I love this! In a cultural coup for the land of Oz, the National Gallery of Australia was open for a record 32 hours straight this weekend to allow as many people as possible to catch the final days of the fantastic Masterpieces from Paris exhibition. Meaning people could pull an all nighter at the gallery on Saturday, gazing at the works of Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh et al, champagne in hand with the magical night to imbue their impressions of the post-impressionists... then wake in the morning with Monet and enjoy a little Seurat with their sausages and eggs.
After a season that broke all attendance records (we are indeed a cultured mob) the exhibition closed at 5pm today. Tomorrow the packers will rip out their masking tape and start bundling up the priceless treasures for a trip across the seas to Japan.
Tracy Chevalier's best-selling novel Girl With a Pearl Earring was inspired by intrigue. Who was the girl in the famous Dutch artist's painting? Why was Jan Vermeer enchanted by her? How did she come to be there? What happened to her after he immortalised her on canvas?
Looking at the artworks in the Masterpieces exhibition, commonly recognised yet so rarely studied by your average gallery-goer, made me think about the paintings as story stimulators.
Who are the people in the images? Are they happy to be there? What's their relationship to the artist? What are they really thinking behind the poses? What secrets do they hold? How did their lives unfold?
So many questions....so many untold stories...
Test your imagination on these beauties:
Van Gogh's self portrait. Was he repressing a jovial personality behind that intense and penetrating stare?
Was Paul Signac's galleon arriving at Marseille concealing a band of pirates below decks, poised to pillage and plunder the unsuspecting port?
Are Gauguin's womenfolk discussing the poor state of their hands after toiling in the fields all day and cooking up a career move into the as-yet untapped organic moisturiser market that will propel them from peasants to palace-dwellers?
What sumptuous feast will Cezanne's onions flavour? Why did the cook forget to peel them; whose garden were they pilfered from; who is the feared and revered dinner guest; and what life-changing news will she deliver to her host?
Why is Emile Bernard's Madeleine in the woods and of what, or of whom... is she dreaming?