Night (no. 2) (1907)
oil on canvas
76.5 x 64.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1929
More than any other technique, the immediacy of the drawn line evokes the bond that occurs between an artist and their subject. Love, Loss & Intimacy is a selection of drawings and prints from the NGV collection by seventeenth and eighteenth-century European artists through to contemporary Australians. In addition, paintings, sculpture, photographs and media works, including one loan, will strengthen the representation of some artists. Mothers and lovers, sons and muses – the exhibition explores how the human emotions of desire, grief and affection tie the observer to the observed.
For many artists drawing is a compulsive act demanding continuous, if not daily, practice. Self, family and friends become the most available models with their features easily sketched from memory. Over time, careful observation reveals to the artist those nuances of the physical form that best express the essence of their subject. Such as in the fluid line of Rembrandt etchings of his mother, father and wife Saskia or Giovanni Battista Piazzetta’s drawing of his son Giacomo.
Edvard Munch’s The kiss IV, as well as works by William Orpen and Joy Hester, capture intimate moments of desire where the identity of an artist merges with their lover. Marie-Thérèse Walter and Jacqueline Roque were amongst the many women in Picasso’s life who initiated emotional responses in the artist, which he then energetically translated into the print medium. While the contoured flesh of Edward Burne-Jones’ model Antonia Cavia suggests the trust that develops in the quiet seclusion of the artist’s studio.
Augustus John, along with his first wife Ida and his sister Gwen, adored his dark-haired bohemian muse Dorelia who featured in many of his works. J. M. Whistler’s keen observation of Arthur and Seymour Haden communicates the close relationship he had with his nephews. In contrast, the poignant loss of a child underlies Max Klinger’s sketch of his one-day old daughter Desirée. Despite the strength of these familial attachments it is inevitable that either circumstance, or personal choice, will sever them. Then love is replaced with loss.