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Travel guide Canberra & surrounds

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  • Michelle at the sign at the entrance of the exhibition
  • Van Gogh - portrait of the artist
  • National Gallery of Australia in great natural setting
  • Main entrance to the Masterpieces from the Musee d’Orsay exhibition
  • Masterpieces from the Musee d’Orsay

It is well worth a visit to Canberra to see these fabulous artworks that can normally only be seen in Paris. And while you are in Canberra there are lots of other things to do - the new National Portrait Gallery is right next-door, and Old Parliament House is nearby. Make the trip really worthwhile and stay three or four days - the exhibition is definitely worth seeing more than once and membership to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) is only $45 for a single if you come from 100km or more outside the ACT, and gives you substantial discounts on entry to the Masterpieces Exhibition (as well as discounts at the Gallery Shop and NGA Cafe).

I had seen the masterpieces previously in Paris, but they are displayed to great advantage here and the NGA has grouped them into rooms by period, artist and style, allowing the visitor to move through the changing faces of post-impressionism art. The guidebook has the right balance of information – enough to interest and inform, but not overwhelm with detail. There are two audio tours available (for an extra cost), one for adults and one for children, and there is also a children’s guidebook, called ‘Let’s Go’.

If you are taking children (our 11 year old son accompanied us) I would recommend that your first stop is the Family Activity room, as it certainly sparked enthusiasm in our somewhat reluctant son, who then thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition.

The paintings are superb and even those who believe they don’t know much about art will recognise many of them, most likely Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ and Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’. Not surprisingly, there were large groups of visitors around these famous works.  It was wonderful to see the pointillist artworks, as the originals are often huge and their complexity and brilliance is difficult to capture in a print.

The exhibition is a wonderful experience and one I could visit again and again, although that may become a little expensive. It is an easy day out, with plentiful parking (both undercover and outdoor), wheelchair access, plenty of room for prams and brilliant activities in the Family Room to enthuse and fascinate children. The audio tours mean that you can move at your own pace and there are attendants to help you make the most of the exhibition.

The audio tours allow sight impaired visitors to gain a sense of the wonder of these artworks and hearing impaired visitors can marvel at the mastery of the artists.

Tickets can be bought at the NGA, but the queues can be long, so it is worth buying tickets in advance so you can go straight to the exhibition entry. Regular tickets can be bought from the NGA website and there are links from there to the Ticketek website, where premium tickets are available.

The Gallery Shop has a great range of products, including prints, books, clothing, toiletries and more. However the shop is very busy (and would be difficult to negotiate in a wheelchair or with a pram) and the check-out queues were lengthy. I later discovered an online purchasing option, which would make it easier to browse and buy.

This was a wonderful experience, well worth the cost and one that I plan to repeat, as there is so much to see and the scale of the exhibition is so grand, that more than one viewing would be a pleasure.

Michelle Kothe, ACT

Regular Tickets
*    Adult $25
*    Concession / Member $16
*    Child $6 (7-16 years)
*    Family $55 (2 adults + 2 children)
*    Family Concession / Member $37
*    Season tickets $75 concession / Member $48
      Available only from ticket counter
*    Audio tours $7 ($5 Concession / Member)

Become a member and receive one complimentary ticket and 10% discount at the Gallery Shop

Premium Tickets
*    Only available on Saturdays and Sundays 9–10 am
*    Adults only $40 (no concessions)
*    NGA Member $30
*    Adult + breakfast $80
*    NGA Member + breakfast $70
Transaction fees from $3.95 apply

For a chance to WIN a family pass to experience the wonders of the Masterpieces from the Musee d’Orsay at the National Gallery of Australia our readers were asked to leave a comment on this article on their favourite masterpiece and why. The competition is now closed, but feel free to tell us your favourite masterpiece or about the exhibition if you visit. For inspiration visit the National Gallery of Australia's image gallery of the artworks.

About the author
Michelle wrote this article

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  I found this article most informative and inspired me to actually travel to Canberra to see the 'Masterpieces'. My favouite Masterpiece however is still Da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa'.She is so enigmatic and her eyes do follow you, whether you stand on her right or left.
Posted on Jan 14 2010 at 01:20

  I enjoyed this article and it made me feel the need to go to Canberra and experience these great masterpieces for myself. I would most appreciate seeing Monet's "Waterlillies" as it conjures up wonderful memories for me with my late husband. We both appreciated Monet and used to have a print of this piece in our holiday house which was a very special place we shared together.
Posted on Jan 14 2010 at 14:46

  I was lucky enough to be in Amsterdam in the mid 1980ies for the Van Gogh retrospective exhibition. The last painting was a portrait of Vincent by his friend the Australian artist, the lost impressionist, John Peter Russell. It was stunning. After all the self portraits by Van Gogh himself you suddenly saw a wonderful image of how his friend saw him. I will just have to see this exhibition in Canberra and catch up with some old friends.
Posted on Jan 14 2010 at 16:55

  To experience the Masterpieces in Canberra, I believe, reminds us that there was a gentler time, a softer light, a landscape of dappled shadows, a peek into the lives and souls of these wonderful impressionists who gave us thier hearts on canvas. Femmes de Tahiti by Paul Gauguin is one such scene depicting life as it was, the Tahitian women, beautiful, serene and composed.
Posted on Jan 14 2010 at 18:06

  I loved it, although its more of a normal gallery than the unique open light of the Musee DOrsay which is a 'must visit once in your life' and justifies the trip to Paris all on its own...
Posted on Jan 15 2010 at 13:01

  I had already planned a Bridget Jones style 'mini-break' with two girlfriends to drive down to see this exhibition from Sydney, before reading this article but now I'm even more inspired! As an art student in a previous life I can't wait to get my peepers on the Seurat works - how exciting to see things only ever pawed over in books, up close and personal in real life! Swoon!
Posted on Jan 16 2010 at 08:22

  I can remember from when I was a little girl seeing a print my mum had of Toulouse Lautrec, igniting my passion and interest of Impressionism. Loving the colours, subjects and the moods that the artist creates, I have many favourites. to be able to see all these artists at my doorstep is a wonderful once in a lifetime privilege - it amazes me that the Musee d'Orsay let them go!!!! Well done!!!
Posted on Jan 16 2010 at 09:17

  I was very excited to hear of this exhibition coming for us to view in the southern hemisphere. I am familiar with all the artists, but are particulary fond of Monet & Seurats work. Having not visited Canberra before, this a great opportunity for my family and I to explore a little more of Australia.
Posted on Jan 18 2010 at 15:34

  We have just been talking about going to see this exhibition and looking at the paintings I would love to see them especially the Orpheus by Gustave Moreau. I love the impressionists and have wanted to see them since I studied them at High School quite a few years ago. Their is just so much passion and care and now history in the artworks and I would just like to share in that journey even just by being in the same room as these fantastic paintings
Posted on Jan 24 2010 at 17:34

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