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Two Exhibitions

With Mum and Dad in town, we have looked at some art exhibitions.

Turner to Monet: The Triumph of Landscape Painting

at the Australian National Gallery.
The Turner exhibition last year was popular, so this features more Turner, from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It also has many of his contemporaries like Constable and Coubert. The exhibit is entirely devoted to landscapes and seascapes. Two things are immediately apparent. The first is that the style we consider to be impressionist was around very early - in the early years of the 19th Century. So the notion of a transition from the 18th century style to those of the 20th century seems logical but is not historical. Putting Australian artworks alongside those from overseas demonstrates that the artists were not inferior in any way to those working in Europe. They did, however, have difficulty with the bright light and drab colours of the Australian landscape. As my mother observed (to the concurrence of the arty types around us) "they should have thrown away their paints and bought a new set".

Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse

at the Australian War Memorial.
T.E. Lawrence was one of the most famous figures of the Great War. But the war with the Turks in the Sinai, Palestine, and Syria was not won by his Arab Northern Army but by a more conventional British army under the command of British General Sir Edmund Allenby.* Their paths crossed in the advance along and astride the Jordan Valley, and finally came together at Damascus on 1 October 1918. The exhibit includes all sorts of Lawrence memorabilia from the Imperial War Museum, including his Arab costume and the handwritten original draft of his book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This is counterpoised with the uniform of General Sir Harry Chauvel, the Australian commander of the Desert Mounted Corps and other relics, including Allenby's field marshal's baton. In this exhibit, the effort to display the Australian alongside the British is less successful, the two co-existing uneasily, as indeed they did back in 1918.

* This Army consisted of seven British infantry divisions and one British cavalry division, and two Australian mounted divisions (which included a New Zealand mounted brigade). In 1918, two of the British infantry divisions were sent to France, to be were replaced by Indian divisions, and all but one of the remainder were converted to Indian divisions (the infantry of an Indian division consisting of three British battalions and nine Indian battalions). The British cavalry division was replaced by two Indian cavalry divisions. The Australian divisions were rounded out by a French cavalry regiment.