Welcome to Botticelli to Van Gogh, Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London. I’m Nick Mitzevich, Director of the National Gallery of Australia. And I welcome you to this audio tour – we hope it will enrich your understanding.
I would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people on whose land we stand, and acknowledge their elders past and present. Their resilient spirit, and ancestral wisdom makes an important contribution to contemporary Australian art and culture.
On entering this exhibition, you will see 61 masterpieces of Western European art history, painted by 56 of the most recognisable artists of the past 500 years. All of the paintings in this exhibition come to us from the National Gallery, London. The seven rooms you will walk through reflect not only the strengths of the National Gallery, London’s collection, but the manner in which this iconic British institution has built its internationally renowned collection of paintings.
In conclusion, I thank Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, London and the exhibition’s curator Bart Cornelis, along with our partner Art Exhibitions Australia for helping bring this important exhibition to Canberra. I would now like to introduce Geraldine Doogue, who will take you through this tour.
Hello and welcome. It is my great pleasure to be your guide through Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London.
The nucleus of the National Gallery, London’s collection was formed in 1824 when the British parliament agreed to the acquisition of 38 old master paintings from the estate of banker and art lover John Julius Angerstein. A seaport by Claude and A hilly river landscape with a horseman talking to a shepherdess by Aelbert Cuyp, which you will see in the room titled ‘Landscape and the picturesque’, come from this foundational group.
The experience you will take today as you walk through this exhibition is due in large part to the legacy left by the National Gallery, London’s first director, Sir Charles Eastlake. Appointed to the role in 1853, Eastlake set the bar very high when making acquisitions and accepting gifts. He sought to fulfil the National Gallery, London’s founding stated aim to be “an educational institution” that “should strive to become a complete historical collection, with displays that narrated visually the story of Western European art from its origins in Italy in the mid-thirteenth century”.
This is an ethos that continues to inform how the National Gallery, London collects and exhibits its magnificent collection today. In the words of its current director, Gabriele Finaldi: “To walk through the National Gallery is to journey through the history of picture- making in Western Europe, from the thirteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth, and this exhibition aims to give a flavour of that experience.”
When you are ready to begin please enter the first room of Italian Renaissance painting to continue your audio tour.