From Renaissance Masters to Impressionist Visionaries

Dona Isabel de Porcel, Francisco de Goya, Before 1805
Boy Bitten by a Lizard, Caravaggio, About 1594-1595
Long Grass with Butterflies, Vincent van Gogh, 1890
Portrait of a Lady, Titian, About 1510-1512
Portrait of Archbishop Fernando de Valdes, Diego Velazquez, 1640-1645
Portrait of Charles William Lambton (The Red Boy), Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1825
Self Portrait at the Age of 63, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1669
Bowl of Fruit and Tankard before a Window, Paul Gauguin, Probably 1890
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The Hong Kong Palace Museum’s From Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London is a showcase of 52 masterpieces spanning over 400 years of Western art history, from the Renaissance (1450-1650) to Post-Impressionism (1886-1905).

Sir Thomas Lawrence – Portrait of Charles William Lambton

As you enter, the atmosphere is set by reflective sea light on the walls and the harmonious melodies of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. The first section features Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Portrait of Charles William Lambton, a poignant introduction to the exhibition. This young boy, nicknamed The Red Boy for his crimson attire, gazes at the moonlit sea, symbolising the fleeting nature of life.

Sassoferrato – The Virgin in Prayer

Divine and sacred imagery is a central tool for spreading Christian teachings. The Virgin in Prayer by exemplifies this, with its limited yet vibrant colours and the luminous figure of Mary depicted against a dark backdrop. Donning an ultramarine robe, she embodies divinity and the growing focus on personal devotion during the 16th century.

Correggio – Venus with Mercury and Cupid

Next, encounter captivating works inspired by ancient myths. Correggio’s Venus with Mercury and Cupid showcases love and familial tenderness through the gentle brushstrokes and figures bathed in light and shadow. The composition forms a subtle heart shape, emphasising the artist’s masterful skill in creating a visually harmonious and emotionally resonant scene.

Beuckelaer – The Four Elements: Fire

Beuckelaer’s realistic scenes of daily life, like in The Four Elements: Fire, portray the contradictions of the era. While bustling servants prepare a lavish feast, a man indulges in leisure. This juxtaposition reflects the abundance and wealth of the time alongside a subtle religious message by including a biblical scene.

Rembrandt – Self-Portrait at the Age of 63

Intimate portraits are the focus of the next section. From miniatures to life-sized portraits, these works capture individual essence. Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait at the Age of 63 stands out, defying the idealisation of beauty and power. He presents himself weathered by time, yet his eyes still hold a spark of passion, signifying his dedication to artistic innovation and truth.

John Constable – Stratford Mill

Transitioning from figures to landscapes, encounter Constable’s Stratford Mill, a prime example of pastoral painting. This monumental work depicts a serene scene by the River Stour, showcasing the artist’s mastery of capturing the atmosphere and his connection to the English countryside.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – A Bather

The exhibition concludes with the shift in artistic expression during the Industrial Revolution. Renoir’s A Bather deviates from his usual style, reflecting the influence of his encounter with traditional values and Rococo aesthetics. This painting seamlessly blends classical elements with modern sensibilities.

Before exiting, explore the Discover the Secrets of Paintings section. This interactive display showcases the materials used by artists and the scientific techniques employed to understand and conserve these masterpieces.

From Botticelli to Van Gogh offers a captivating journey through time, celebrating not just the artworks but also the stories and artistic expressions hidden within each canvas.

Text Shek Man / Photo by Shek Man & Cammy Yiu