On view September 12–December 31, 2017

painting by Claude Monet depicting a  rich purples and blues showing
Left: Silvestr Shchedrin, View of Rome from the Piazza del Quirinale, 1822. Right: Claude Monet, Morning on the Seine, Giverny (Matinée sur la Seine), 1897.

This exhibition examines the evolution of European landscape painting from the 17th to the early 20th century, reflecting a variety of stylistic approaches to this genre ranging from pastoral landscape paintings to modernist works.

Until the 16th century, landscape was seen only as a setting for religious and mythological scenes. The hierarchy of respectable painting genres placed history painting above all other subjects. At the core of this ranking was the notion that landscape appealed merely to the eyes while  historical painting engaged the intellect.

In the 17th century landscape painting was often influenced by classical antiquity, and sought to illustrate an ideal landscape recalling Arcadia, a legendary place in ancient Greece known for its quiet pastoral beauty. In a classical landscape, every tree, rock or animal was carefully placed to create a harmonious, balanced, and timeless mood. From a general knowledge of natural form an artist was expected to construct an ideal transcending the limitations of the particular. He sought perfection, which almost by definition was a product of his mind rather than the result of his visual observation of nature.

Landscape painting in Europe evolved from views of the picturesque, sublime and charming, as artists developed new ways of seeing their natural environment. Modern artists pushed the limits of representation, emphasizing the two-dimensionality of their painting surface, and using color as a mode of subjective expression rather than as a tool with which to capture atmospheric effects and elements of nature.

The works of art presented here demonstrate the development of the landscape tradition, from idealized landscapes far removed from real experience to the flowering of plein air painting and Naturalism in the 1840s and ’50s, and on to the blossoming of Impressionism.

Organized by Alla Rosenfeld, Curator of Russian and European Art.

Related Event

Fall Exhibitions Opening
Tuesday, Sept. 12, 5–8 p.m.
Mead Art Museum

All are invited to celebrate the opening of this exhibition on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Curatorial remarks begin at 5 p.m. with a reception to follow from 6–8 p.m. The event is free and open to all.