World news – Van Gogh’s masterpiece is shown for the first time in Australia


It’s the subject of an art-historical legend and a celebrated Hollywood movie. His painting sells more postcards than any other painting in the National Gallery in London, his home.

Now Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers – one of the world’s most famous and seldom-traveled paintings – is here in Australia for the first time. Founded in 1888, Sunflowers is the glowing centerpiece of an exhibition opening to the public on March 5th at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Titled Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London, the exhibition is not uncommon – it is the first time the Trafalgar Square gallery has sent a large selection of its artwork overseas. The show was seen in Japan before it came to Australia, the only other destination.

The list of 61 paintings in the exhibition includes Rembrandt’s self-portrait at the age of 34, Vermeer’s A Young Woman Seated by a Virgin, and works by Uccello, Tintoretto, Van Dyck, and many others.

Arguably the most powerful star performance will come from Sunflowers, which were painted as part of a series when Van Gogh decorated his home in Arles in the south of France in preparation for a visit from Paul Gauguin.

When the two artists dropped out a few weeks after Gauguin’s arrival, Van Gogh’s plight led him to sever part of his own ear. The episode can be seen in Lust For Life, the 1956 film starring Kirk Douglas.

Teams from the National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery in London had hours of video calls yesterday as both parties worked together to hang the pictures. It was made with military precision.

Mitzevich said life-size copies of all works, including frames, were taped on the gallery’s walls as placeholders. As each masterpiece was carefully removed from its travel case, its placeholder was torn away so that the original could be installed.

« The boxes are moved around the room to minimize the movement of the works. London is on zoom, monitoring every step. »

The NGA completely renovated the galleries for the exhibition, replaced a roof, laid new floors and installed new lighting systems.


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