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Helping a National Gallery fazed by haze

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18.01.2020

Hugh Ramsay, Portrait of the artist standing before easel, 1901-1902.

Moved by Tuesday's newspaper's story "National Gallery of Australia visitor numbers halved by smoke haze", I girded up my loins and sallied forth to the gallery, to help gets its turnstiles clicking.

I went particularly to see the gallery's Hugh Ramsay exhibit, a major retrospective of the works of the fine Australian painter (1866-1906) whose life was cut short at 28 by tuberculosis.

I've always admired Ramsay, and was always going to go the exhibition anyway, but have especially got my gallery-going skates on since my recent cataract surgeries.

Where, previously, with faulty eyesight, I used to imagine seeing things in paintings that weren't really there (seated on Jesus' far left in Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper I thought there was an orangutan) now I see in paintings things that were there all the time but I wasn't able to see before. Now I see that the figure to Jesus' left is after all not an orangutan but (a little disappointingly, for one had rather liked an orangutan being there) is only Simon the Zealot, just another human disciple.

One shy, small work in the Ramsay exhibition that rather haunts is his Lamplight (1897). It haunts because, as a blurry streetscape of a foggy evening in Melbourne (the painting arranged around a pinpoint of light from a streetlamp), it is so suggestive of how........

© Canberra Times