Australian audiences have a rare opportunity to view some of the most celebrated paintings in the world as Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London opened for an exclusive season at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Featuring renowned paintings by some of Europe’s most admired artists including Titian, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Canaletto, Turner, Renoir, Cézanne, Monet and Gauguin, the exhibition runs until Monday, 14 June 2021.

People can experience first-hand many of the works that have defined European art history, including Vincent van Gogh’s much-loved Sunflowers, in the COVID-safe environment of Australia’s national capital, with limited timed-entry tickets available for 12 sessions per day.

Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London is the first major international exhibition in Australia since COVID-19 closed international borders in March last year. The exhibition of 61 paintings spanning nearly 500 years by 56 of European history’s greatest artists is the first international touring show by the National Gallery, London, in its near 200-year history.

National Gallery of Australia Director Nick Mitzevich said it was thrilling to see these iconic paintings – works that are the foundation of European art history – on the walls of Australia’s own National Gallery.

“Simply, these works are outstanding – this exhibition is a 500-year slice of artistic excellence from some of the greatest creative spirits of all time,” he said.

Mr Mitzevich acknowledged exhibition partners the National Gallery, London, and Art Exhibitions Australia. “Putting on an exhibition of this significance has been a wonderfully collaborative effort and we are grateful to our partners for working with us to bring this major exhibition to Australian audiences during a pandemic,” he said.

“After a year of uncertainty and difficulties for many people, I’m glad we can play a part in bringing joy and inspiration to the community in the form of these extraordinary paintings.”

Co-ordinating curator Sally Foster, from the National Gallery of Australia, said while many of the works were familiar to audiences, they should not underestimate the power of seeing them in real life. “These paintings are absolutely radiant. They light up the room. There is a reason they are considered masterpieces,” Ms Foster said.

The Director of the National Gallery, London, Gabriele Finaldi, said when the Gallery opened nearly two hundred years ago, the Trustees probably would never have envisaged paintings from the collection travelling anywhere, let alone the other side of the world.

“It is a pleasure to present a National Gallery in miniature in Canberra – and only in Canberra – with 61 of our greatest works and share with you some of the most significant episodes in the history of European art. I hope the exhibition will inspire and delight many Australian visitors,” Dr Finaldi said.

Dr Mark Nelson, Chair of Art Exhibitions Australia, said a loan from one national gallery to another was a perfect fit. “The London collection and its site on Trafalgar Square have always had a strong presence in the affections of Australians, and they embody a foundation heritage that informs and enlivens the great many voices in Australia.”

VR Sunil Gohil