Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

Index  Advertise  Werbung  Links  Feedback
© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.


Thomas Cole: Expulsion. Moon and Firelight. 1828, oil on canvas, 91.3 x 121.8 cm. Photograph: exhibition catalogue. - Order books about American landscape painting from Amazon.com.
 
 

Asher B. Durand: A Creek in the Woods. 1865, oil on canvas, 56 x 43 cm. Photograph: exhibition catalogue.
 
  

Martin Johnson Heade: Crimson Topaz, Hummingbirds in the Jungle. 1875, oil on canvas, 46 x 26 cm. Photograph: exhibition catalogue.





19th Century American 
Landscape Painting
The exhibition Exploring Eden / Explorar El Edén at the Museum Thyssen-Bronemisza in Madrid until January 14, 2001

Article added on December 1, 2014


Exploring Eden
at the Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza is the first exhibition in Spain exclusively devoted to 19th-century American landscape painting, a chapter of art history which is little known in Europe. Recently, the exhibition
America. Die Neue Welt in Bildern des 19. Jahrhunderts at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna (March 17 - June 20, 2000; catalogue: Prestel, 2000) covered partly the same subject which constitutes an important contribution to the tradition of landscape painting in the west. 

A lot of American 19th-century artists considered that the essence of the origin of their country was reflected in the landscape. With nature as the starting point, they developed their own artistic current which distanced itself from the European tradition by making nature their primary source of inspiration and by representing nature as the promised land whereas in Europe man's relationship with nature and not nature itself was at the center of attention. Americans were not interested in the landscape marked by man's presence but they regarded nature as a virgin territory, a landscape that had not been sullied by human kind, in which the hand of God, its creator, could be seen. They combined this religious feeling for nature with the idea of national identity. The exaltation of this paradisiacal landscape, hence the exhibition title Exploring Eden, met the idea of Americans as the chosen people, a nation with a moral mission - the recent statements by Bush, Gore and Powell confirm that this idea is still well alive. 

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is one of the few European museums that possesses a large collection of 19th-century North American paintings. The exhibition features works from the permanent collection (formerly the private collection of Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza),, from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, on loan to the Museum, and from important American collections and museums such as The Metropolitan Museum Art in New York, The New York Historical Society and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. 

The exhibition in Madrid is chronologically structured, from Romanticism to Realism. It begins with the figure of Thomas Cole, considered the precursor of the new American landscape painting in the 1820s, to Winslow Homer, who concludes the century introducing, in his turn, a new way of looking at nature, heralding the beginnings of modern art. Many of the American landscape painters were of European origin. They either emigrated at a very young age or were children of immigrants. Therefore, they were familiar with the work of the Romantic or Realist European landscape artists and applied it to the landscape they discovered in the New World. 

Among the exhibited works of Thomas Cole (1801-48) are Expulsion. Moon and Firelight from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum's permanent collection and the famous cycle The Voyage of Life from the National Gallery of Art in Washington - which hosts the second version of the series from 1842 (the first from 1839-40 can be seen at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica). The Voyage of Life is a Romantic metaphor of life as a journey, presented through a series of landscapes which are part real, part imaginary. Cole, born in England, upheld the idea of the direct contemplation of nature, but also the importance of conveying a spiritual and moral content in his paintings - in which he is American.

Cole's followers, the painters of the Hudson River School, who began to paint in the years following American Independence, were the artists who definitively established American painting as a separate school, and who broke away from the influence of English art which had until then predominated. The celebration of the American natural world and its depiction as a sort of earthly Paradise and a virgin land undefiled by any trace of Man, became widespread and established itself as the best way of expressing growing American nationalist sentiment. The exhibition includes views of the landscape along the banks of the Hudson River were they settled in the last years, hence their name although they did not call themselves so. The artists went to the river to make sketches which they would later work up into finished canvases in the studio. Among the members of the school, Asher B. Durand stands out as the leading exponent of direct observation of nature. His sketches made outdoors are surprising for their modern and spontaneous qualities, making Durand a true pioneer of plein air painting.

The pictorial representation of the spirituality of nature achieved its maximum expression in the style of painting known as Luminism. The Luminists such as Kensett and Lane also shared a pantheist vision of nature, but their landscapes retreated from the theatricality and grandiosity of the Hudson River School. In their works, the simplification of form, the refined and highly detailed technique, the delicate tonal variations and the luminosity all take on a spiritual significance. 

After these small, serene and tranquil Luminist paintings, the exhibition shows a group of large-scale works inspired by travel to the remote and unexplored American West and to the Tropics by artists such as Heade, Bierstadt and Church with the aim of celebrating the marvels of the New World. 

The exhibition closes with a room devoted to a group of oils and watercolors by Winslow Homer, a Realist artist who, in contrast to his predecessors, was no longer interested in capturing the spirituality or the moral values of the American landscape, but rather in its formal, pictorial ones. Homer suppressed the details, replacing them by great swathes of form and color with strong contrasts of lights and shadows, by a looser and more vibrant brushstroke that brought him close to the European works by the artists of the Barbizon School and, later, of the Impressionists. Homer's works, which represent a profound reflection on nature and its relationship with man, open the way towards a vision of the modern world. (The catalogue can be purchased at the Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza; 258 p., with reproductions of the more than 60 works and with texts in Spanish and English).


Added on December 16, 2001: Book about American landscape painting: Gene Edward Veith: Painters of Faith. The Spiritual Landscape in Nineteenth Century America. Gateway Editions, 2001. Get it from Amazon.com. Order more Order books about American landscape painting from Amazon.com.

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

Index  Advertise  Werbung  Links  Feedback
© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.