Radiance at the NGV

180 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne

Decadence, indulgence, the royal treatment vs. simplicity, nature, and every-day life.  


I’m sure if Seurat was watching us gorge on delicate oxtail and parsnip pies, he would not have been painting it.  The stark difference of the regalness of a French High Tea, followed by a viewing of the Neo-Impressionists’ touch of reality, was evident.  Gourmande as I may be, it is sure to be said that the striking similarities are however drawn out through the science of art and food, and the juxtaposition of colours whether in paint or nature’s own food supply.


So, the National Gallery of Victoria offered the full French experience on one lovely Sunday, as four of Melbourne’s ladies erred the museum floors in awe of the fine pieces on display.  The current exhibition Radiance showcases les chef-oeuvres of the Neo-impressionist movement in France and Belgium during the late 1800’s.  The complexity of these paintings is highlighted as you walk closer to admire the detail of the work of Seurat, Signac, Luce, and Van Rysselberghe amongst others.  They used a very scientific approach on colour, using ‘division of tones’, where individual touches of pure colour are placed side-by-side on the canvas.  From a distance, the tones appear to be blended, but as you approach the work, you can see the separation of the pure colours.  The brush stroke styles are divine, where some artists work with pointism, and others chose longer strokes, all capturing the changing light and weather conditions of their subjects.  Most striking to me was the obvious transition from Neo-Impressionism to Post-Impressionism.  Whereas in the past I was most familiar with works from Monet, Renoir and Degas which hang in the striking Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and always thought that Post-Impressionism was a clean break from the Impressionist era.  I now see that such is not the case.


Our bon appétit was sealed with a decadent tasting from the NGV Tea rooms.  In celebration of the Melbourne Food and Wine festival, the NGV has created the extraordinaire ‘La Terre Sucrée’, Sugared Earth High Tea.  The three-tiered plate arrives on your table along with a glass of Paul Louis.  Everybody in the tea room is starring.  It’s a work of art which looks like a dish from the imaginative Heston Blumenthal.  Starting the taste buds from the bottom tier, you dine on savoury appetisers such as choux pastry with duxelles and an edible ‘pot’ of zucchini mousse.  The middle tier contains the single most important item of a high tea, the scone.  Only to finish off with a sweet ‘garden’ which sits on the top, shining with colour, basking in all its sugary glory.  The flowers are sponge cakes which can be dipped in pools of caramel or fruit coulis, the mushrooms are a soft meringue and the earth is made of chocolate and popping candy.  An experience for the senses.

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The Radiance exhibition and La Terre Sucrée High Tea ends on the 17th March, so get in quickly for the magical French experience.  Otherwise, make sure you schedule in to see this year’s Winter Masterpiece at the NGV, Monet’s Garden, which starts on the 10th May.  Moi, j’ai hate de le voir!

By Katerina Forrester

Wednesday to Monday   10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Tuesday                                 Closed

The Tea Room on Urbanspoon


Image Credits:

2. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Saurat via NGV website

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