Heralded as Australia’s French Impressionist, John Russell’s engagement with French Art and his fellow artists has produced an alternate history of Australian art.
From July, the Art Gallery of New South Wales will explore Russell’s journey from impressionism through to colour experimentation and vivid water colours, through an exhibition featuring 120 of his paintings, drawings and watercolours.
Art Gallery of New South Wales head of Australian Art and exhibition curator Wayne Tunnicliffe notes that Russell’s art was shaped by his ability to connect and exchange ideas with his extraordinary international peer group. Tunnicliffe also mentions that it was Russell’s ardent internationalism as an ambitious new world artist that offers an alternative history of Australian art that goes beyond landscapes and clichés.
Fundamental to Russell’s work and development as an artist was his friendships with the likes of Vincent Van Gough, Auguste Rodin and Claude Monet and this is a theme thoroughly explored throughout the exhibition.
As such, selected works of Russell’s esteemed circle of friends and colleagues are included in this exhibition to prompt visitors to consider his role as collector and patron, as well as artist and friend. The significance of this artistic circle and Russell’s role within it, is highlighted in the exhibition with Russell’s remarkable 1886 portrait of Vincent Van Gough displayed alongside Van Gough’s self portrait of the same year.
The exhibition will also display artwork by Russell that has never before been seen in Australia, artwork reunited, and paintings exhibited publicly for the first time ever.
The museum will be enhancing the visitor experience with a number of accompaniments to the exhibition. A unique audio experience will supplement the exhibition space including a carefully selected score, context and information surrounding the artist’s work.
A number of special events will also be run throughout the duration of the exhibition, including lectures that explore the affinities between Van Gough and Russell, and author talks looking at Russell’s experience in France. Exhibition talks will also take place to explore the stories behind Russell’s artworks.
The exhibition will run 21 July to 11 November 2018.