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Questions and Activities

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Later Years

Research and Reflect – after the exhibition

Compare and contrast artists

Choose two artists from the exhibition whose work interests you. Research and present an illustrated short talk about these artists, making reference to at least two paintings by each artist that you saw in the exhibition.

Explain how the works you have selected reflect the ideas, interests and individual style of each artist. Consider use of materials and techniques, sources of inspiration and artistic influences.

What meanings and messages are communicated by each work and how?

How does the work reflect the time and place it was made?

What similarities and differences are there between the works of these artists? Suggest reasons for these.

Interpretive frameworks

Select a painting from the exhibition that you would like to know more about

Observe and research the painting.

Use your observation and research to analyse and interpret the image using three different interpretive frameworks.

This should include a formal interpretation (focusing on art elements, principles of design, style and technique) and a focus on two other frameworks (e.g. culture, gender, historical context, symbolism etc).

National identity

History English

Australian Impressionism

Describe the view of national identity expressed in the paintings of the Australian Impressionists, especially the large-scale figure and landscape paintings made by McCubbin, Streeton and Roberts in the late 1880s and 1890s.

How is this view of national identity presented in these paintings, and how it is expressed? Make reference to specific examples.

In your discussion consider if this is an inclusive view of national identity or whether it excludes some groups.

How do the values and ideas expressed in the paintings relate to the ideas about national identity expressed in the work of contemporary writers, such as Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson, and/or identified by Russel Ward in his book ‘The Australian legend?

Alternative views

Compare and contrast Shearing the rams 2001 by Dianne Jones with Shearing the rams 1890 by Tom Roberts, and Untitled (date) by Anne Zahalka with the A break away! 1891 by Tom Roberts.

How have the original images by Tom Roberts been transformed by the contemporary artists?

How do these contemporary artworks challenge ideas and values related to Australian life, history and identity that are presented in the original painting by Tom Roberts?

A view through time

Compare and contrast the view of Australian identity expressed in a painting by one of the Australian Impressionist artists with the view of Australian identity expressed in an artwork made at another time in history (e.g. Max Dupain The Sunbather 1937 or Constanze Zikos Fake Flag 1994).

What ideas and values are expressed in each work, and how?

How does each view reflect the time it was made, and the interests and experiences of the artist?

An Indigenous perspective

There is a lack of representation of Indigenous people or culture in the work of Australian Impressionists. Suggest reasons for this.

Compare and contrast a painting by William Barak (c. 1820–1890) with a painting by one of the Australian Impressionists. How does each painting reflect a different experience of Australian life, culture and identity?

To learn more about William Barak, visit the information published for the NGV exhibtion Remembering Barak.
http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/barak

A gender perspective

Less well known than that of her male colleagues, Jane Sutherland's work also reflects distinctly Australian themes and nationalistic sentiment.

What evidence can you find of distinctly Australian themes and nationalistic sentiment in her work? Refer to two or more paintings.

How does her representation of Australian themes compare to that of her male colleagues? Suggest reasons for this.

A focus on the environment – human and nature interaction

Environmental Education

Look at a two paintings by the Australian Impressionists that show evidence of human activity within the landscape (e.g. leisure, farming, resources etc). Describe the landscape in each painting, and what evidence you can see of human activity in the landscape.

What impact does this activity appear to have had on the environment?

What do you imagine the long-term impact of this activity might have been for the environment?

What values or attitudes towards the environment does this activity reflect?

How has the nature of this activity changed today (e.g. bathing laws and conventions in the nineteenth century in comparison to today)? How do these changes reflect changing attitudes to the environment? Find a contemporary image that illustrates this change in attitude.

How do you imagine the landscape represented may be different today? Suggest reasons for this. If possible, find a contemporary photograph or refer to other sources to show how the landscape has changed.

The influence of academic art and training

The influence of academic art is evident in a number of paintings in the exhibition.

What values, ideas and techniques are associated with academic art?

How did the values and ideas of academic art influence the education offered at the National Gallery School in Melbourne in the nineteenth century?

Identify two paintings in Australian Impressionism that you believe reflect the influence of academic art.

What aspects of the painting reflect the influence of academic art?

The contribution of immigrant artists

Look at the work of one of the immigrant artists who arrived in Australia in the second half of the nineteenth century (e.g. Louis Buvelot, Julian Ashton, Girolamo Nerli, Arthur Loureiro, A. J. Daplyn) and consider their contribution to the local art scene, including their influence on the Australian Impressionists.

Identify an example of this artist’s work and explain how it reflects the key ideas and interests of this artist.

What contribution do you believe this artist made to Australian art in the late nineteenth century, and to the work of the Australian Impressionists?

Plein-air movement

Compare and contrast a landscape painting made en plein air by one of the Australian Impressionists, with a landscape painting made in the studio by an Australian artist of the Colonial period.

Compare the art practice of each artist.

Compare the paintings including subject matter, composition and techniques.

What different visual effects, meanings and ideas are communicated by each painting?

Australian and French Impressionism

The art of the painters we are including in our exhibition – under the title Australian Impressionism – is clearly very different to the style of the mainstream Impressionists, and the freshest, lightest and brightest studies by Roberts, Streeton, Conder, McCubbin and Sutherland remain far removed from the Monet’s or Renoir’s chromatic innovations.
Gerard Vaughan ‘Some Reflections on Defining Australian Impressionism’ in Terence Lane Australian Impressionism, National Gallery of Victoria 2007.

Do you agree that the work of the Australian Impressionists is ‘very different’ to that of Monet and Renoir?

Discuss with reference to the work of at least two of the Australian Impressionists and Monet and Renoir.

A question of influence

The heroes and mentors of the Australian Impressionists included Corot, Whistler and Bastien-Lepage.

Based on your observation of a painting by each of these artists, and at least two Australian Impressionist paintings explain what evidence you can find of this.

International Impressionism

Impressionism swept through the art communities of the world during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Look at how Impressionism developed in three different counties during the second half of the nineteenth century, including Australia.

With reference to the work of at least one artist in each country explain what these different forms of Impressionism appear to have in common and what makes each unique.

The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition

The 9 by 5 Impression exhibition set out to inform and educate the Australian public in international art practice, to align Australia with the international arts community.
Terence Lane ‘The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition – The Challenge of the Sketch’ in Australian Impressionism, National Gallery of Victoria, 2007.

Consider a selection of works from the 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition and read historical and contemporary accounts of the exhibition.

Based on your observations and reading explain why and how you believe ‘the 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition set out to inform and educate the Australian public in international art practice, to align Australia with the international arts community’.

Jane Sutherland

Investigate the professional life, achievements and work of Jane Sutherland and the expectations and role of women in the nineteenth century.

What obstacles did Sutherland face in her professional life, and how did she overcome these?

Discuss two paintings by Sutherland to explain how issues related to gender may have influenced her work.

How did issues related to gender influence the recognition of her achievements?

Common themes

Identify a theme that interests you and compare a relevant work by one of the Australian Impressionist artists with a work related to this theme by a contemporary artist (e.g. images of lost children in the work of Polixeni Papapetrou or the theme of rural work or pioneer history in the work of Sally Smart).

In your comparison consider how the materials, techniques and ideas in each work reflect the time and place the work was made and the individual interests and experiences of the artist.

Literary links and inspiration

English

The Australian Impressionists were well read in English literature and poetry and this interest is reflected in the themes, and sometimes the titles, of a number of their paintings. Choose one of the following paintings and find out more about the associated poet and/or poem:

Arthur Streeton, Still glides the stream, and shall forever glide, 1890 and  William Wordsworth, Sonnets from The River Duddon: After-Thought,1820

Arthur Streeton, The purple noon’s transparent might 1896 and
Percy Bysshe Shelley Stanzas written in Dejection near Naples, 1818

Arthur Streeton What thou amongst the leaves hast never known 1896 and
John Keats Ode to a Nightingale 1819

Charles Conder Herrick’s blossoms c.1888 and
Robert Herrick, English poet  (1591 – 1674)

What ideas and/or feelings are expressed in the poem/work of this poet?

What ideas and/or feelings are expressed in the painting?

What links can you find between the poet/poem and the painting?

A writing task

English

While artists are often inspired by literature, writers are often inspired by artists. Identify a painting in the exhibition to use a starting point for a piece of creative writing. You might take your inspiration from a narrative, a mood or a character in a painting. Your writing could be a short story or a poem.

Use your imagination and rich language inspired by what you see in the painting to add interest to your writing.

Musical inspiration

Music played an important role in the lives of the Australian Impressionists. They were keen musicians and often attended or participated in music performances. The titles of a number of paintings in the exhibition reflect the inspiration of music. Identify paintings with musical titles.

How do these titles reflect or add to meanings and ideas in the painting?

Symbolism

Research Symbolism and identify two paintings in the exhibition that reflect the influence of this style. Briefly explain the key ideas associated with Symbolism.

What evidence can you find of the influence of Symbolism in the artworks you have identified in Australian Impressionism?

Is this influence important in other works by these artists? Suggest why or why not.

Aestheticism

Research Aestheticism and identify two paintings in the exhibition that reflect the influence of this style.

Briefly explain the key ideas associated with Aestheticism, including its links to Japanese art.

What evidence can you find of the influence of this style in the artworks you have identified in Australian Impressionism?

Is this influence important in other works by these artists? Suggest why or why not.

Appropriation and borrowing of images

Look at different of ways that the images of the Australian Impressionists have been appropriated or borrowed in contemporary art, advertising and popular culture.

Suggest why artists and others borrow and rework these images.

Do these new images change the way you view the original images. Explain why?

What is your personal opinion of the way these images have been used by artists and others?

Briefly explain the legal and ethical issues associated with appropriating artworks. Give examples of how these issues relate to some different ways the images of the Australian Impressionists have been used.

How does the appropriation of the images by contemporary artists reflect the influence of postmodernism?

AARDVARK
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ANTELOPE
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ANTIPASTO
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ANTIPODEAN
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