Director’s Top 5: Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London

Ahead of the March 2021 opening of ‘Botticelli to van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London’, Nick Mitzevich shares his highlights from the exhibition.

Vincent van Gogh. ‘Sunflowers’. 1888. © The National Gallery, London.

1. Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers

Like many people, Vincent van Gogh was my entry into art, and to have one of his most famous and loved paintings hanging on the wall at the National Gallery in Canberra is a dream come true.

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”
― Vincent van Gogh

Carlo Crivelli. ‘The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius’. 1486. © The National Gallery, London.

2. Carlo Crivelli’s The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius

This is a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance art. It is one of the great examples of linear perspective and decoration. I love the way Crivelli played pictorial games with his viewers, it’s not just stunningly beautiful, but fun.

Jacopo Tintoretto. ‘The origin of the Milky Way’. c. 1575. © The National Gallery, London.

3. Jacopo Tintoretto’s The origin of the Milky Way

Tintoretto brought painting to life. His use of colour, movement and drama set the standard for what was to come. The vibrancy of this painting feels as fresh today as it must have appeared to the people who saw it in Venice in the sixteenth century.

Johannes Vermeer. ‘A young woman seated at a virginal’. c. 1670–72. © The National Gallery, London.

4. Johannes Vermeer’s A young woman seated at a virginal

This is one of only 34 paintings by Vermeer that is known to exist standing in front of one of his small, exquisite paintings always feels like an event of great importance.

JMW Turner. ‘Ulysses deriding Polyphemus — Homer’s Odyssey’. 1829. © The National Gallery, London.

“I know of no genius but the genius of hard work.”
— JMW Turner

5. JMW Turner’s Ulysses deriding Polyphemus — Homer’s Odyssey

The English art critic John Ruskin described this painting as, ‘the central picture of Turner’s career’ it was his breakthrough moment. You can see how he shifted the way he used colour and light in his landscapes and took the expressive direction that led to his visionary late works. It is amazing to see the moment in a great artist’s life when the penny drops!

Nick Mitzevich is the Director, National Gallery of Australia.

Botticelli to van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London runs 5 March 14 June 2021 at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.



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