The Winter Masterpiece exhibition at NGV Victoria this year is a little bit of New York. MoMA at NGV is over 200 works and spreads over all the ground floor galleries. This means there are two entrances, so don’t lose your ticket. You also get to exit through the gift shop twice.
The layout is chronological starting with a few works from key post impressionists and moving quickly to Paris in the age of electricity. I loved seeing La Japonise: Woman beside the water by Matisse up close. The squiggles and dabs of paint, some straight out of the tube, really rocked the established art world in 1906 leading to the label les fauves, wild beasts.
I was also struck by the work of Sonia Delaunay, Portuguese market 1915. She and her husband were members of the Orphist group, who explored colour theory and optical effects.
The swirling colour takes over the scene and the orphists talked about simultaneity were no hue dominates any other. The descriptor says that Delaunay’s work in textile and clothing design contributed to her understanding of the possibilities of abstract colour.
I was interested to see works produced at the Bauhaus. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was a teacher there and experimented with photography and film. This influenced his painting process which he reimagined as an art not of pigment but of light. His Z II 1925 is an exploration intersecting abstract elements in space.
Gupta Stolzl was a weaving student at the Bauhaus who went on to become and instructor and the first woman ‘master’ at the school in 1927. Under her direction the weaving workshop went on to become one of the most experimental areas.
Wall hanging 1924. Wool, silk, mercerised cotton and metal thread
Anni Albers also trained at the Bauhaus in Germany and then went to on to become head of weaving at Black Mountain College in the United States from 1933 to 1949.
Two of her Free-hanging room dividers c 1949 use cotton, cellophane, braided horsehair and cord. They combine art making with utilitarian design, controlling both light and space.
One of the ‘big’ pictures on show is Salvador Dali’s 1931 The persistence of memory. You come across it as soon as you enter the gallery focussed on the 30’s and post war period. I was quite shocked. It is tiny. Perhaps because it features such a broad landscape I had always thought it to be a large painting.
Seeing a Hopper was rather special too. His Gas 1940 has an amazing sense of drama. Edward Hopper is not depicting a single scene, it is a composite representing several gasoline stations.