Category Archives: art exhibitions, galleries and museums

A visit to the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

Brushstrokes in some of Van Gogh's paintings.
Brushstrokes in some of Van Gogh’s paintings.
Gifts from the Van Gogh museum Amsterdam, Holland
Some Van Gogh chocolates, a coffee mug and sugar container from the Van Gogh museum gift shop which we bought.

We went to Amsterdam for a couple of days last week and the number one place to get to for me was the Van Gogh (1853-1890) museum (which also shows his contemporaries like Gauguin’s painting of Van Gogh painting the sunflowers) which we did first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds.

I actually find looking at lots of paintings quite tiring so we only focused on the Van Gogh’s not the Felix Vallotton exhibition showing currently there. To me there’s no point trying to see hundreds of paintings as you simply can’t take them all in (Though you tend to do that if you’ve paid. It’s easy in the UK as many of the major galleries and museums are free. The National Gallery in Melbourne is too which was a weekly event when I lived there.  It’s fantastic you can just go to these galleries to see one painting if you want. )

What can you say about the Van Gogh’s? They are just simply radiantly beautiful and moving works, full of soul that touch you unlike anybody elses work. They are full of love unlike thousands of other paintings you see. You simply cannot really ‘get’ them from reproductions as the brushwork is so delicate and is worked in such an infinite number of ways which you can’t see in prints. That brushwork is like a musical score singing across the canvas. And the luminous colour is the speaker which sings to you of his soul. And everybody’s soul.

'The Yellow House' by Van Gogh
‘The Yellow House’ by Vincent Van Gogh oil on canvas 72 x 91.5 cm

I had quite a number of favourites in the exhibition one of which was ‘The Yellow House’ from 1888 which was painted like a precious jewellery box. Here’s the story of that place from the Van Gogh Museum’s website:

In May 1888, Van Gogh rented four rooms on the right-hand side of a house on the Place Lamartine in Arles. His living quarters were the ones with the green shutters. His bedroom lay beyond. Vincent had finally found a place where he could not only paint but also welcome his friends. His goal was to establish a “Studio of the South,” where he and like-minded artists could work together.

Just as he did in Nuenen and Paris, Van Gogh here depicts his own surroundings. To the left we see the restaurant where he usually took his meals. His friend, the postman Joseph Roulin, lived to the right, behind the first railroad bridge.

The view is also an exploration of color contrast: “What a powerful sight, those yellow houses in the sun and then the unforgettable clarity of the blue [sky],” he wrote to Theo in the letter that accompanied a drawing he had made after the painting.

I used to think 1888 was Van Gogh’s best year for painting as his later paintings seemed to lose there spatial coherence, a sense of unity. But it’s not really true. The very last paintings he did including ‘Landscape with Crows’ still radiate a sense of universal order which I could only see in real life. It’s the forces of nature (God) which connect everything together. You can’t escape it he’s saying.

‘Wheatfield with Crows’ by Vincent Van Gogh Oil on canvas
50.5 x 103.0 cm.
Auvers-sur-Oise: July, 1890

Van Gogh Museum
Address: Paulus Potterstraat 7, 1071 CX Amsterdam, Netherlands (it’s right behind the Rijk’s museum)

Open 9am-6pm; late Fridays

Phone: +31 20 570 5200


Painters I’ve been looking at: 3

Winslow Homer (1836-1910) did some superb sea paintings. Here’s one. Feels chilly just looking at it.Summer Squall by Winslow Homer
Winslow Homer ‘Summer Squall’ 1904 Oil

I’m not a plein air painter at all but I still like looking at them. The Australian plein air painters (they call them the Australian impressionists in Australia) Roberts  and Streeton painted the beach where I grew up. They’re beautiful and true paintings of the beach in that area of Melbourne. Though to me they miss the brilliance and intensity of the colour and light a little bit. Though I still love them.


Tom Roberts ‘Slumbering Sea, Mentone’ 1887 Oil

The French impressionists of course painted the beach all the time. And Monet’s probably the best of the sea painting impressionists. Magic.


Claude Monet ‘Antibes Afternoon’ 1888 Oil

I recently saw an exhibition of painters of Normandy (between 1880 and 1910) at Millesgården in Stockholm which like every exhibition I’ve seen in that place was fantastic.

Many painters I hadn’t heard of- like Dubourg, Cals, Pecrus, Stevens, Le Sidaner and the usual suspects- Corot, Monet, Courbet, Bonnard, Renoir all rendering the beach and countryside in Normandy, France. But it was Eugene Boudin’s paintings which really stood out to me. They were small and sensitively done. His work doesn’t really reproduce very well which is probably why I didn’t notice him much in the past. But in real life they really captured the atmosphere and quality of the light and water at the beach.

It’s always great to discover new painters.


Eugene Boudin ‘Trouville Shore and Rocks’ 1862 Oil

My other posts about painters I’ve been looking at: 1 and 2

The art of seeing the Invisible- Hilma af Klint

At the moment on swedish tv they’re showing a series of interviews with various art historians and specialists from all over the world about Hilma af Klint, the swedish painter (1862-1944), and her milieu called The art of seeing the Invisible.

Basically it explores the connections between af Klint and Rudolf Steiner, theosophy and anthroposophy and other contemporary artists such as Malevich, Kandinsky, Mondrian and others.

All the speakers visited Stockholm for a symposium, run during the af Klint retrospective exhibition in May. The symposium was good but each speaker had only 20 minutes for their talk so it’s fantastic to hear the greater depth of the recorded talks.


(Unfortunately you have to join axess tv to watch it which is a shame as the whole program deserves a worldwide audience. But you can watch this youtube video with the curator of the Hilma af Klint exhibition which is very interesting. In swedish with english subtitles.)

I discovered a few new writers because of  the symposium such as Gary Lachman (who used to be in Blondie- the band- amazingly) and who’s written more than a dozen books on consciousness and the western mystical tradition. One of his books is on Swedenborg, the swedish scientist, philosopher and mystic, which I’d like to read at some point.  (There’s always something more to read. My reading pile just gets longer and longer. )


Hilma ‘channeled’ many of her central oeuvre of 193 paintings- called Paintings for the Temple- the main meaning of the paintings was to convey the knowledge of how all is one beyond the visible, dualistic world. It’s a fascinating exhibition.Portrait_of_Hilma_af_Klint

Hilma af Klint’s ( 1862-1944 ) exhibition ‘Abstract Pioneer’ was at the Moderna Museet  and ran from 16th February to 26th May 2013.

Curator: Iris Müller-Westermann

Youtube: 1/6 Rules of Abstraction by Matthew Collings

Other posts about Moderna Museet exhibitions:
A cup of tea with Monet, Turner and Twombly

A visit to the Moderna Museet in Stockholm

New Twitter Art Exhibit: Orlando, Florida

There’s a new call for artists for the new Twitter Art Exhibit in Orlando, Florida for 2014. Anyone who’s on twitter can contribute a postcard sized art piece on any theme. (I wrote about the earlier one here.) This year at the Los Angeles event I sold my postcard entry which was great.

Basically the #TwitterArtExhibit is an exhibition of artists on twitter. The sales from the exhibition are 100% donated to various charities. Past years the exhibition has generated funds for a library suffering from deep funding cuts to purchase much-needed children’s books. For an abused women’s shelter and for an arts organization mentoring underprivileged young adults in preparation for careers in the visual arts. This year proceeds go to The Centre for Contemporary Dance, special needs class in Orlando, Florida, US.

Here’s my contribution this year. It’s gouache on paper.


If you’re interested in joining in here’s the official site.

Or if you’re on twitter: follow #twitterartexhibit

Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais


I noticed recently that the great American painter Edward Hopper (1882-1967) is having a retrospective in Paris of most of his works, current until 28th January 2013. He is one painter I’ve never had a real passion for, though recently I was looking at his work and how he used the figure in interiors and became entranced again. His paintings hover in world between abstraction and realism which gives them a metaphysical quality which I love.  Now I really want to go to Paris but don’t know if we’ll get there. It’s a big incentive to go back to Paris though.

Here’s a good short description of the exhibition and Edward Hopper’s influences written by the curator of the Paris exhibition Didier Orringer. And 1 minute video.

Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais, Galeries Nationales 10 October – 28th January 2013

Following in a cardinal’s footsteps: Gallery visit to Ambrosiana Museum in Milan, Italy


We recently visited Milan, Italy for the weekend and of course as Milan has a long history (starting from 400 BC with Celtic tribes, through to Romans conquering in 222 BC, to being dominated by the Spanish, Austrians and the French at various times), there is lots of art and architecture to see. 

First cab off the rank was the famous Pinacoteca Brera – badly bombed in WW2 and supposedly rebuilt according to the most modern techniques of museology- but to be honest we both found it a bit of a disappointment even though it contains some very famous paintings. Mantegna’s *Lamentation of Christ’ (1480), The Marriage of the Virgin’ (1504) by Raphael and Caravaggio’s ‘Supper at Emmaus’ (1606) and lots of others.


Basically it’s large and cold and not particularly light. Many of the rooms are filled with gargantuan paintings full of baroque twistings and dark, tormented figures. And after the first 50 or so it gets a bit much.

Until we arrived at the small area containing the modern collection which had better lighting and some very enjoyable paintings by Boccioni, Braque and Morandi. I just loved Boccioni’s preliminary painting ‘La Citta Sala’ (1910) one of his first futurist paintings. So bold in colour and free in form. And then later the unique vision of  Piero Della Francesca (top of post) whose painting features the famous ostrich egg- a general symbol of creation- hanging from the ceiling. A striking painting commissioned by Federico Da Montafeltro (who’s kneeling in the pic) for the birth of his son.

But the gallery you really must see is the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana which along with the Biblioteca Ambrosiana was created by Roman Catholic Cardinal Federico Borromeo (1564–1631) to contain his collections of paintings and amazing books and manuscripts such as Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus. It has a personal touch unlike the Brera. And in contrast it is beautifully lit. The paintings are displayed like jewels and some of them were. The Botticelli was just so beautiful. The colour luminous, still perfect after 500 years.



There were Titians, Leonardo’s beautiful ‘ Portrait of a Musician’,and many other superb paintings from the 15th to 17th centuries. A small collection of Lombard sculpture which had a freshness and simplicity of emotion nicely contrasted with the paintings. What really moved me aside from the Botticelli was the Dutch painters of the 17th century. A still life by Jan Breughel, the colour luminous and rich. The detail remarkable and alive with a variety of flowers (close up below) . And the Paul Brill section in Room 7. You only mostly hear about Paul Brill in relation to Poussin. It’s not really fair. I actually like him better than Poussin probably as they are kind of fantastical landscapes more in harmony with our own apocalyptic times.


There are so many fascinating works in this gallery and it’s so beautiful to just walk around. it’s a must see if you go to Milan.


Pinacoteca di Brera

Via Brera, 28 Milan, Italy Telephone +39 02 722631

Hours: Tues – Sun 8.30 – 7.15 Closed Mondays Cost: 6/3 euros

Pinacoteca Ambrosiana

Piazzo Pio Xl, 2

Tel: +39 02 80692248

Hours: Tues – Sun 9am – 7pm Closed Mondays

Short video of Caravaggio’s Paintings.

‘Art is not a thing; it is a way.’

Elbert Hubbard

‘Land and Sea’: John Fitzgerald’s new exhibition of paintings

Update:  John Fitzgerald’s 2016 exhibition


I wrote a few posts ago about my friend John’s Fitzgeralds painting. Well now he’s having his first exhibition which is fantastic. Titled ‘Land and Sea’ the exhibition features vibrant acrylic landscape paintings inspired by the Otways Ranges outside Melbourne. I wish I was there.

But if you’re lucky enough to be in Melbourne on the 20th September 2012 you are invited to go to the opening at the Prince Patrick Hotel in Fitzroy. He would love to see you there and if you can’t make it that day the exhibition runs until October the 12th.

John Fitzgerald exhibition flyer 2012

‘Land and Sea’ Exhibition of paintings by John Fitzgerald September 20th to October 12th 2012

Address: Prince Patrick Hotel 135 Victoria Parade, Collingwood, Melbourne, Australia. Open midday till late. Ph: 03 9416 1455

For further information: visit John’s website

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
Vincent van Gogh


An unexpected visit to the National Gallery of Denmark

Fillipino Llippi ' The Meeting of Joachim and Anne outside the Golden Gate of Jerusalem' (1497)
Fillipino Lippi’s ‘ The Meeting of Joachim and Anne outside the Golden Gate of Jerusalem’ (1497). The colour still dazzling and really moving.

I had to be dragged along to the National Gallery of Denmark. We were only in Copenhagen for an afternoon so time was precious and I’d wanted to go to a couple of other places…..

Was I wrong. This Italian Renaissance revival style gallery is cram packed full of masterpieces from Western art from the beautiful St John the Baptist of Lorenzetti to the classic French modernism of Matisse. Approximately 9,000 paintings and sculptures and 300,000 works on paper live here but it’s a gallery that is spacious and light and never feels cramped. It’s a pleasure to walk around. And a surprise to see so many superb paintings in one of the Nordic Galleries. (Stockholm was a bit of a disappointment for me. There are a few fantastic paintings but not many. It does have some great exhibitions though. They’re going to close it soon to renovate for a few years.)

matisse room danish museum of art

There are so many fantastic highlights but one of my favourites was The Matisse Room. Containing one of his joyous Collioure paintings from 1905 as well as the famous portrait of Madame Matisse also 1905 ( The Green Line) and 25 other magical works.

The beauties of Danish Art are of course on show here with more than 400 works in 24 freshly renovated exhibition rooms (yes I’m into numbers today!). Other than Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916) I didn’t know much about it.  But the artistry and poetry of many of the Danish landscape artists especially from the 19th century stood out- Johan Thomas Lundbye, Peter Christian Skovgaard, Christen Kobke. It was the quality of the light and the simplified compositions that struck me the most. Each room has a theme such as the body in art or dialogue with europe etc. If you want to know more about Danish art this is the place to come.

Niels Skovgaard (1858-1938)  'Heavy swells at the West coast of Jutland' (1894)

The painting to the right is by Niels Skovgaard (1858-1938)  ‘Heavy swells at the West coast of Jutland’ (1894) I really like the simplicity of this painting. It could’ve been boring as it’s just two rectangles in a rectangle (canvas). But it’s not as the waves are so true to nature. So it’s got freshness and energy.

And then after you’ve exhausted yourself you can go to the new (1998) C F Moller designed cafe/restaurant which overlooks the  botanical gardens. (Quite different style of food here. I think it was the combination of tastes. Nothing like swedish food which is what I was expecting. No salmon on the menu!)

National Gallery of Denmark (Website)
Statens Museum for Kunst
Sølvgade 48-50
DK-1307 Copenhagen

Phone +45 3374 8494
Fax +45 3374 8404

Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00 -17.00
Wednesday: 10.00 – 20.00

Free admission to The Collections

Excellent factsheet about Danish Architecture

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.  Twyla Tharp

Monet’s waterlily paintings at the Musee de L’Orangerie

Claude Monet 'Nympheas' 1915 Pinakothek Munich

Who doesn’t like Claude Monet (1840–1926)? Nobody as far as I know. Though when I was first learning about the French impressionists I thought I was very cool calling him a chocolate box artist. Well so what! I wish I was so lucky as to be a chocolate box artist. Well sort of. I still get peeved when artists sell out to advertising. Recently on swedish tv they’ve been showing an ad with David Bowie’s brilliant song ‘Heroes’ as the soundtrack. Awful. Why David? It trivialises the song completely. Monet of course had no say in the matter. But probably he as well as Van Gogh and all the other holy artistic saints may’ve sold their souls too. Who knows?

Anyway when we were last in Paris we were lucky enough to visit the Musée de l’Orangerie where 8 of Monet’s Water Lily series is permanently exhibited. During the last 30 years of his long life Monet painted around 250 paintings of his garden in Giverny many of which feature a water lily covered pond. Wouldn’t it be great to see them all in the one place? I suppose exhibiting 250 large paintings would be a bit of a logistics nightmare for a gallery. Though 60 water lily paintings from around the world were gathered for a special exhibition at the Musée de l’Orangerie in 1999.Monet_Waterlilypond_1926

Thankfully we got in to the gallery just before enormous crowds of tourists blocked out the view. The Monet’s are in their own room and you can sit and relax and contemplate them on any number of seats. When I first saw them they didn’t affect me much but after sitting there awhile you kind of become submerged into them. They sweep over you like giant colour clouds. I loved them in the end and didn’t want to leave his watery, magical world.

Yes they’re pretty abstract and you can see how they connect to the Abstract Expressionists of the mid 20th C. Monet’s still about his perceptions before nature though. The abstract expressionists got rid of nature and left the perceptions. The photographs I took above look kind of barren really but that’s something the real paintings definitely are not. They seem to embody the nature of water in their lovely loose, flowing technique. And the colour harmonies are rich and subtle. I was surprised with how soft and pearlescent they were in real life. They somehow have the quality of real pearls. In the end he’s a painter you can always enjoy on a purely visual level.
Musée de l’Orangerie Jardin des Tuileries 75001 Paris

phone: + 33 (0)1 44 77 80 07

Opening times:
Open everyday, except on Tuesdays, May 1st and December 25th
from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (premises start to be vacated at 5.45 pm)
English guided tour (1h30) (for individual visitors)
Every Monday and Thursday at 2:30 pm
Groups: reservations only
Reservations should be made writing to Musée de l’Orangerie / group reservations (FAX: + 33 (0)1 44 77 81 12)

Here’s a helpful amateur photographer’s guide to taking photos in Paris. 

‘Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.’

John Lennon

A spring visit to Gothenburg Museum of Art

Carl Milles 'Poseidon' 1925
Carl Milles sculpture of ‘Poseidon’ (1925) outside the Gothenburg Museum of Art.

Sweden’s pretty flat from what I’ve seen so far. In fact dead flat, though I haven’t been north yet but Gothenburg’s (Göteborg) surrounded by these small pine covered hills which makes it quite picturesque. It’s on the west coast of Sweden and its second largest city and most important port.

At the Gothenburg Museum of Art

So while we were there wandering through the crowds lapping up the spring sunlight we decided to seek more darkness and visit the Gothenburg Museum of Art, which is part of the brilliantly designed Götaplatsen – the centre of the arts in the city. Surprisingly it’s actually light and airy inside and full of masterpieces from the 15th century on such as the usual suspects Rembrandt, Rubens, Monet and many more. The Nordic section was of course huge. The ones you’ve heard about such as Munch, Anders Zorn, Carl Larsson and there were also a number of Nordic Fauvist artists I’d never heard of. I liked them better than the French varieties-even Matisse perhaps because their technique was more refined. Can’t remember any names though. You just don’t hear about them in any of the art books on the 20c in english so I’m going to have to do some research. And perhaps go back again in future.

Photo of exterior of Gothenburg Art Gallery by Susan Wellington
Gothenburg’s neo-classical Art Gallery (1925) looming over the tents. It is built of a yellow brick called ”Gothenburg brick” which is common all over the city.
Inside looking out of Gothenburg Museum of Art photo by Susan Wellington
Inside looking out of Gothenburg Museum of Art.
Entrance to Hasselblad Centre photo by Susan Wellington
The Hasselblad Centre is part of the Konstmuseet (Art Gallery) but we didn’t get time to have a look so we’ll have to go back again cos the photos looked fantastic.

My favourite painting at the Museum

My favourite painting at the gallery was the brilliant Rembrandt ‘Knight with a Falcon’ (1666) which was cleaned a few years ago at the Getty museum. His incredible perceptiveness into character and unflinching honesty is beautiful and moving. The colours glow now, which they must as no-one has ever painted so many browns and dark, dull colours.

Rembrandt's 'Knight with a Falcon' 1660
Rembrandt’s ‘Knight with a Falcon’ (1660) A great painting.


Göteborg Museum of Art
Address: Götaplatsen,412 56,Göteborg,Sweden
Opening hours: Tue, Thu: 11.00-18.00
Wed: 11.00-21.00
Fri-Sun: 11.00-17.00
Opening hours may vary.
Phone number: +46313683500
Admission 40SEK ($8/£4) adults, 80SEK ($16/£8) adult entry to special exhibitions, free for students and children under 20. Or free with the Gothenburg Pass.
Related links:
A painting that is well composed is half finished.

Pierre Bonnard