Style & Substance

A Journey Through the Collection

6 July 2019 - 16 May 2021

Taking a journey through the Dunedin Public Art Gallery’s historical collection, Style & Substance looks to the genre systems that have occupied art history discourses for centuries. This system, established by the French Royal Academy in the seventeenth century, presented a hierarchy based on subject matter. Depictions of the human form were the most prestigious and valued, allowing history painting and portraiture to dominate throughout the Renaissance. In contrast, it was the lack of human subject matter in the landscape and still life genres that saw them placed at the bottom of the hierarchy. 

Divided into six themes – history painting, portraiture, genre painting, landscape, still life and animal painting – Style & Substance explores examples of artistic genres that can be found in the collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.  It considers the narrative style of history painting as a means of telling stories of culture and religion over generations, while portraiture reflects the diverse individuals whose portraits are recorded within the Gallery’s collection. The selection of national and international landscapes celebrates home and abroad, looking at the ways in which artists have recorded and responded to the environment and natural world. The final two sections of the exhibition consider still life and animal painting, looking closely at these more focused artistic genres and the opportunities that are presented through the careful selection of subject matter. 

The Dunedin Public Art Gallery was Aotearoa New Zealand’s first public art gallery, founded in 1884 out of a love of art and a desire to create an important art collection for the city of Dunedin. Over the subsequent decades the Gallery collection has developed into a significant repository of art, both historic and contemporary. Looking closely at historic works, Style & Substance celebrates the important resource this collection represents for our communities. 

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