Visual Arts

Rupert Bunny: Artist in Paris

Rupert Bunny exhibition Art Gallery of SAArt Gallery of South Australia, North Tce, Adelaide
23 July – 4 0ctober 2010

Open daily 10am – 5pm

The highly sensual and intimate representation of Bohemian life in Paris in the 1900s was to become the highlight of Melbourne born Rupert Bunny’s (1864 – 1947) artistic life. He and artist wife, Jeanne Morel, travelled to Paris 1884 and became influenced by the works of Rubens, Velazquez, the Impressionists, and his contemporaries, Gauguin and Bonnard.

Bunny’s earlier works, before Paris, are of angelic, mythological and biblical characters. One is speedily transported, through Bunny’s artistic expression, of a time where the ordinary existence of the everyday life in Paris is transformed into a life of grandeur. An expansive work, ‘A Summer Morning’, from 1908, depicts a strong composition with exquisite light and shadow, with touches of red accents which portray the warmness of the subjects. Your eyes, (a credit to the presentation team of the AGSA) wander down to the painting’s reflection on the shiny floor, which represents an extension of the painting in an abstract form.

Another large work of Madame Melba, 1902, is an example of a skill and dedication of an artist not taking any shortcuts, as one can see in the extensive minute brush marks in the background, highlighted by the shining light on the painting. With a closer look one can appreciate the freedom of the brush marks forming the fabric. He mastered figurative works of interior space and the landscape.

Bunny met many artists, writers and musicians, who were to become his subjects, as were his family and friends. A simple work of the oriental performer Seda Yacco, ‘Kesa’, 1900, was painted in muted, soft, atmospheric colours, with her back turned from the viewer. One cannot help thinking of a snatched moment in a performance. She inspired many artists from all genres, another being Giacomo Puccini, who was inspired to write the opera Madame Butterfly.

The purple gallery is infused with works highly influenced by the Fauves movement that was led by Henri Matisse, characterized by ‘loud’ colours of reds, oranges, purples, greens and yellows. It is good to see the diversity of his paint and colour application.

After his wife’s death he returned to Melbourne in 1933. A year before his death he was awarded a major retrospective in 1946 at the National Gallery of Victoria, celebrating his individual vision of the time.

Reviewed by Gina De Pieri Salvi, Visual Arts Critic, Glam Adelaide.

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