European masterpieces on show

GOMA exhibition brings classics from The Metropolitan Museum of Art to Brisbane.

It may be some time before Queenslanders can visit New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), but more than 65 artworks from the famed gallery are now on display at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane.

On show until 17 October, European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York is a journey through 500 years of European painting, from the devotional scenes of the early Renaissance to nature captured by the Impressionists of the 20th century. 

The works are on loan from The Met while its galleries undergo renovation.

The exhibition covers a period of significant religious, societal and cultural change as it charts the most important movements of Western art history through paintings by Fra Angelico, Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens, Raphael, Goya, Turner, van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet and others.

Four of GOMA’s galleries have been transformed into darkened Renaissance halls. Archways reminiscent of the vaulted ceilings of European churches transport visitors from Brisbane to the world of European artists.

The works are displayed chronologically, from Fra Angelico in the 1400s to Claude Monet in the early 1900s, allowing visitors to appreciate how western art has developed over time.

Visitors can use QR codes at every painting to learn more about the art, artist, influences and techniques used, including videos from The Met curators. Audio descriptions are available for visitors with vision impairment.

About halfway through the exhibition, visitors exit the darkened halls to a bright, fresh space where budding artists can immerse themselves in interactive displays. Put yourself in the picture with larger-than-life reproductions of classic painting, perfect for social media snaps and discover the meaning of common motifs. 

There are opportunities to try your hand at still-life drawing with jewels, fruit, vases and fabrics inspired by the exhibition’s artworks. Every afternoon costumed actors recreate paintings by Marie Denise Villers, Johannes Vermeer, Jean-Baptiste Greuze so visitors can practise drawing scenes from the exhibition with live models.

Highlights of the exhibition include Fra Angelico’s finely painted altarpiece The Crucifixion, Titian’s poetic Venus and Adonis, the immediacy and drama of Caravaggio’s The Musicians, Rembrandt’s Flora, Vermeer’s beautifully observed Allegory of the Catholic Faith and van Gogh’s idyllic The Flowering Orchard.

The exhibition will appeal to art enthusiasts and casual viewers alike, as well as anyone with an affinity for European culture. 

Tickets can be purchased online or at the gallery. Entry is staggered to allow social distancing, so expect to wait before entering the exhibition, particularly on weekends.