GOMA: European Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Yesterday I visited the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) to see their new blockbuster exhibition, European Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. With artworks spanning from 1420 to the early twentieth-century, there is quite literally something for everyone. Seeing the works displayed chronologically allowed for a new appreciation of how western art developed over time. It also highlighted the impact of different techniques and the various influences. Similar to my past posts, I am going to start with an overview of the exhibition then focus on some favourite artworks. For this exhibition, I spent the entire time playing ‘I spy’ searching the paintings for dogs.

Overall Thoughts

If possible, I would highly recommend pre-purchasing tickets for this exhibition. It is strange that the tickets don’t lock you in to a date/time. I imagine that’s something to do with the ticketing software, but it would be ideal, especially during COVID. If you go on the weekend, expect there to be a bit of a wait before entering the exhibition. It can be up to an hour, but luckily we only waited around 10-20 minutes. Once inside, it was incredibly busy but never felt overwhelming. I feel this is because of the spacing of the artworks and the amount of free space in the galleries. There is seating available, but the benches are never in the way. We managed to see all the artworks quite easily and only had to wait a few times to get closer.

Overall, the layout is fantastic. To start, you walk through these huge arches that transport you from Brisbane into the world of the European painters. There are arches all throughout the exhibition which linked the galleries together and gave a feeling of consistency.

As for the artworks, the labels are long and informative. There is quite a bit of ‘art language’ that does feel slightly alienating. However, each label has a QR code that links you to further information which I found to be more palatable. I will say that the labels speak to the overall aim of the exhibition – to introduce visitors to the European masterpieces and their artists. The level of information provided is much more than I had experienced in an exhibition and this added to viewing the artworks. In saying this, you would still get a lot out of the exhibition if you just focused on the artworks and didn’t read every single label.

One of my favourite parts of the exhibition is what I like to call the ‘breathing space’. About half way through, you exit the dark galleries into this large, bright, open space where there is a flurry of activity. When we were there they had live music which added so much to the exhibition experience (see cover photo). There is also the opportunity to participate in some still-life drawing. Pencils and paper are provided and there are a few different objects on display (such as a skull, apples, etc) for you to sit down and sketch. At the other end of this space there are two artworks with tactile interpretation panels so you can physically touch the textures in the painting. Finally, there are some photographic interactives where you can place yourself in a masterpiece painting.

Straight after this space is a short 15 minute film showcasing some of the artworks. I feel that the open space and this film are in a perfect place for the flow of the exhibition and I really appreciated the break.

Now onto the artworks – more specifically the artworks containing dogs. Thank you to my friends who were able to spot some of the dogs that I completely missed! So without further delay, here are the dogs – the true masterpieces and all certified good boys/clever girls. 

  1. Venus and Adonis, 1550, Titian 

This artwork depicts a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses – when goddess of love Venus tries to stop her lover, Adonis, from going on a hunt that is certain to kill him. Titian was a significant Venetian Renaissance artist and is most famous for his ‘dynamic interaction of form in his paintings’ (quote from the artwork label). The dogs are joining Adonis on his hunting trip and, hopefully, will survive.

2. Boy with a Greyhound, 1570s, Paolo Veronese 

In what is most likely a commissioned artwork, we have a young man in some pretty dapper pants next to a greyhound. It’s difficult to tell what the greyhound is doing. Either resting his head on the boy’s arm or biting it.

3. A Hunting Scene, 1494, Piero di Cosimo 

There is a lot happening in this artwork. We have mystical beings fighting in the foreground with a fire in the distance. Unlike the other artworks from this period, di Cosimo is providing commentary on how the world can be explained by natural rather than divine (religious) causes. My favourite dog in this artwork is the one in the corner rolling around on its back.

4. Equestrian Portrait of Cornelis (1639-1680) and Michiel Pompe van Meerdervoort (1638-1653) with Their Tutor and Coachman, 1652, Aelbert Cuyp 

What’s better than one dog? Multiple dogs. And that’s what you can see in this work by Cuyp. Look at those Cavalier King Charles Spaniels – majestic. For some further context, it was commissioned by an affluent family from Dordrecht and depicts two young boys about to head out on a hunt with their tutor.

5. Paying the Hostess, 1670, Pieter de Hooch 

The label states that this is a friendly dog – and this is a friendly dog. What else is great about this painting is how de Hooch has played with light and dark to highlight the social interaction happening in the middle of the artwork.

6. Merry Company on a Terrace, 1670, Jan Steen

This is a painting depicting a pretty good party. You can see such a diversity of expressions on the faces of those who have attended the party and perhaps had a bit too much to drink. The quite demonic-looking child in the foreground is next to an adorable dog pulling a horse toy behind it.

7. Woodland Road, 1670, Meyndert Hobbema 

This is such a beautiful painting of travellers and their dog walking along a forest road. You can see it is a very peaceful painting. This idyllic village scene appealed to those in the city of Amsterdam which, by contrast, was a busy and fast-paced urban centre.

8. Grainfields, 1660s, Jacob van Ruisdael

Thank you to my friends who spotted this dog for me. Similar to the previous painting, this is a relaxing artwork to view. You really have to zoom in to see the dog walking with its owner along the path.

9. Venice from the Proch of Madonna della Salute, 1835, Joseph Mallord William Turner

We’ve seen a lot of dogs on land so for our final dog, we have one on boat. Even though this dog is tiny and virtually disappears into the larger artwork, it is included in the label – so kind of a big deal. Turner was a master of depicting light in his works and you can see the water of the Grand Canal glimmering in the light and reflecting the marble buildings on either side.

Summary

If the dogs don’t sell the exhibition, then I’m sure you can find something else to your taste. European Masterpieces is running until 17 October 2021 so you have plenty of time to get to GOMA (if you can). Even if you have seen some of these artworks, or ones that are similar, I would not miss this exhibition. GOMA is open daily from 10am to 5pm and tickets range in price from $10 for children to $28 for adults. If you want to see this exhibition again and again, then a season pass for adults is $84. The exhibition is accessible. 

Finally, I strongly recommend engaging in the public programs that are associated with this exhibition. The Virtual: Draw Along with the Dead is running on July 22 and July 29 and you can find more information here.

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