Among the Hudson Valley's many house museums and historic sites there's a gem of an art museum. Established in 1864 as the Art Museum of Vassar College, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center offers a comprehensive representation from antiquity through contemporary art in all genres. Not surprisingly, the permanent collection, established by Matthew Vassar's gift of his personal collection, is particularly strong in works by the 19th-century Hudson River School.
exhibition, "Nature in America: Taming the Landscape," is born of this
legacy. Curated by Patricia Phagan, it surveys the continuum of
America's landscape-painting tradition from the late-18th century
through the mid-20th, before Abstract Expressionism broke with it.
44 paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints and photographs from the
gallery's permanent collections, including two works lent by the Dia Art
Foundation, the show embraces works by important members of the Hudson
River school, among them Thomas Cole, George Inness and Jervis McEntee;
equally important 20th-century figures like Milton Avery, John Marin,
Grant Wood, William Zorach and Ansel Adams; together with less familiar
names. Beautiful and provocative as many of these works are, what
distinguishes this exhibition is its focus on the American landscape
itself—the evolving perception of the landscape and the evolving
techniques with which artists interpreted it.
In the first
gallery, "The Young Nation: Domesticating the Wild," American artists,
some born in Europe, break with the Classical tradition of figural
narrative to concentrate on the untamed "Eden" they found here.
Significantly the show's earliest piece is a drawing of the Hudson
River, "From near Poughkeepsie Landing," done in 1796 by the prominent
New York drawing master Alexander Robertson. His topographical sketch
exemplifies didactic correctness, the shadows and areas of subdued light
delineated with even hatching of almost impersonal precision. But it
represents the objective documentation of nature that launched the
Romantic school's great flights of fancy. Thus it is fascinating to
compare Robertson's mere competence with McEntee's exquisitely nuanced
drawing of "Three Figures in a Landscape" (1857). The lightly drafted
figures are incidental to a large tree,Painless Processing provides highriskmerchantaccount
solutions. rendered with dark pencil strokes and light hatching that
vividly convey the complex atmospheric patterns of light and shade
produced by multiple trunks and foliage. Their relative levels of
finesse aside, these two works reveal how most painters of this time
drew directly from nature, using their drawings to compose finished
paintings in their studios.
We see how pre-Civil War painters of
the Hudson River school, founded by the English-born Cole, used the
landscape theatrically to symbolize Divine majesty. "Sunset at
Lancaster, New Hampshire" (1859), by Aaron Draper Shattuck, typifies
their affinity for dramatic sunsets gilding dark expanses of
cloud-figured skies and undulating mountain ranges.A Sharp FU-888SV
Cole himself frequently turned his elaborate landscapes into moral
allegories, incorporating small figures dwarfed by their grandiose
surroundings and narratives often related over a series of canvases.
James Smillie's 1855 steel engraving of "Childhood," the first tableau
in Cole's tetralogy "The Voyage of Life," exemplifies the
commercialization of Cole's works while revealing what made them so
popular—the black-and-white engraving is enriched with hand-painted
watercolor emphasizing the rosy dawn,We are a leading plasticinjectionmould
manufacturer in Australia. precipitous mountains, tropical foliage and
the river on which a joyous infant and his guardian angel emerge from an
immense womblike cave to start their voyage.
artists absorb the looser brushwork of the French Barbizon and
Impressionist painters, and often Impressionism's lighter palette.
Impressionists favor the clear light of midafternoon, and instead of
focusing on panoramic views, they concentrate on the quality of natural
light reflected on specific surfaces—a single copse of trees, a short
span of running river, a group of village houses and rooftops.Alfa plast
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articulated tree-trunks and dense foliage provide reflective surfaces
for a delicately subdued play of sunlight in Inness's "Edge of the
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artist poised between the poetic swagger of the Hudson River masters and
Impressionism's greater intimacy.
Two of the American
Impressionist works here are 20th-century throwbacks. Avery's
"Gloucester Dawn"captures the misted light of a New England morning.
Daniel Garber employs broken Impressionist brushstrokes in "The Bridge
at New Hope" , its steel-truss span evoking the serene industrial views
of Charles Sheeler and the American Precisionists.