There has been news that the fear of corona virus related food and toiletries shortages  have driven people as far away as Bathurst to shop and stock up on supplies. Bathurst is 200 kilometres from Sydney. If you are prepared to travel an extra 100 kilometres, you can reach Canberra if you are desperate to stock up on your ‘cultural supplies’.

Unlike the National Gallery Of Victoria the National Gallery Of Art in Canberra is open but all its talks, tours, school group visits and the like have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

However what is on show is the blockbuster Matisse and Picasso exhibition. It is beautifully curated and there are some sumptuous works created by these artistic  titans.

This exhibition has been sourced from prestigious art galleries and generous philanthropists from all over the world. What surprised me was the number of striking Picassos loaned to the exhibition by Kerry Stokes , the owner of the Channel 7 network amongst his other companies.

Like his fellow Spaniard Salvador Dali, Picasso was a great self promoter, legendary womaniser and celebrity seeker. He lived well into the twentieth century, dying in 1973, whereas Matisse died in 1954. Partly as a result of his fame and also due to the creation of abstract art, many more books have been published about Picasso than the more reserved  Matisse.

Once he emerged from his ‘Blue Period, where his paintings were relatively realistic, Picasso plunged into angular cubism where objects such as a desk were chopped up in sharp right angles and viewed from a different perspective.

Partly as a result of Matisse’s influence Picasso moved into synthetic  cubism, where more rounded shapes were incorporated into his work.

However there were more examples of Matisse’s influence when he favoured painting sunlit bay windows overlooking the Mediterranean sea.

Matisse became fascinated with the Orient and painted brightly clothed Ottoman courtesans.

This exhibition clearly shows Picasso following in his older colleagues in his older colleagues footsteps.

Many of Picasso’s best known works, especially the angular cubistic works, use a very limited palette. Matisse’s vibrant use of colour layers caused Picasso to use more colour in his works.

Ironically, as he grew more infirm, Matisse became almost purely abstract with his use of cut out shapes.

To round up the talents of the two artists there are examples of the sets and costumes  that they were commissioned to design for various ballet companies.

Also on show at the National Gallery is a charming survey of the works of Hugh Ramsay who sees to have been a little overlooked  in relation to Australian 19th Century art which currently seems to be dominated by Tom Roberts, Emmanuel Phillips Fox, George Lambert and Arthur Streeton. This is also due to the fact that his life was cut short at the age of 28 due to tuberculosis.

Fortunately he did receive acclaim when a number of his paintings were exhibited in prestigious French art salons.  Whilst overseas he met Dame Nellie Melba who championed his work. He  was about to commence a full length portrait of the Dame when he died. His portraits and landscapes are rendered with a tenderness and reverence which gave me the impression that he was a very amiable man.

If you decide to travel to Canberra during this Covid-19 pandemic you should observe the Government’s guidelines such as washing your hands frequently, sneezing into your elbow or a fresh tissue which must be immediately discarded and try and stay at least tow metres from the nearest person. If you have flu like symptoms such as a fever, a dry persistent cough and or achey joints, you must stay at home, and if feasible get yourself tested. The Gallery’s website also lays out corona virus protocols to which it and you are bound.

The Hugh Ramsay exhibition closes on the 29th March whist the Matisse and Picasso exhibition closes on the 15th April.

Featured image :  Hugh Ramsay- Amy Lambert

Pablo Picasso – Woman with Parasol on the beach, 1933 (2) (1)