I spent the previous weekend in Bendigo, mainly to attend the exhibition ‘Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy of Arts, London 1768-1918‘ at the Bendigo Art Gallery. The exhibition itself is fantastic, and I will discuss some of the works it contains below. Unfortunately, you have to work to find information about the exhibition. You have to go 3 levels down into the gallery’s website to read about the biggest exhibition the gallery has ever held. Fail.

The most intriguing painting to me was Clio and the Children by Charles Sims (1913 & 1915). Classical in terms of theme and spatial composition but modern in terms of technique, it shows Clio (the muse of history) teaching children. The blood on her scroll was added by the artist to the already completed work after his son died in the first world war. A poignant but somewhat innocent image it transformed into one of immediate horror by this addition.

bendigosims Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy of Arts, London 1768-1918 at the Bendigo Art Gallery

Clio and the Children by Charles Sims (1913 & 1915), © Royal Academy of Arts, used under the fair dealings provisions of the Copyright Act 1968

If you like the pre-Raphaelite movement you’ll love John Waterhouse’s A Mermaid (1900). Waterhouse was working decades after the movement, and was not formally a part of it, but his depth of colour and subtlety of expression is wonderful to see with your own eyes.

bendigowaterhouse Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy of Arts, London 1768-1918 at the Bendigo Art Gallery

A Mermaid by John Waterhouse (1900), © Royal Academy of Arts, used under the fair dealings provisions of the Copyright Act 1968

The most astonishing work is this drawing by John Millais, one of the founders of the pre-Raphaelite movement. He entered the Royal Academy at 11 and completed this drawing of a plaster cast of a classical sculpture just over a year later.

bendigomillais Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy of Arts, London 1768-1918 at the Bendigo Art Gallery

John Millais, The Pancrastinae (January 1842), © Royal Academy of Arts, used under the fair dealings provisions of the Copyright Act 1968

The final work that impressed me was George Clausen’s View of a lady in pink standing in a cornfield (1881) for its simplicity and the way it captured the sunset.

bendigoclausen Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy of Arts, London 1768-1918 at the Bendigo Art Gallery

George Clausen, View of a lady in pink standing in a cornfield (1881), © Royal Academy of Arts, used under the fair dealings provisions of the Copyright Act 1968

In researching these images after seeing the exhibition, I encountered the usual copyright nonsense about ownership and reproduction limitations. After the National Portrait Gallery relaxed its approach to reproduction a few years ago, the Royal Academy is still claiming, incorrectly, that any reproduction of its content is a breach of copyright. It fails to acknowledge fair use or fair dealings in the way that the NPG used to, but which the NPG has recently corrected. Why hasn’t the RA?

Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy of Arts, London 1768-1918 at the Bendigo Art Gallery

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