In this issue of NGV Magazine we explore the role art, design and museums can play in transformation and learning, and celebrate seventy years of the NGV Learning Department. Museums can offer unique learning experiences, regardless of age or education, sparking curiosity, conversations and connections that can last a lifetime, seen through the revealing stories inspired by our Collection in this issue.




What is the difference between semi-abstract art and pure abstraction? To accompany this issue’s Secret Life of Art story ‘Another Side of Grace Crowley’, NGV Curator Beckett Rozentals explains abstract art definitions through the works of Crowley and Ralph Balson, two extraordinary artists who were pivotal in the development of abstract art in Australia.

Learning resource: Abstraction Action
Explore abstract art with the young ones in your life using this learning resource inspired by the works of Melinda Harper


Melbourne authors Emily Bitto and Peggy Frew read from their texts on the NGV artwork that has changed them, and their thoughts about the role of art and museums in providing transformative experiences.

Author reading:
Emily Bitto

Emily Bitto reflects on the power of art during COVID and her love of Joy Hester’s (Untitled) (Head of a woman with hat), 1955.

Author reading:
Peggy Frew

Peggy Frew reads from her NGV Magazine text on Giambattista Tiepolo’s The Banquet of Cleopatra, 1743–44, and recalls two works that also resonate, Arthur Boyd’s Shearers playing for a bride, 1957, and Grace Cossington Smith’s Quaker girl, 1915.


In this video from his studio, see how Dutch designer Jólan van der Wiel creates his one-of-a-kind sitting stools by manipulating the natural phenomenon of gravity.


Take a closer look at Constance Stokes’s Portrait of a woman in a green dress, 1930, in this video with NGV Conservator of Paintings, Raye Collins.


Scottish artist Elizabeth Keith created Blue and white, 1924, during her decade living in Japan. Keith spend many years developing this work, which reveals her deep appreciation of Japanese culture. Blue and white also references other iconic Japanese styles and artworks, including these works from the NGV Collection. Read about Blue and white in the magazine, and see if you can find the connections:

Aizuri-e (blue prints)

The colour of Keith’s Blue and white references Japan’s tradition of Aizuri-e, woodblock prints using predominantly blue pigment, seen in Utagawa Toyokuni II’s Cherry blossom, c. 1826. The style developed with the import of Prussian blue from Europe into Japan during the 1820s.

View in Collection online

Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Hanging in the shop window of Keith’s work is Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great wave off Kanagawa, c. 1830. Part of Hokusai’s Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji series, it is one of the most iconic images in Japanese art and famous for its masterful use of shades of blue.

View in Collection online

Blue and white porcelain

The central figure in Keith’s work Blue and white browses through a selection of Japanese blue and white porcelain, or sometsuke – cobalt blue underglaze porcelain influenced by the wares of Joseon Korea and Ming dynasty China, seen in Plate with monkey mind ibashin’en motif, 17th– 18th century.

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Summer kimono, Yukata

Keith’s model wears a blue and white summer kimono or Yukata in acknowledgement of Japan’s great affection for indigo dyed fabrics. The colour is celebrated for its visual beauty and close association with purity and nature. An example in the NGV Collection is Summer kimono, Yukata from the Meiji period (1868–1912).

View in Collection online