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Surface beauty: Photographic reflections on glass and china

11 December 2004 – 6 March 2005

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The National Gallery of Australia will showcase one of the rarest and most treasured works in its collection in Surface beauty, an exhibition of photography on view from 11 December 2004 – 6 March 2005.

Since its invention in the 1830s, photographers have been mesmerised by the camera's ability to beautifully and sometimes ruthlessly, capture every nuance of the surface of objects. Between 1844 and 1846 William Henry Fox Talbot, the British inventor of photography on paper, published The pencil of nature, the world's first photographically illustrated book.

The National Gallery of Australia holds one of only a few surviving complete copies of WH Fox Talbot's extraordinary prediction of what photography could hope to achieve. It is the most treasured work in the photography collection, so delicate that it has been exhibited only once before. The exhibition Surface beauty takes Talbot's visionary ideas as inspiration and plumbs the Gallery’s rich collection of international photography to show how later generations of great photographers have explored the visual qualities of china and glassware.

The works included in Surface beauty range from elegant classic still life studies to sharp geometric advertisements for the best of modernist European china and glass designer ware of the century. It also features glamorous images reinforced by the American consumer explosion of the post-war years, along with a selection of contemporary investigations into how we perceive the world. The exhibition is also about the often ambiguous and highly sophisticated poetic and symbolic meanings associated with reflections in windows and mirrors.

Surface beauty shows how photography can capture the essence and uniqueness as well as the sensuousness of objects that surround us in our world.

Surface beauty is one of four exhibitions to feature in Canberra's 'Summer of Silver', a joint initiative between the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery, offering more linear metres of photography in Canberra than ever before.

The National Gallery of Australia is pleased to acknowledge Konica Minolta Business Solutions Pty Ltd as sponsor of the Surface beauty exhibition.

Media contacts
For media information and images please contact Marketing and Communication, marketing@nga.gov.au or +61 2 6240 6700.

Go to Surface beauty: Photographic reflections on glass and china website