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Summer blockbuster at NGA & Art to see now

Cate Lyons

This summer we are in for a treat when it comes to art! In what will undoubtedly be a spectacular crowd-pleaser, the National Gallery of Australia has announced a summer blockbuster exhibition that will showcase the works of Tom Roberts.

The exhibition will bring together 133 major works from public and private collections, from Roberts’ early days studying at London’s Royal Academy in 1883, until his death in 1931.

Paintings by Tom Roberts are some of the most recognisable and loved by Australians.

He is most famous for his large and deliberately nationalistic pre-Federation subject pictures such as Shearing the Rams, A break away! and Bailed Up, which depicts a coach held up by bushrangers. A coach driver called ‘Silent’ Bob Bates who modelled for Roberts in the painting, had been held up by the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt in the 1860s.

Also on display will be Roberts’ seminal Big Picture. The enormous 3x5m painting captures recognisable portraits of 265 dignitaries at the Federation of Australia ceremony in May of 1901. It was so large it was painted on three separate pieces of canvas that were then stitched together. This is the first time the painting has moved since it was hung in Parliament House in 1988.

Tom Roberts was one of the founders of Australian Impressionism – also known as the Heidleberg School. Inspired by French Impressionism, he led artists out of the studio and into the bush. These artists aimed for ‘truth to nature’ and worked in the open air, sketching quickly, applying their paint rapidly – capturing instantaneous impressions.

Tom Roberts opens on 4 December 2015 and tickets are on sale now through Ticketek.


Exhibitions to see now

You don’t have to wait until summer to see some fantastic exhibitions. A few that are definitely worth checking out are listed below.

Degrees of undress: NPG until 15 November. Free. As the title suggests, this fun and forthright exhibition selects and remixes portraits from the NPG’s collection around elements of nakedness. Some sitters are completely naked, some expose just a bit of skin and some are – shockingly – totally clothed. Look out for Dame Edna Everage, Billy Slater, Germaine Greer, David Gulpilil, Matthew Mitchum and Megan Gale.

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Edna Everage by Lewis Morley. On display at the NPG.


Myth + Magic: NGA until 1 November. Free. A fantastic exhibition for kids and adults alike, Myth + Magic features sculptures of supernatural beings, ancestral figures and masks from Papua New Guinea. All come from communities that live along the Sepik River, and employ a range of natural materials such as pig tusks, feathers and even human skulls – of Ancestors and the vanquished alike. At least one of the tribes represented here were serious headhunters! One of the most outstanding exhibits – and there are many impressive pieces – is a 6.3m crocodile, carved from a single piece of wood without the use of metal tools, which dates back more than a century. This is the first time it has ever been outside PNG.


Papua New Guinea, East Sepik Province, Loincloth [mal] on display at the NGA.

The Home Front, Australia during the First World War: NMA until 11 October. Free. The thing the NMA does really well is showing Australian history through personal stories and objects. This one looks at life on the Australian home front during World War 1. Unlike today where we can talk to friends whenever we want thanks to email and SMS, back then it could take months for letters to arrive and even then parts could be blacked out by the censors. This exhibition tells stories about long-forgotten local identities, all of which illustrate broader themes. Fascinating.


 Images courtesy of the NGA and NPG

Cate Lyons

Cate Lyons is a Canberra-based professional writer and editor with over 20 years experience. She’s not a writer like J. K. Rowling or Stephen King. She hasn’t written her blockbuster yet. But she is an excellent wordsmith who produces copy with care and thought and has a flair for creative copywriting and web content. She is also a voluntary guide at the National Gallery of Australia. More about the Author