Kandinsky at the Art Gallery of New South Wales


Since my time in Sydney is rapidly running out, this afternoon I paid a visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The main objective of this was to see the Kandinsky Exhibition I blogged about here, but there are many other fine things to see in the permanent so I went round that too.

First here are some works by Wassily Kandinsky. You can see the evolution of his art from the expressionist landscapes of the early 20th Century to the highly influential abstracts from the Bauhaus period. I particularly love these compositions of simple geometric shapes – lines, circles, squares and arcs – with bold colours. They are fully abstract but also manage to suggest form and perspective and even movement in a way that fascinates me. After the Bauhaus period, Kandinsky seems to have used more organic shapes and softened the colour palette in a way that suggests a partial return to his artistic origins.

Anyway, as you can see from the last picture in the gallery, I liked the exhibition so much I bought the book!

The permanent collection is also very fine, with European art from many different periods (early Renaissance to Pre-Raphaelite and Impressionist and beyond). There are also many works by Australian artists, some of whom painted landscapes in a very conventional style reminiscent of the Royal Academy, as if they had stepped out of Burlington House into the full glare of the Australian Sun and struggled to cope with the light.

One painting that struck me is this lovely composition by a painter called Rupert Bunny:

It doesn’t really show up well in the quick snap I took but I think the depiction of light and shade in this picture – called A Summer Morning and painted in 1908, around the same time as Kandinsky’s early painting above – is very striking. Bunny was born in Melbourne but moved to Paris in the 1880s and was much celebrated there as a salon painter. Although the style of this composition is rather conservative, he seems to have been a very versatile artist.

The permanent collection is free to visit and is well worth a visit or several. In fact, I might go back once more before I leave…

Leave a Comment