Rupert Bunny and the Sunday of Luxury

Rupert Bunny is one of Australia’s most successful expat artists (though his name isn’t on everyone’s lips the way Nolan’s is — not that Nolan is an expat, but you know what I mean…), and the Art Gallery of NSW has put together a fabulous exhibit, ‘Rupert Bunny: Artist in Paris’, which demonstrates in beautiful detail why he has earned this reputation.

If, like me, you’re a fan of sumptuous late-Victorian paintings; Parisien art from the belle époque; and/or tableaux of mythological dreamscapes, then Rupert Bunny is your man. (And the fact that his surname is ‘Bunny’ does a lot to win me over. I realise his surname has absolutely no influence on his artistic prowess, but if these stunning works had been created by Rupert Smith or Rupert Johnson, for example, I might’ve loved them just a teensy bit less.)

Dr Chad and I are indulging in our first monthly Sunday of Luxury, which kicked off with a visit to the Art Gallery of SA to see Bunny’s show before it moves on the day after tomorrow. And thanks to the wonders of Google Images, I can share a few of my favourites with you all:

Pastorale, oil on canvas, c. 1893 — Without a doubt Bunny’s most incredible painting (as far as Chad and I are concerned, at least.) This image does nothing to convey the subtlely of light and colour — absolutely gorgeous the way the sfumato effect seems to bleed down into the foreground (the langorous woman on the left is not so sharp or clear in the original: her red hair blends with the sand beneath her head and her figure is hazy, as though seen through a mist or a dream.) And at 142 x 251 cms, the sheer scope of the piece makes it breathtaking. Gave me goosebumps, and warranted a second trip around the exhibit.

Una and the fauns, “Her gentle wit she plyes, etc.”, oil on canvas, c.1890

This one was hung facing Pastorale, and standing between the two I felt like I was at the heart of a beauty sandwich. First and foremost, what I love about this one is that it illustrates a moment from Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (Book I) — I absolutely adore Spenser’s poetry, particularly the FQ, so I was already predisposed to like this painting. But the conjestion of trees, the way the fauns blend in with their surroundings contrasted with the way the blue of Una’s dress makes her the focal point (not to mention the fact that she is standing, with her index finger wagging, while the masculine figures are all sitting, enraptured) and the delicacy of the detail on another huge canvas — all so masterfully executed… *sighs in contentment*

I won’t wax poetic about the rest of the works, but will let you admire them in peace:


Dolce farniente, oil on canvas, c.1897 (The gaze! Look at the gaze! And the colours! The swathes of fabric!)


Summer time, oil on canvas, c.1907 (I’m pretty sure this one wasn’t hung in Adelaide, but it is reminiscent of some of the other works in the show — and the light and detail in this work were too gorgeous not to share.)

I’ll leave it at that because, basically, the quality of pixellated low-res .jpegs just won’t do these paintings justice (and because when I tried to search for some of the other favourites I had, I couldn’t find them. But had more than a few Playboy bunny pics to choose from… Go figure.)

Bottom line: go see this show if it rolls through your state.

Dr Chad and I continued our day of luxury with a decadent lunch at the Gallery restaurant — every day instantly becomes luxurious if you have hand-reared salmon on a bed of leeks and asparagus, drizzled with a horseradish sauce, and accompanied by a nice South Australian riesling — then capped the afternoon off with the purchase of a new game for the Xbox, which we will play until all hours of the morning tonight. But before the all-out nerdfest, a few hours of writing.

Have I mentioned how much I love long weekends?


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