It’s a fairly assertive title: The Greats -Masterpieces of the National Galleries of Scotland. The assertiveness is justified; the galleries are based in Edinburgh, home of the Enlightenment and in the 19th century, centre of the most extensive free public education system in the world. It was only natural that significant art galleries would be established there for the pleasure and – more importantly – ‘improvement’ of the populace
The exhibition with this uncompromising title, to be at the Art Gallery of NSW from 24 October, is drawn from several galleries under that collective name: the Scottish National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art plus two ‘partner’ galleries: Paxton House in Berwickshire and Duff House in Banff. With origins in the early 19th century, the National Gallery is an impressive neo-classical building on The Mound, symbolically between the new and old towns. Championed by Thomas Carlyle, the huge Portrait Gallery is a temple to Scottish heroes; Modern Art is beautifully located in the Botanic Garden.
The Greats is an appropriate description of many of the artists whose works will be among the 70 pieces: Botticelli, Leonardo, Cezanne, El Greco, Gauguin, Monet, Poussin, Raphael, Rubens, Titian, Turner and Vermeer among them; some of the stars of the very fine Scottish collections. Only two of the works have been seen before in Australia. This will be a quality holiday show until 14 February.
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