European Masters

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Euro Masters 2There’s nothing like a deadline to galvanise me into action. The European Masters: Städel Museum 19th-20th Century has been on exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria since June. But took the prospect of it closing this Sunday for me to decide I wanted to see it — that and an ad Tash and I saw in Saturday’s paper Paul Meyerheim’s The jealous lioness, a glorious image of a female circus performer with a parrot on one shoulder, reaching through the bars of a cage to grasp the mane of a lion while the lioness snarls and and extends her claws. That was enough to make Tash and I want to see the whole exhibition.

The jealous lioness is transformed into a magnetic jigsaw puzzle in Das Puzzle Haus, a play space featuring works from the exhibition, which Tash loved. If I have any complaints it’s that the puzzle house should have been placed at the end rather than outside the entrance as the actual exhibition paled by comparison for Natasha. In fact, the position of the Puzzle House in the main foyer of the gallery means access is free.

Euro Masters 5Once inside the exhibition itself ($23/adult, kids under 5 free), there is a trail for kids called Städel Kids: Alphabet labels where children identify alphabet wall labels dispersed through the exhibition and circle the letters on a piece of paper. This proved too much for Natasha, whose letter recognition doesn’t extend much beyond her own name. But the questions attached to the alphabet labels were a great way to engage her in the art works.

The works of Der Blaue Reiter artists Franz Marc and August Macke were amongst those Natasha liked best — Dog lying in the snow and Walter’s toys respectively — and these were also images transformed into jigsaws in the Puzzle House. Funnily enough, I was a big fan of The Blue Rider school in my own youth: I copied a detail from a Macke painting in a year 11 art class and kept it for years, I liked the image and colours so much.

Tash also liked the works featuring children — of which there are many — and ballerinas, notably the wonderful Orchestra musicians by Edgar Degas.

Euro Masters 1After the exhibition, we headed to the sculpture garden for a picnic lunch and to give Tash the chance to climb on some art (gotta love that). Plus a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria wouldn’t be complete without lying on the floor of the Great Hall to gaze at the stained-glass ceiling. It would be like passing through the entrance without putting your hand on the Water Wall — just not done.

When I asked Tash about her favourite thing at the gallery today, she said ‘The fairy puzzle’, a reference to a block jigsaw based on the painting Elf dance in a grove of alders by Moritz von Schwind. ‘And,’ she added, ‘the lion, the dog and the toys.’ Again, these were all works from the exhibition transformed into different kinds of puzzles in Daz puzzle haus.

It’s a brilliant way to get kids involved in studying art and if I can get my act together, I plan to purchase or make some artwork puzzles of my own for Tash.

The European Masters exhibition is open from 10am until 9pm from tomorrow until Friday, until midnight on Saturday and until 6pm this Sunday 10 October. In addition to the free Puzzle House and the alphabet trail for kids, there are still a couple of special kids art activities this weekend.

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