Tuesday, October 16, 2018

GRANDE DECORAZIONE. Italian Monumental Painting in Graphic Art

Pinakothek der Moderne
Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München


It was in monumental painting that Italian art reached its apogee. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling and ‘Last Judgement’, the frescoes of Raphael, Pietro da Cortona and Tiepolo are among the most memorable creations of the human imagination.

One of the earliest exponents of Italian monumental art was Andrea Mantegna, among whose major works is the ‘Triumph of Caesar’, made up of ten, large-scale panels which were originally mounted on one wall.

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Mantegna Werkstatt, Die Elefanten, 1490/1500
Variation zu Andrea Mantegna,
Triumphzug Cäsars, Szene V, um 1500
Kupferstich, 283 x 259 mm (Blatt)
© Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München
Around 1500, Mantegna, ever the innovator, also produced a version of this work as a copper engraving (fig.).


Andrea Mantegna,
Triumphzug Cäsars, Senators

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From then on, wall and ceiling paintings of all sorts were reproduced as prints. Out of an old art form a new one was born, one whose aim was to translate large and complex works into a format which was easy to comprehend and to handle. The printed sheets could be admired anywhere and they conveyed the concept of the artworks they represented in a way which was easier to grasp than the originals themselves. The exhibition presents around 120 works which are astonishing for their size and for their extraordinarily striking appeal as fully developed works of art.

Marcantonio Raimondi, The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, 1520/27. After a drawing by Baccio Bandinelli for an unexecuted fresco in San Lorenzo, Florence. Engraving, 433 x 585 mm (Sheet) © Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München

Giorgio Ghisi, The Prophet Jeremiah, v. 1570. After Michelangelo, ceiling fresco, Sistine Chapel, Vatican, 1508/12. Engraving, 557 x 432 mm (Sheet) © Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Gainsborough and the Theatre

The Holburne Museum

October 5, 2018 – January 20, 2019 

Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Linley the elder, c. 1770, oil on canvas, 76.5 x 63.5, DPG140. By Permission of Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.
By bringing together some of Thomas Gainsborough’s finest portraits of his friends in the theatre, this exhibition will create a conversation between the leading actors, managers, musicians, playwrights, designers, dancers and critics of the 1760s-80s.  Gainsborough & the Theatre explores themes of celebrity, naturalism, performance and friendship through some of the most touching likenesses by ‘the most faithful disciple of Nature that ever painted’.

Bringing together some of Gainsborough’s finest portraits of leading actors, managers, musicians, playwrights, designers, dancers and critics of the 1760s-80s, this exhibition will explore themes of celebrity, naturalism, performance and friendship.

David Garrick, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1770 - NPG 5054 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

These include a 1770 portrait of the actor David Garrick,

George Colman the Elder, by Thomas Gainsborough, circa 1778 - NPG 59 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

a portrait of the Haymarket Theatre’s manager George Colman from 1778,

Thomas Gainsborough, formerly attributed to Gainsborough Dupont, ‘Marie Jean Augustin Vestris’ c.1781–2

  and a 1777 painting of the French ballet dancer Auguste Vestris.

Gainsborough and the Theatre will include 37 objects, including 15 oil portraits by Gainsborough, works on paper (including satires, views of theatres and playbills) and ephemera from public and private collections across the UK.

Following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, theatre became an increasingly popular pastime, with existing playhouses enlarged and others newly commissioned throughout London and the provinces – particularly in Bath, where the Holburne Museum is located. In 1759, 32-year old Gainsborough arrived in Bath, accompanied by his wife and two daughters. Having already garnered a reputation as a skilled portraitist, he soon found a keen clientele among Bath’s fashionable (and well-off) visitors.

Gainsborough’s arrival in the West Country coincided with the rising wealth and social status of leading actors, such as James Quin and David Garrick, both of whom he painted. His friendship with the pair opened more doors for him, both in Bath and then later in London. The two actors also enabled Gainsborough to explore naturalism in portraiture, just as they and their contemporaries were turning to less artificial forms of performance in theatre, music and dance.


Based on new research this fascinating book draws together a group of works from public and private collections to examine, for the first time, the relationship that Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88) had with the theatrical world and the most celebrated stage artists of his day, such as James Quinn, David Garrick and Sarah Siddons. Gainsborough painted notable portraits of these and twenty others, including dramatists, dancers and composers. This publication firmly establishes the artist's place within the theatrical worlds of Bath and London and will show why the art of ballet, and in particular Gainsborough's sitters, rose to prominence in 1780 and examines parallels between Gainsborough's much admired painterly naturalism and the theatrical naturalism of Garrick and Siddons with whom he had personal friendships.

Unexpected O'Keeffe: The Virginia Watercolors and Later Paintings

The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia
 Oct. 19, 2018-Jan. 27, 2019

 Untitled (University of Virginia), 1912-1914, Georgia O’Keeffe, Watercolor on paper
11 7/8 x 9 (30.16 x 22.86), Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation (2006.05.614), © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

This rare exhibition explores Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolor studies produced during her time at the University of Virginia (UVA) and will include several key sketches and paintings as well as other works demonstrating her developing style. While in Charlottesville in the summers from 1912 to 1916, O’Keeffe displayed an early attraction to modernism and abstraction, using her surroundings on the Grounds of UVA to investigate simplified and refined compositions. During her time at UVA, O’Keeffe’s work showed a dramatic shift to the ideas of modernism. In 1912 she took a summer course taught by Alon Bement who introduced her to the revolutionary ideas of Arthur Wesley Dow, his colleague. Dow encouraged imagination and self-expression versus literal interpretation.

Untitled (Rotunda -University of Virginia) Scrapbook U of V, 1912-1914 Georgia O’Keeffe Watercolor on paper 11 7/8 x 9 (30.16 x 22.86) Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation (2006.05.608) Copyright Georgia O’Keeffe MuseumUntitled (Rotunda -University of Virginia) Scrapbook U of V, 1912-1914 Georgia O’Keeffe Watercolor on paper 11 7/8 x 9 (30.16 x 22.86) Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation (2006.05.608) Copyright Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Significance: This is the first time these watercolors have been on view outside the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Unexpected O'Keeffe: The Virginia Watercolors and Later Paintings emphasizes an understudied period of the artist’s development. The exhibition is a catalyst for new scholarship on this period in O’Keeffe’s life through a graduate seminar led by Elizabeth Hutton Turner, professor of modern art at the University of Virginia. 

Fralin Museum of Art o'keeffe
Georgia O’Keeffe. Anything , 1916. Oil on Board, 20 x 15 3/4 inches. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. [2006.5.29]

Curator: Unexpected O'Keeffe: The Virginia Watercolors and Later Paintings is organized by Elizabeth Hutton Turner, Professor of Modern Art at the University of Virginia and Matthew McLendon, J. Sanford Miller Family Director of The Fralin Museum of Art with contributions from Professor Turner’s students, and works on loan from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, The Phillips Collection, and the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg.

Impressionist & Modern Art evening Sale on 11 November at Christie’s

On 11 November, Le bassin aux nymphéas  will be offered in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale  at Christie’s in New York.

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Claude Monet's (1840-1926), Le bassin aux nymphéas, 1917-19. Oil on canvas. 39 3/4 x 79 in (100.7 x 200.8 cm) Estimate: $30,000,000-50,000,000.
On 24 June 2008  Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas, sold for almost £41 million at Christie's in London, almost double the estimate of £18 to £24 million.
I do not have long to live, and I must dedicate all my time to painting,’ wrote Claude Monet in a 1918 letter to the Parisian art dealer, Georges Bernheim. ‘I don’t want to believe that I would ever be obliged to leave Giverny; I’d rather die here in the middle of what I have done.’
Monet would survive these words by a number of years, but they reflect his precarious state of mind in the summer when he was working on Le Bassin aux nymphéas. He was approaching 80 — well beyond the life expectancy for men of his generation — and suffering increasingly with cataracts in both eyes. The First World War was also entering its final phase, the Germans recently having launched their Ludendorff Offensive on the Western Front: a last-ditch effort at victory before newly-arriving US troops could be fully deployed on the Allied side.

The Germans’ advance was swift and effective, with Paris now within reach of their long-range guns. As, just about, was the village of Giverny, located slightly to the west of the French capital and a place Monet had called home since 1883.

Monet was an avid gardener, and much of his time at Giverny was spent in his sizeable garden. Peonies and red geraniums jostled for attention with pansies and yellow roses. His most famous horticultural feat, though, was creating a water garden, complete with a lily-covered pond, which, over the decades, he’d paint around 250 times.

By the turn of the 20th century, the pond became the almost-exclusive subject of Monet’s art, inspiring an outpouring of creativity that, for many, marks the summit of his career. A 1909 exhibition of 48 of his water-lily paintings, at Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris, left art critics purring at how close to abstraction they looked. ‘His vision is increasingly limiting itself to the minimum of tangible realities, in order… to magnify the impression of the imponderable,’ wrote Jean Morgan in daily newspaper, Le Gaulois.

Monet wasn’t an artist to rest on his laurels or repeat past successes, however, and in 1918 he ordered a set of 20 large canvases in elongated, horizontal format (roughly a metre high by more than two metres wide). He duly began work on a new, compositionally connected group of paintings, where lily pads are clustered towards the lateral edges and a burst of sunlight makes its way in a vertical band down the centre, before spilling out into a broad pool at the bottom.

He’d complete 14 works of this type, Le Bassin aux nymphéas  among them. In that particular painting, he unified the scene’s elements by adopting a diaphanous veil of colour all over, laid down with a light, transparent touch.
‘Monet saw the canvases as forerunners... of his late, water-lily Grandes Décorations’ — Paul Hayes Tucker, curator
For Paul Hayes Tucker, the curator of a number of exhibitions on the French master, including Monet in the 20th Century  at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Royal Academy of Arts, London, in the late 1990s, ‘this [suite of] canvases has a physical and emotional expansiveness’ that earlier water-lily paintings lacked.

Work on them proceeded rapidly, and in August 1918 Monet invited the dealer René Gimpel to Giverny for a private viewing. An enthused Gimpel remarked that ‘it was as though [he] were present at one of the first hours of the birth of the world.’ He saw neither horizon nor shore, being thrown into the midst of a seemingly limitless scene ‘without beginning or end.’

Twelve of the 14 paintings are extant today, the most recent example to appear on the market — another Le Bassin aux nymphéas — fetching £40.9 million ($80.4 million) at auction in 2008, which at the time represented a new world auction record for the artist.

According to Tucker, there’s a final reason the 14 works are important: the likelihood that ‘Monet saw the canvases as forerunners... of his late, water-lily Grandes Décorations’. Monet completed this ensemble of 22 mural-sized paintings shortly before his death in 1926 and donated them to the French state. Totalling more than 90 metres in length, they boast the same elongated, horizontal format as Le Bassin aux nymphéas (albeit on a larger scale) and are displayed, as per the artist’s wishes, like a panoramic frieze, wrapped around a circular room.

Between the winter of 1886 and the summer of 1887 Van Gogh effectively crossed the divide into contemporary art.’ – Richard Kendall, art historian and curator at large at the Clark Art Institute


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Vincent Van Gogh, Coin de jardin avec papillons, oil on canvas, 1887
New York – On 11 November Christie’s will offer the painting that marked the moment Vincent Van Gogh ‘crossed the divide into contemporary art,’ Coin de jardin avec papillons, 1887 (estimate on request).

Presented at auction for the first time, Coin de jardin avec papillons possesses a sweeping exhibition history. Most recently, it was exhibited as a focal point of ‘Van Gogh & Japan,’ a travelling exhibition that explored the artist’s fascination with Japonism, and the significant impact it had on his work. ‘Van Gogh and Japan’ toured to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art in Sapporo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and The National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto throughout 2017 and 2018. Van Gogh’s Coin de jardin avec papillons will return to Japan once again for a presale exhibition at Christie’s Tokyo from 10-11 October.

David Kleiweg de Zwaan, Senior Specialist, Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s, remarked: “The two years that Van Gogh spent in Paris, from March 1886 until February 1888, represent a pivotal period in his career, during which he assimilated a host of diverse artistic currents and forged a deeply personal style. With its range of creative influences, from pointillism to Japanese prints, the present painting exemplifies the experimental zeal of the era. Van Gogh’s Coin de jardin avec papillons is a key example of his innovative and radical style.”

What people demand in art nowadays is something very much alive, with strong colour and great intensity,’ wrote an exhilarated Van Gogh to his sister Wil in the summer of 1887. The cause of the Dutch painter’s excitement was the discovery of a groundbreaking new art movement that had exploded onto the Parisian art scene in the 1870s. ‘In Antwerp I did not even know what the Impressionists were,’ he wrote to a friend. ‘Now I have seen them and though not being one of their club yet I have admired certain Impressionist pictures.

Out went the earthy tones and studied gravity and in came a series of richly-coloured landscapes and still lifes alive with the spontaneity of plein air painting, and the stylistic influence of Japanese wood block prints. As he studied the colour theories and gestures promoted by artists like Georges Seurat, his brushstrokes became looser and his palette became brighter.

Executed between May and June 1887, Coin de jardin avec papillons marks this crucial turning point in the artist’s career. Painted at a time when experiments in photography were pushing the boundaries of pictorial conventions, it is nature in close-up — a profound departure from the traditional landscape. At its centre, six butterflies dart between the foliage, their wings iridescent spots of white and red.

Interestingly, the park Van Gogh used for Coin de jardin avec papillons was in Asnières, a small Paris suburb on the banks of the Seine, which in the mid-1800s became a popular destination with day-trippers.  Here, Van Gogh became acquainted with many of the younger Post-Impressionists, including Emile Bernard and Paul Signac. They inspired him to adopt some of their experimental techniques, particularly Pointillism, which Van Gogh had first encountered at the eighth Impressionist exhibition in 1886.

Yet Van Gogh was never one for structure or rules. Under his brush, Seurat’s neatly ordered dots were willfully slackened and applied with a furious intensity. What Seurat thought of Van Gogh’s very personal twist on his invention is not known, but it did not seem to bother Signac, who became a friend of Van Gogh’s and was intrigued by his feverish passions.

As the summer came to an end, Van Gogh’s attention turned south, toward Arles. Coin de jardin avec papillons anticipates the garden paintings he would make in the asylum at St Rémy in 1888 following a mental breakdown, and the butterflies are a fitting metaphor for the fragility of his own life.

In the Van Gogh & Japan exhibition catalogue, art historian Cornelia Homburg describes Coin de jardin avec papillons, stating: “There are no other fully fledged works from Paris that show a similarly concentrated focus and attention to detail as in this extraordinary canvas.” 

Originally held in the collections of Theo van Gogh and his descendants, Coin de jardin avec papillons also belonged to Joseph Reinach, the 19th-century French journalist and politician best known as the public champion of artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus.


Grand Palais, Paris
3 October 2018 – 4 February 2019

His homeland, Catalonia, offered him inspiration, Paris his first springboard, and Palma de Mallorca the great studio he had always dreamed of. Between these places, Joan Miró created an oeuvre that is devoid of anecdotes, mannerisms, or any complacency towards modes of expression. To achieve this, he constantly questioned his pictorial language, even if it broke his momentum. Although he was interested in the twentieth century avant-garde, he did not adhere to any school or any group, being wary of artistic chimeras. From the 1920s onwards, Miró expressed his desire to "murder painting" and developed innovative practices. His work presents itself as a tool of protest and bears witness to his struggles. He never ceased to grapple with materials in order to affirm the power of the creative gesture. Characterised by this "primitive" energy, he is one of the few artists, with Pablo Picasso, to have launched a challenge to surrealism and abstraction (which he always considered a dead end). An inventor of forms, Miró translates into poetic and powerful terms the freedom of which he was so fiercely jealous and uses the full force of painting.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), 

March 10, to June27, 2019

Few artists have left behind as complete an account of their life and work as Vincent van Gogh(1853–1890). In March 2019, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art, an exhibition showcasing key passages in the artist’s life, fromhisearly sketchesto his final paintings, and chronicling his pursuit of becoming an artist. 

His Life in Art presents more than 50 portraits, landscapes, and still lifes, the exhibition will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston(MFAH), from March 10, to June27, 2019.

In a majorcollaboration, The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, which, together,holdthe largest collections in the world of Van Gogh’s work, will lend pieces to Houston.“This exhibition will offer visitors avivid portrait of Van Gogh’s evolution as an artist,”commented MFAH Director Gary Tinterow. “We are grateful to the Van Gogh and Kröller-Müller Museums for lending so many of these rarely traveled masterworks from their collections for this exclusive presentation here in Houston.” “

The popular story of Van Gogh has tended to focuson his last few years and his death,” said David Bomford, curator of the exhibition and chair, Department of Conservation, and Audrey Jones Beck curator, Department of European Art, MFAH. “But there is a rich and complex narrative that starts much earlier, one that is defined by Van Gogh’s tremendous drive to become an artist.” 

Exhibition Overview

The exhibition explores Vincent van Gogh’s early years as an artist in theDutch village of Nuenenfrom 1883to 1885; his renewed inspiration following exposure to fellow artists and city life in Paris; his further development in Arles,where he created series of landscapes and vibrant portraits; and lastly his inspiration from nature,reflected in the paintings he created toward the end of his life inSaint-Rémy and Auvers. 

In addition, facsimiles of Van Gogh’s letters will build outthe narrative of the artist’s life. Incorporated throughout the exhibition, they trace his hopes of becoming a marketable painter in Paris, his longing to live among a community of artists, and his struggles with his personal relationships and his mental health.Early  

Years as an Artist  

Vincent van Gogh became an artist at 27, taking up painting in 1881after stintsas an art dealer, teacher, bookseller, and minister, all unsuccessful. His brother, Theo, encouraged him to concentrate on drawing, spurring Van Gogh to work on his technique and connect with other artists. He was largely self-taught, and his early work reflects an engagement with Realism and an interest in conveying both the physical and psychological conditions of his subjects. 

Van Gogh sent his work to Theo in exchange for the financial support his brother offered. “I’m sending you three scratches that are still awkward, but from which I hope you’ll nonetheless see that there’s gradual improvement. You must remember that I haven’t been drawing for long, even if I did sometimes make little sketches as a boy,”Van Gogh wrote in a letterto his brother on April 2, 1881. 

His development as a painter continued, as he produced farm scenes in the village of Nuenen following in the footsteps of admired artists such as Jean-François Millet. He studied and recorded every facet of rural life, realistically portraying with the harsh circumstances of farm laborers rather than idealizing them. During this time, Van Gogh’s character studies culminated in portrayals of rurallife. 

Click here to view an early version of 'The Potato Eaters'

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Three of Van Gogh’sstudies for The Potato Eaters (1885), his first major painting and one of his best-known, will be on view, alongside sketches of the day-to-day life of villagers. 

Van Gogh’s works from his time in Nuenen also feature an old church tower,which he painted as a tribute to those whohad been laid to rest among the fields they had planted.

In Search of Renewal

From Nuenen, Van Gogh left for Antwerp to enroll in an art academy and take drawing classesin November 1885. Abandoning the theme of rural farm life, he shifted his focus to portraiture. 

Shortly following, he left for Paris where he moved in with Theo.The city inspired a brighter palette,while his friendships with Emile Bernard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had a major influence on his work. 

Featured in this section is a portrait of Agostina Segatori, the owner of Café du Tambourin, a gathering spot for Parisian artists that Van Gogh frequented. 

While in Paris, he discovered a new source of inspiration in Japanese woodcuts, which he had begun to collect. Their influence is reflected in the bold outlines, dramatic cropping, and color contrasts of Van Gogh’s work. 

Light and Color in the South

After two years in Paris, Van Gogh grew weary of city life and longed for a setting like those in the Japanese landscapes he admired. He hoped to find itin the south of France, and relocated to Arles. “I noticed some magnificent plots of red earth planted with vines, with mountains in the background of the most delicate lilac. And the landscape under the snow with the white peaks against a sky as bright as the snow was just like the winter landscapes the Japanese did,” he wrote to Theo on February 21, 1888.

With this return to the countryside,Van Gogh developeda recognizable style of his own, characterized by long, rhythmic brushstrokes and thick layers of paint in increasingly brighter colors.Inspired by the bright light and the colorsof southern France, he painted fields of wheat, vineyards, and vibrant portraits. 

Vincent van Gogh, Still Life with a Plate of Onions, early January 1889, oil on canvas, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands. © Kröller-Müller Museum

But months of personal crisis followed. Still Life with a Plate of Onions (1889) was one of the first paintingsVan Gogh completed after returning home from the hospital where he was treated after slicing off his ear. 

On that day, January 17, 1889, he wrote to his brother Theo that he intended to begin working to get used to painting againand had already done a few studies. But Van Gogh’s mental health continued to fluctuate. He admitted himself to Saint-Paul-de-Mausole psychiatric asylum in Saint-Rémy in May 1889.

Nature as a Source of Enduring Inspiration

At the asylumin Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh created dozens of paintings of the gardens of the institution, the fields outside his window,and of thefew possessions that he hadin his room. During this period, in which he produced some of his most iconic masterworks, including Starry Night and Irises, he also ventured into the wheat fields and olive groves. 

In his studio, he made a series of paintings after prints, resulting in such idyllic scenes as 

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Peasant Woman Binding Wheat Sheaves (1889), once again inspired by the work of Millet.

In May of 1890, Van Gogh left Saint-Rémy for Auvers, seeking out the care of the doctor Paul Gachetat the suggestion of painter Camille Pissarro. 

Van Gogh spent his last weeks painting landscape after landscape, including 

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Ears of Wheat in June 1890, one of the latest of his works in the MFAH exhibition. He committed suicide on July 27 of that year.


This exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue highlighting the 50 drawings and paintings, drawn primarily from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo.

Vincent Van Gogh, Head of a Woman Wearing a White Cap, November 1884–May 1885
Vincent Van Gogh, Head of a Woman Wearing a White Cap
November 1884–May 1885
Oil on canvas
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands
© Kröller-Müller Museum / Photo: Rik Klein Gotink
Vincent Van Gogh, In the Café: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin, January–March 1887
Vincent Van Gogh, In the Café: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin
January–March 1887
Oil on canvas
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
(Vincent Van Gogh Foundation)
Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, March–June 1887
Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait
March–June 1887
Oil on cardboard
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
(Vincent Van Gogh Foundation)
Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of a Man, end of October–mid-December 1888
Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of a Man
End of October–mid-December 1888
Oil on canvas
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands
© Kröller-Müller Museum

Vincent van Gogh, Peasant Woman Binding Sheaves (after Millet), September 1889
Vincent van Gogh, Peasant Woman Binding Sheaves (after Millet)
September 1889
Oil on canvas on cardboard
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
(Vincent Van Gogh Foundation)
Vincent van Gogh, Irises, May 1890
Vincent van Gogh, Irises
May 1890
Oil on canvas
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
(Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

The Poetry of Nature: Hudson River School Landscapes from the New-York Historical Society

Worcester Art Museum
September 8 through November 25 July 26, 2018

A stunning array of over 40 paintings from the  New - York Historical Society’s collection by renowned Hudson River School artists, including Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Albert Bierstadt, Jasper  Cropsey, John F. Kensett, and William T. Richards, will be on view at the  Worcester Art Museum from September 8 through November 25, 2018. Painted  between 1818 and 1886, the works illustrate America’s scenic splendor as seen  through the eyes of some of the country’s most important painters. 

In the first decade of the 19th century, the expansive landscapes of the  Hudson River Valley and adjacent areas, such as the Catskills and the  Adirondack Mountains, inspired an elite group of American artists known as the  Hudson River School. Coming together under the influence of British émigré  painter Thomas Cole (1801 – 1848), they shared a philosophy and appreciation  for the natural landscape. Today their collective works are considered the first  uniquely American art movement. In their idyllic depic tions of the landscape,  these artists conveyed not only the majesty of America, but an image of man  living in harmonious balance with nature. 

The Poetry of Nature: Hudson River School Landscapes from the New - York Historical Society opens with seminal works by Thomas Cole and Asher B.  Durand (1796 – 1886). Cole first traveled up the Hudson in 1825, where he  captured the wildness of the American landscape in his paintings. Durand, who  frequently worked alongside Cole, was instrumental in leading the group after the latter’s untimely death in 1848. 

Cole’s romantic interpretations of the  American landscape — represented in the exhibition by his painting,  

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Catskill  Creek, New York , depicting a tranquil sunset view on the Catskill Creek — demonstrate his mastery of perspective; he is able to convey vast open spaces  and create rich atmospheric effects. 

Durand favored tighter views and closely observed details of nature.  Paintings in the exhibition will present his vivid compositions, from majestic  mountain ranges to tranquil woodland interiors and studies of trees. Durand’s  influential  Letters on Landscape Painting (1855 – 1856), promoted the movement  for plein air painting, calling such excursions, “hard - work - play.” As president of  the National Academy of Design, he advocate d for the landscape paintings by his Hudson River School colleagues at that institution and facilitated the  patronage and rise of the Hudson River School. 

Coinciding with an increase in leisure travel, the Hudson River painters  also journeyed to regions no ted for their beauty outside of New York State. New  Hampshire, coastal New England, and even the mountains of Virginia were  among the areas featured in their works.   

The exhibition was organized by the New - York Historical Society, which  holds one of the mo st renowned collections of Hudson River School paintings.  Dr. Linda S. Ferber, the museum director emerita of New - York Historical and a  leading authority on Hudson River School artists, is the curator for this  extraordinary exhibition.   

Albert Bierstadt, Autumn Woods, 1886.
Albert Bierstadt, Autumn Woods, 1886.
(New-York Historical Society

 Niagara Falls (1818) by Louisa Davis Minot. Oil on linen, 76.2 × 103.2 cm; Gift of Mrs. Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Sr., to the Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Jr., Collection. Collection of the New-York Historical Society, Object 156.4. In the early 19th century, Niagara Falls was considered the epitome of the overwhelming sublime, but the tourists walking the rocks clad in fine suits or dresses indicates this landscape was already tamed and accessible [21]. Image © The New-York Historical Society. Reproduction of any kind is prohibited without express written permission in advance from The New-York Historical Society.  

Niagara Falls (1818) by Louisa Davis Minot. Oil on linen, 76.2 × 103.2 cm; Gift of Mrs. Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Sr., to the Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Jr., Collection. Collection of the New-York Historical Society