Displays of ambition

Men with gloved hands drill a large wooden box stamped with 'fragile'.

They slowly peel off the lid and fish out A Mermaid by John William Waterhouse, a melancholy and beautiful picture that is the iconic image of Ambition and Genius: The Royal Academy of Arts, London.

The exhibition will open on March 2 and run until June 9.

It will showcase pieces displayed in London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Arts, a private institution that opened in 1768 and is independently funded by artists and architects.

Paintings on display will primarily be those created from 1768 to 1918, although there will also be some contemporary pieces by Australian artists who have had their works displayed in the academy.

The Royal Academy’s head curator of painting and sculpture Helen Valentine said the exhibition featured a diverse range of styles.

“There’s a mixture of landscapes, narrative pieces and portraits,” she said.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to see really great pieces of art.”

As for ‘A Mermaid’, Ms Valentine said it was an alluring painting that draws people in.

“There’s sadness in it,” she said. “It’s said that the pearls beside the mermaid represent tears of sailors she’s lured into her watery world.”

John William Waterhouse is one of the most famous and beloved artists of the Victorian period.

Bendigo Art Gallery Director Karen Quinlan said the collection was a big coup for Bendigo.

“We are thrilled and very much looking forward to hosting this extraordinary collection of works," she said.

But the exhibition is not the only exciting development at the gallery.

On March 15 the gallery’s much publicised $8.5 million new wing will be open to the public.

When completed, it will make the Bendigo Art Gallery the largest in regional Australia.

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