a broader understanding of the personal lives of those during the 19th century can be better understood. The controversial understanding of Leighton’s work, as well as my following, abruptly shocking viewing of Fildes’ work, stood out for me due to their unique and outreaching diversity amongst the rest from our excursion.