One trip EVERY month: May

I haven’t travelled far this month.  But I have travelled.  Just yesterday, for instance, I drove to the library, couldn’t find a place to stop, drove on to the lake, parked. From there I took the long way round to the library, first to the art gallery – ten minutes – in air uncommonly warm for the end of May.  I wound my way through the sculpture garden and photographed dark forms.

"Angel of the North", Antony Gormley, National Gallery of Australia
“Angel of the North”, Antony Gormley, 1996
"Penelope", Emile Antoine Bourdelle,
“Penelope”, Emile Antoine Bourdelle, 1912

I did some work at a table in the café overlooking the sculpture garden.

View from café upstairs, NGA
View from café, NGA

Then I walked to the National Archives – ten minutes – and read a file about a soldier who stowed away on a ship heading to World War One.  At lunch time I walked to Old Parliament House – five minutes – and had lunch with a view across the lake and up Anzac Avenue to the War Memorial and Mt Ainslie.

Anzac Avenue leading to the Australian War Memorial
Anzac Avenue leading to the Australian War Memorial

From there I walked to the library whence I began – ten minutes – and read some police gazettes.  I’d achieved much.  But I had to walk back to my car – twenty minutes – under threatening skies with no umbrella.  Back past the dark clouds over Old Parliament House,

Old Parliament House from behind the Aboriginal Tent Embassy
Old Parliament House from behind the Aboriginal Tent Embassy

back past the dark sculpture of a burgher of Calais by Rodin,

Burgher of Calais, Auguste Rodin, 1885
Burgher of Calais, Auguste Rodin, 1885

back past dark swans swimming.

Swans on Lake Burley Griffin
Swans on Lake Burley Griffin

At the art gallery I learnt that dark sculptures are my favourite;  at the Archives, that my grandfather spent more time in France than I have (4 months in 1916, between Marseilles and Pozières on the Somme where he was gassed and sent home);  at Old Parliament House, that the café with the fantastic view is closing soon and reopening in the viewless courtyard out the back;  and at the library, that it was a crime in the 19th century to desert an illegitimate child.  Hence my searching of police gazettes.

An altogether successful trip.  I can’t say I never go anywhere.

Be sure to check out some of Marianne’s Spanish trips at East of Màlaga.  Thanks, Marianne, for your idea that we take one trip EVERY month, and what a good one it is!

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Looking forward, looking back

Marianne at East of Málaga says:  take a photo of something (interesting), turn round, take a photo of what’s behind.  In the National Gallery of Victoria there’s a room where 96 nineteenth-century paintings hang as they would have in that century in the Paris Salon or London’s Royal Academy: covering the walls, tightly packed above and beside one another.  In the hierarchy of hanging, the curator’s preferences were hung at eye level;  the least favoured were hung right up the top where they’re very hard to see.  In this NGV display there were different priorities, with wide skies placed at the top and small detailed paintings low down and easier to study.  In centuries past, none of the paintings were labelled or attributed to any artist.  However, for the NGV’s visitors the information is available near the seats in the centre of the room, which is where you have to stand to see the top row of paintings.  As I stood trying to look at and enjoy every single piece, I took a general photo of one wall, turned round and took a photo of the opposite wall.

NGV 19th-century gallery 2

My favourite on this side of the room, at the bottom left of the photo, beneath the writing on the wall, is An Interesting Story by James Tissot.  The two women are not really listening to this man and his ‘interesting’ shipping tale.

'An Interesting Story', James Tissot c1872, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria
‘An Interesting Story’, James Tissot c1872, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

On the opposite wall I was taken by the nude at the top right of the photo, La Cigale (The Cicada or The Grasshopper) by Jules Lefebvre.  It’s a representation of the cicada from La Fontaine’s poem, La cigale et la fourmi (The cicada and the ant), in which the cicada sings all summer while the ant busily stores up supplies for the winter. The subject in this painting is standing naked in the wind while autumn leaves blow about her.  When the painting was exhibited in the 1872 Paris Salon it was accompanied by a line from La Fontaine’s poem:  Quand la bise fut venue (When the cold north wind blew). I felt a kind of pity for this woman in her lack of foresight.

NGV 19th-century gallery 1

'La Cigale', Jule Lefebvre, 1872
‘La Cigale’, Jule Lefebvre, 1872

I found an amazing blog about James Tissot while I was reading up about my favourite works from this room:  Lucy Paquette on The Hammock.  There you’ll find a large number of Tissot’s paintings, all of them brilliant.  Check it out.

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