National Gallery of Art, Victoria

I was incredibly impressed by the NGV:  how early it got going, not long after the establishment of the V&A and the NPG, beginning with a room full of casts of the Elgin Marbles and using, Sir Charles Eastlake,  the PRA and Director of the National Gallery, as advisor on acquisitions.   Their casts were all chucked out in the 1950s,  as were their grand statues of Victoria and Albert.   Looking at the pattern of acquisitions made possible by the Felton Bequest, I am incredibly impressed by how intelligently the Gallery’s art advisors were able to buy, Robbie Ross recommending the acquisition of Blakes in 1920, Sydney Cockerell advising in the late 1930s, and Kenneth Clark making a particularly good set of acquisitions in the period immediately after the second world war when works of art were cheap.   Mary Woodall was the advisor in the 1960s and recommended the acquisition of Hockney’s The Second Marriage when he had only just left the RA.    I had also not seen Mario Bellini’s transformation of the interior of Roy Grounds’ 1960s building.  I remember being sceptical when Tim Potts told me that he had selected Bellini to renovate Grounds’ original, Italianate brutality building, but actually it seems to work well with a particularly fine display of early Italian work and then a daylit walkway up to the next level.



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