19 April 2016

Highly recommended - Tom Roberts at the NGA

| Paul Costigan
Join the conversation


The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has launched a major exhibition of paintings by Tom Roberts. This is a very special exhibition that anyone with even a remote interest in this era of painting must see.

You may be aware that the bulk of the paintings have been borrowed from collections all over Australia. There’s a good chance that you may have previously seen some of these Tom Roberts paintings on the walls of our state and the national galleries.




What makes your visit a must is the opportunity to see them brought together within this very beautifully and intelligently curated exhibition. All of the paintings I am very familiar with looked so much better here in this exhibition.

The curators have allowed ample space between each work so they have not been crowded together which happens so often in the state galleries where they are pushed for space to show as much as possible.

And besides, you would have to travel entensively around a heap of Australia’s public galleries to see all the paintings now on loan to the NGA. So why not see them all in this one engaging exhibition!

There are also gems that have been extracted from private collections. The chance to see these will probably not occur again. And you get to see them alongside so many other paintings.

The NGA knows how to put together an exhibition; they know about how to curate such a vast and important array of works and to top it all off, they really know about staging and lighting. The works by Tom Roberts shine in this exhibition.




I strongly urge you to allow enough time to make your way through the many rooms and then to turn around and revisit them. There is so much to enjoy.

I have to comment on the scenes from the opening events.

The gallery had the three boys pictured below (a borrowed photograph) and that other guy, the Prime Minister, do their thing for the opening of this exhibition about the art of a turn of the century male artist. Meanwhile the main curator for the research and exhibition is not one of these – she is Dr Anna Gray.


I am more than happy to send a big congratulations to Anna Gray, who was assisted by Simeran Maxwell. Well done Anna – what an exhibition! And the catalogue is pretty good as well (yet to read it all).

Word of warning – it is now free parking on the weekend only. So if you go during the week – you’ll be paying by the hour so that coffee and chat after the exhibition may have hidden costs.

I intend to return to this exhibition a couple of times (on weekends) and may tell a story or two later about aspects of the exhibition including why I disagree with Sasha Grishin’s comments on the Big Federation picture.

Hopefully I will see you there sometime!

(PS – any complimentary tickets will be accepted)

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Masquara said :

rubaiyat said :

Where else can you catch a convenient bus practically to the door of the gallery…

Every single gallery I’ve ever been to other than in rural/regional ones!

And even those, and there are now many excellent regional galleries.

rubaiyat said :

Where else can you catch a convenient bus practically to the door of the gallery…

Every single gallery I’ve ever been to other than in rural/regional ones!

Apparently the only support the ACT Government has given the NGA’s Tom Roberts Exhibition is through “Visit Canberra” and I can’t find anything on that website or that of the NGA that indicates financial support was given.
A big change from the days when Ron Radford was there.

Where else can you catch a convenient bus practically to the door of the gallery, enjoying the beautiful setting as you stroll over, getting some much needed exercise without punishing the environment because of some ’60s mental hang ups?

The thing is I have and do travel extensively around all the national galleries and museums, so have seen most of them already.

But it is great to focus people’s attention on the one artist at the one time.

btw I highly recommend the upper galleries of the State Library of Victoria if you like this period of art and history. The building is a drawcard in itself, as are the books therein, and their content for those unfamiliar with them.

On your recommendation I paid a visit to the exhibition and agree that anyone with even a slight interest in Australian history should also attend (just as all Australians should read Blainey’s “The Tyranny of Distance”).
Where else in the world can one drive from one’s home in 20 minutes and park free under a great gallery with admission only $27.50 (concession) to the special exhibition?
The only criticism I can make (it wouldn’t be a Dungers post without one) is that the information boards next to the individual paintings are way too low and for people like me who have to wear bifocals it is impossible to read them without kneeling on the floor which is great for the arthritis.
I asked an attendant why this was but she couldn’t comment and suggested I see the people responsible for the placements. When I asked for directions she said “they are all on holidays”.
Does anyone know how much the ACT government contributed towards this exhibition? The standard for a “masters’ blockbuster” was $500K out of the Chief Minister’s Special Events account.
It wouldn’t surprise me if an Australian-centric exhibition like this one didn’t get a cracker though, which would be another example of the “Canberra Cringe” at work.
Roberts’ “Lake Como” had me spellbound (yes, I know it is in Italy).

Paul Costigan9:38 am 09 Dec 15

Dear John.

Sure is. and looking good.

according to the label – titled Charcoal burners (previously known as ‘Wood splitters’) 1886

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.