Twentieth Century Literature – NSW Art Gallery Visit

At the NSW Art Gallery we explored the ways in which the early modernists began to shift their vision from trying to represent the “real world” towards capturing either the evanescent, fleeting surfaces (as in the work of Camille Pissaro) or the underlying structures, or bones, as in the work of Paul Cezanne. Then in Van Gogh there is the effort to enter into the soul of those depicted (as in the face of a Peasant). Van Gogh said ” I want to paint men and women with that something of the external which the halo used to symbolize, and which we now seek to give by the actual radiance and vibrancy of our colorings”.


We then went on to explore some of the key 20th Century artists all of whom were trying to take a deeper, less surface view of experience. These included Amadeo Modigliani, Ludwig Kirchner, David Jones, Pierre Bonnard, Lucien Freud, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon  Click on the links to each of these artists!

Here are the three lectures given as a floor talk at the gallery:

In the third group of the day (the last recording above) we managed to find time to explore the amazing tapestry by Grayson Perry in the Great Entrance Hall to the Gallery. This work Map of Truths and Beliefs is a powerful expression of the conflicting moral values and religious beliefs which are part of the tapestry of the 20th Century. This work repays detailed study for what it is saying about the state of the world (click on the image to enlarge):


Blog Topics:

1/ Describe what you see in Grayson’s Map of Truths and Beliefs. Can you say how the concerns of this work express 20th Century issues?

2/ Can you briefly say how viewing these modernist artists connect with, or amplify your understanding of who the literary landscape was being transformed during the 20th Century.

3/ Chose any one of the paintings we explored and produce an Ekphrastic piece of writing (prose or poetry). This would require a detailed verbal description of the painting. See Ekphrastic at the following links:

4/ Write a brief summary of your visit to the NSW Gallery. Give a glimpse of what you learned.

5/ Remember you are always permitted to create your own topic as long as it has some links to the work we are doing in the given week.

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