Angels & Aristocrats: Early European art in New Zealand public collections
Exhibition now closed 20 Oct 2012 – 27 Jan 2013
An Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki touring exhibition
Curated by Mary Kisler, Senior Curator, Mackelvie Collection, International Art
Angels & Aristocratsshowcases five centuries of European art, drawn from New Zealand’s finest public collections.
This major exhibition features paintings by Brueghel the Younger, Hobbema, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Turner, and many more. The works depict subjects ranging from the Madonna and Child to the hurly-burly of village fairs – and open a window onto the lives of people of every class.
The exhibition’s curator and author of the accompanying book, Mary Kisler, has worked with staff at Te Papa to bring a striking and unique version of the show to Wellington, featuring 12 extra paintings and exquisite period furniture from Te Papa’s collections.
Download the list of works in the exhibition
The works in Angels & Aristocrats are explored in four sections.
Religious Art: Visions of Faith
Religious imagery played a central role in late medieval and Renaissance society. For many, life was a vale of tears – but all could imagine the glories of heaven that awaited the faithful. Here, see works ranging from tiny 14th-century devotional panels to Guido Reni’s magnificent Saint Sebastian.
Guido Reni (1575–1642), Italy, Saint Sebastian, about 1617–21, oil on canvas. Gift of James Tannock Mackelvie, 1882. Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Narrative & Genre: A Theatre of the World
Human behaviour, both heroic and humble, is the staple of genre paintings. Take a close look at works such as Brueghel the Younger’s A Village Fair. It depicts the annual festival of two local saints – a rare occasion for both rich and poor to feast (and fall drunk among the chickens) in a brief respite from the drudgery of daily life. Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564–1638), Flanders, A Village Fair (Village Festival in Honour of Saint Hubert and Saint Anthony), early 1600s, oil on panel. Purchased by the Mackelvie Trust, 1961. Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Landscapes: Seen & Imagined
Landscape painting began as a background to religious or classical themes. This section captures the emerging focus on landscape as a subject in itself: from Claude Lorrain’s idyllic pastoral setting of a biblical narrative to Aelbert Cuyp’s broad-sweeping view of the Netherlands.
Claude Gellée, known as Claude Lorrain (1600–80), France/Italy, Landscape with Hagar and the Angel, 1654, oil on canvas. Gift of Mary, Dora, and Esmond de Beer through the National Art Collections Fund, London, 1982. Dunedin Public Art Gallery
Aelbert Cuyp (1620–91), Netherlands, River Scene with a Ferry Boat, mid to late 1600s, oil on canvas. Gift of Sir George Grey, 1887. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Portraiture: Gilding the Lily
The power of portraiture lies in its ability to ‘keep the memory alive’. Here, contrast Sir Joshua Reynolds’ remarkable portrait of Maria, Countess Waldegrave – sailing like a ship above the scandals that surrounded her – with his rival Thomas Gainsborough’s depiction of a severe-looking Bishop of Exeter.
Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–92), England, Maria, Countess Waldegrave, Later Duchess of Gloucester, 1762, oil on canvas. Purchased through the Peter Smeaton Fund, 1947. Dunedin Public Art Gallery
Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88), England, George Lavington, Bishop of Exeter, 1760s, oil on canvas. Purchased by the Mackelvie Trust, 1960. Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki