Bendigo Art Gallery’s technical team has been busy returning some of the Gallery’s most beloved works to display including grand narrative paintings such as Thomas Clark’s Ulysses and Diomed capturing the horses of the King of Thrace.
First exhibited in London at the British Institution Gallery in 1850, this work has recently undergone extensive conservation and in Australia, was included in the Victorian Exhibition of Fine Arts in 1860 and the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition in 1866.
During the 1870s Ulysses and Diomed hung in the life drawing room at the National Gallery School and is the only known work to have survived from Clark’s artistic career prior to his arrival in Australia.
Another highlight is the monumental painting Joseph’s flight into Egypt by Gustave Doré.
Born in Strasbourg in 1832, Gustave Doré’s artistic reputation is based primarily on his graphic work, particularly his enormously popular illustrations that accompanied great works of literature, such as the Bible.
Doré’s paintings were criticised in France for their over-ambitious scale and lack of finish but were well-received in Britain with the Doré Gallery opening in London in 1869.
The Doré gallery commissioned him to produce a large religious painting, which began a series of enormous religious canvases. Joseph’s flight into Egypt is one of only two paintings by Doré in Australian collections.
Too Late by Herbert Schmalz is undeniably one of the most popular paintings in the Gallery’s permanent collection. This work is now on display among the many other grand Victorian narratives.
Too late was shown at the Royal Academy in 1884 and included in the Grosvenor Gallery Intercolonial Exhibition, which travelled to Melbourne in 1887. The work was finally acquired for the collection in 1890.
Too late is replete with symbolism from both classical and Christian traditions which would have been easily read and understood by Victorian audiences although today our understanding is vastly different.
Too late is set in such a time and the idea of transition is reinforced by the passage from life to death. Death is represented by the extinguished flame on one side of the altar and the promise of future life and a reunion of the lovers is symbolised by the two stars visible in the sky behind.
These are just a few of the many paintings which have returned to display in the Gallery. To know more join volunteer guides for a free introduction Tuesday to Sunday at 11am and 2pm.