National Gallery of Australia | Audio Tour | The Edwardians



Audio guide to works from the NGA exhibition Grace Cossington Smith: A retrospective exhibition, shown at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 4 March – 13 June 2005


  • Introduction

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min


  • John Singer SARGENT, Lord Ribblesdale 1902

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    This portrait of Thomas Lister, 4th Baron Ribblesdale, came to epitomise the Edwardian aristocrat: a sportsman, soldier, courtier and landowner. Sargent portrayed him as being alert and upright, a man with a strong physical presence, immaculately dressed, but with an expression that suggests he may have been stubborn at times. While Sargent revealed everything about his subject, in another sense he gave nothing away — he presented Ribblesdale’s public face and not his private life.

  • C.R.W. NEVINSON, Returning to the trenches 1914

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    Nevinson witnessed the heavy casualties and widespread devastation of the first battles of the First World War. At the front, he made notes and sketches which he later worked up into drawings, paintings and drypoints. In Returning to the trenches he captured, through angular lines and abstract blocks of colour, the movement of an army on the march. He portrayed the column of men marching as if they were robots, caught up in a destiny over which they had no control.

  • John Singer SARGENT, The fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy 1907

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    In The fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy Sargent portrayed the artist Jane de Glehn sketching the scene in front of her, watched by her artist husband Wilfrid. Jane described sitting for the picture in a letter to her sister on 6 October 1907: ‘Sargent is doing a most amusing and killingly funny picture in oils of me perched on a balustrade painting. It is the very ‘spit’ of me. He has stuck Wilfrid in looking at my sketch with rather a contemptuous expression … I am all in white with a white painting blouse and a pale blue veil around my hat. I look rather like a pierrot, but have rather a worried expression as every painter should have who isn’t a perfect fool, says Sargent. Wilfrid is in short sleeves, very idle and good for nothing’. (quoted in Kilmurray and Ormond, 1988)

  • George FRAMPTON, Peter Pan 1912

    23/11/2007 Duración: 44s

    Peter Pan is a small-scale version of George Frampton’s sculpture unveiled in Kensington Gardens in 1912. Edwardian society was enchanted by JM Barrie’s story of Peter Pan. The subject reflects a contemporary fascination with paganism and a belief in the power of nature and natural forces.

  • George LAMBERT, Important people 1914, 1921

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    In Important people Lambert presented a group of ordinary people at a time when the subjects of group portraits were often people with wealth or status in society. He mocked the assumption that importance is a matter of money or property. He created an allegorical image representing a range of human qualities that he regarded as important: motherhood, physical prowess, business acumen, and new life and energy.

  • William NICHOLSON, La Belle chauffeuse 1904

    23/11/2007 Duración: 33s

    La Belle chauffeuse is a portrait of the playwright Sylvia Bristowe. Nicholson loved style and often included costume in his paintings. In depicting Sylivia Bristowe in a motoring outfit he made a statement about her being a modern woman, adopting the latest modes of transport as well as being wealthy enough to own a car.

  • George LAMBERT, Lotty and a lady 1906

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    Lambert presented Lotty in command of the room, comfortably looking out at the viewer. The lady, dressed for outdoors in hat and gloves, is tenuously seated in this room; her body silhouetted against the door suggests her imminent escape. It was rare for a lady to venture into a kitchen, and in portraying Lotty and the lady together Lambert challenged traditional Edwardian social roles and behaviours.

  • Rupert BUNNY, Madame Melba 1901-02

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    Nellie Melba was the professional name of Helen Porter Mitchell (1861–1931). The Australian soprano was born in Melbourne, the city from which she took her name. She sang at Covent Garden, London, from 1888 to 1926, and at intervals with the Metropolitan Opera Company, New York. Famous for her lyric and coloratura roles, Sarah Bernhardt described her voice as being ‘pure crystal’ and Percy Grainger claimed that her voice always made him ‘mindsee Australia’s landscapes’. When Bunny painted this portrait, Melba was at the pinnacle of her success and beginning her artistic partnership with the tenor, Enrico Caruso.

  • James WHISTLER, Arrangement in black no. 5: Lady Meux 1881

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    Valerie Susan Langdon — the subject of this work — caused a scandal in 1878 when she married in secret Henry Meux, the heir to a brewery fortune. Valerie said she was an actress before her marriage, but many suggested she had worked under another name at a dance hall frequented by prostitutes. In a bid to gain his wife a place in polite Victorian society, Henry bought Lady Meux the diamonds that Whistler portrayed her wearing in this painting. However, neither the jewels nor her Egyptian antiquities collection could gain her the position that she desired.

  • Giovanni BOLDINI, Portrait of a lady, Mrs Lionel Phillips 1903

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    Florence, Lady Phillips (1863–1940) was the daughter of a South African land surveyor. In 1885, she met and married Lionel Phillips, who had become wealthy in the 1880s by mining diamonds. They lived in England from 1898 to 1906, during which time Lady Phillips developed a keen interest in art and bought contemporary works — by William Orpen, William Rothenstein, Walter Sickert and Philip Wilson Steer, as well as by Pissarro, Monet and Sisley. In 1919, her daughter Edith married the artist William Nicholson.

  • Philip Wilson STEER, Seated nude: The black hat c.1900

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    Steer painted many nudes in which his figures are set in a domestic environment. In Seated nude:The black hat he depicted his model sitting at ease among her discarded clothes, still wearing her hat. Her incomplete state of undress emphasises her nakedness. Steer never exhibited this work because his friends suggested that it was improper to paint a nude wearing a hat.

  • John Singer SARGENT, Almina, daughter of Asher Wertheimer 1908

    23/11/2007 Duración: 58s

    Almina was the fifth daughter of the wealthy and well-known Bond Street dealer, Asher Wertheimer. The portrayal of European women as alluring ‘orientals’ was fashionable at the turn of the 20th century. Sargent portrayed Almina dressed in exotic costume with an ivory-white Persian dress, a turban entwined with pearls and holding a sarod, a musical instrument from northern India.

  • William STRANG, Bank holiday 1912

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    From around 1910 William Strang painted images of his family and friends wearing fashionable clothes and placed in imaginary settings in which he conveyed aspects of male–female relationships. In Bank holiday he suggested a young couple’s awkwardness when dining out, and included two symbols of devotion: the flowers and the pet. Strang created a deliberately understated image that allowed viewers to find their own interpretation.

  • E. Phillips FOX, Bathing hour c.1909

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    Bathing hour is an image of leisure. Fox captured sunlight and colour in a scene of happy holiday-makers enjoying healthy outdoor pursuits. He showed a mother in a loose fitting dress drying her young child. Set apart in the intimacy of their domestic ritual, Fox emphasised the bond between mother and child. At the time it was painted Fox’s depiction of a naked child in such a setting was unconventional.

  • Harold GILMAN, The Negro gardener c.1905

    23/11/2007 Duración: 49s

    The Negro gardener reflects Harold Gilman’s admiration of Velasquez and the Spanish tradition of portraiture. Gilman depicted his subject in the pose of a gentleman; with the gardener’s shovel replacing the gentleman’s walking cane. In portraying a servant as if someone of social standing, Gilman approached his subject in a similar fashion to Agnes Goodsir when she depicted a servant in La Femme de ménage.

  • Rupert BUNNY, Nocturne [The distant song I] c.1908

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    In this dreamy scene three elaborately gowned women with accessories of roses and richly coloured shawls and fans, pose together on a balcony. Nocturne is one of a series of night balcony scenes that Bunny painted which evoke a mood of intimacy and luxurious leisure, of perfume, poetry and distant music. Though ostensibly intimate, the scenario is theatrical.

  • Henri GAUDIER-BRZESKA, L'Oiseau de feu [Firebird] 1912

    23/11/2007 Duración: 54s

    In June 1912 The Firebird was performed in London for the first time by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Gaudier-Brzeska portrayed the moment in Scene One when Ivan the Tsarevich captures the Firebird. He translated the figures into a series of simplified planes and conveyed movement through the crouching figure linking arms with the upwardly thrusting Firebird.

  • Harold PARKER, Orpheus 1904

    23/11/2007 Duración: 38s

    In the 1880s, British sculpture was revitalised with the introduction of ‘art bronzes’, or small-scale sculptures. The aim was to democratise sculpture, to make it an affordable domestic ornament for the increasingly affluent Victorian and later Edwardian middle classes. In Greek mythology Orpheus is the musician who descended to the underworld in an attempt to retrieve his love, Eurydice, back to the living. Parker’s Orpheus plucks his lyre, a symbol of his divine talent, yet his melancholic gaze foreshadows his human vulnerability and the tragic end to his quest.

  • Max MELDRUM, The yellow screen (Family group) [Le pararent jaune The family group] 1910-11

    23/11/2007 Duración: 01min

    The figures represented in The yellow screen (Family group) are Max Meldrum, his wife Jeanne and his eldest daughter Ida. Meldrum was greatly influenced by the work and technique of the Spanish artist Velasquez. As a result, this work becomes as a study of tone, the forms existing only as they are defined by light.

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