A short walk across the Yarrow River bridge from Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station are the Arts Centre and National Gallery of Victoria (the Arts Centre was closed for renovation) on St. Kilda Street in Melbourne’s Arts Precinct on Southbank. The National Gallery is an impressive, modern building with waterfalls cascading down a glass wall at the entrance. It opened in 1968; a second branch opened in Federation Square across from Flinders Street Station.
The National Gallery is the oldest and largest art museum in Australia. It was founded in 1861 when Victoria was the richest area of Australian due to the gold rush. The gallery has held major exhibitions from collections around the world including Masterpieces from Musee d’Orsay, Dutch Masters, Vermeer, and Caravaggio.
In 1986, Pablo Picasso‘s “Weeping Woman” was stolen from the National Gallery by a group protesting the state of art by the state and demanding an increase in arts funding. After much international attention, the painting was recovered in a railway station a week later and returned to the museum.
The lobby is open with light streaming through a glass ceiling. Across the lobby open doors lead to a large reception area with modern art high on the walls and stained glass ceiling. The reception area is used for dinners, special events, and fund-raisers.
The gallery has an outdoor small sculpture garden with shaded areas, a pool, and views of Sydney office buildings.
Alfred Felton collection
The National Gallery is free and we visited two days. The most impressive collection came from the Felton Bequest, the gift of a frugal English immigrant, Alfred Felton, who came to Australia in 1850‘s and became a wealthy businessman.
Upon his death in 1904, Felton endowed a generous gift to create a national gallery. The Felton bequest allowed the acquisition of art in the early 20th century before prices became exorbitant after World War II. The Felton collection is more than 15,000 works of art, one of the largest bequests in the world.
It was impressive to see such the range and quality of art that we’d never seen: Impressionists, Surrealists, Flemish and Renaissance masters, even Russian icons.
We were enthralled walking through the Felton gallery. We’ve added a small sampling of works that would find a place in any American or European national gallery. If you’re planning on visiting Australia, we’d encourage you to put Sydney and Melbourne galleries on your list of places to visit.
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Next: Walkabout Melbourne
I recently published my first international thriller, Thirteen Days in Milan, which is available on Kindle as well as other ereaders, tablets, and smartphones.
I’m back in Europe for the summer to hire a translator and to research my next book which will also be a thriller based in Milan. I’ll be posting along the way from Milan, Stresa, Zurich and other locations.
I have a few posts on another blog, Anatomy of a Thriller, where I write about the process of researching and writing an international thriller. I’ll add more posts there as well.
Please share these links with writers or readers who might be interested.