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Over the years I have found that visits to Art Galleries to see world-renowned exhibitions can be fraught. But can also be uplifting! So unfortunately I have to say that a recent visit to the SA Art Gallery to see the “Colours of Impressionism” from the Musee D’Orsay in Paris fell into the first category. I admit that we were warned that three school groups were currently viewing the exhibition but we have nothing against that in principle so hoped for the best. Unlike a visit to Canberra some years ago to see an Impressionists Exhibition we could see no queues ahead so we wandered in.

Our first impression was that it was a bit crowded so decided to head off to the Gallery Cafeteria to have lunch. We thought that this may fortify us for the coming fray. We discovered very soon that you don’t have to go all the way to Paris to get the tourist rip-off! For a mere $11 each we received a dry turkey sandwich with a skerrick of something mildly yellow on one side of the supermarket bread and served up as two rectangles balanced on top of each other on an otherwise bare plate!

On returning to the Gallery to tackle the crowds we were dismayed at first to discover that many of the so-called Impressionist paintings seemed to our innocent eyes to be simply very good portraits or scenes by artists who would subsequently become converted to Impressionism.

But worse still were the organised group tours! We have nothing against groups per se. But we draw the line at groups organised in a tight bunch straining to hear their learned guide spout off about the paintings on display and what’s more using a microphone and the apparently inevitable loudspeaker supposedly designed for the hard of hearing but actually inflicting pain on everyone else within range. This barrage kept us well away from one section of the Gallery for most of the time we were there so never got the chance to sit and try to absorb the atmosphere of the paintings in that section.

So we retreated to another section where I discovered that Monsieur Monet had been strongly influenced by one of my favourite artists – Utagawa Hiroshige, some of whose work was included in the exhibition but sourced from our very own SA Collection. There I was finally able to sit and absorb one of Monet’s works. The Magpie. Rejected by the Paris Salon! Perhaps because of the frame! Why so many galleries still insist in framing their supposed masterpieces in massive gilt frames is beyond me. So I have deleted the frame in the photo above to spare you that visual indignity and gross contravention of the delicate nuanced colours of that bucolic scene.

This exhibition is rather specialised in that it purports to demonstrate the development of colours in the paintings of the Impressionists. This could be mildly interesting if you could peruse the entire Exhibition in chronological order. But that was not possible for me for the reasons alluded to above. Also I was left feeling a bit put out that Van Gogh was not included (apparently he has been “labelled” as Post- Impressionist) but to ignore the marvellous use of colour in the masterpieces he produced in the latter years of his life was disappointing.

For me this Exhibition did not match “Turner from the Tate” where you could follow the development of a single Master over his long career from realist to impressionist. Now that was an Exhibition to rave about!

In another parallel universe, a more sclerotic version of me would possibly have made a “scene” and amid much indignation demanded a refund. But in this universe we simply walked out, to be greeted and refreshed by the bracing reality of an Adelaide winter’s afternoon.

[Comments welcome]



  1. As a critique I thought this could have been better if some humour had been injected into the glum and serious aspects that tended to pervade the content. Otherwise fair comment and maybe 2 out of 5!

  2. I’m glad I read this grumpy review because I straight away went and looked up Utagawa Hiroshige. Wow what an artist!

    The reviewer says they don’t have anything against school groups “in principle” and they have nothing against group tours “per se”. Reading between the lines I suspect the reviewer does actually have something against these perfectly legitimate members of the gallery audience. Perhaps when the reviewer arrived at the exhibition they expected a red carpet to be rolled out and the rest of the crowd evicted with cow prods.

    Even the cafeteria meal wasn’t up to the reviewer’s standards and it seems this elitist has an issue with the rest of us plebs who buy our bread from supermarkets.

    And then the reviewer has the audacity to tell the curators of the exhibition how to frame the paintings. This attitude does not paint the reviewer in a positive light and gives the impression they perhaps wish they were a participant in the art world rather than merely a disgruntled spectator. I’m no psychiatrist but suspect deep-seated envy drives the passive aggression seething away below the surface of this review.

    So rather than a review of the paintings in the exhibition we are left with grumblings of this discontent who knows better than the rest of us and rates a cold afternoon on a busy street higher than the works of the Impressionist masters!

    But I have come away from this review aware of the works of Utagawa Hiroshige of which I am grateful.

    Then again, I think on reflection I am warming to this grumpy approach to reviews and would like more!

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