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"Nature Sublime: Landscapes from the Nineteenth Century"
2004-08-15 until 2004-11-14
Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland, OH, USA

The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) will showcase a selection of over 120 rarely seen American, British, French, Swiss, German, Austrian and Norwegian prints and drawings from its permanent collection in Nature Sublime: Landscapes from the Nineteenth Century, on view Aug. 15 to Nov. 14, 2004. CMA Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings, Heather Lemonedes, says, “I thought that it would be interesting to explore how depictions of the landscape evolved over the course of the 19th century and to compare how artists in England, France, Germany and America addressed the subject. The exhibition will contrast notions of near and far, close scrutiny and broad vistas. The Museum’s collection of works on paper is extraordinary and I’ve had to be selective in what could be included. There will be many artists familiar to the public, as well as a number of beautiful surprises.”

During the 19th century, in both European and American art, the landscape emerged as a subject of profound significance. As industry flourished, many artists turned to nature as an escape. Nature Sublime will examine the ways that the major artistic movements of the 19th century—Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Symbolism—responded to the subject of the landscape. This exhibition will chart the evolution of the theme from German Romantic views of ruined churches amidst ancient oaks, to picturesque views of the English countryside, to French Impressionist visions of sunlit gardens, to American experiments in modernism at the turn of the century. Highlights include works by celebrated artists such as William Blake (British, 1757–1827), John Ruskin (British, 1819–1900), Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), Camille Pissarro (French, 1830–1903), Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910), James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834–1903), Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944) and Caspar David Friedrich (German, 1774–1840). The exhibition will also introduce Museum visitors to less well-known artists working in the landscape genre, such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel (German, 1781–1841), Samuel Palmer (British, 1805–1881), Henri Rivière (French, 1864–1951) and Joseph Pennell (American, 1857–1910).

The idea of contrasting close-up studies of nature with panoramic views of the landscape was inspired by two watercolors by Léon Bonvin (French, 1834–1866): Study of a Plant, Possibly Thistle (1862) and Landscape Near Paris (c. 1860). When CMA Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings, Heather Lemonedes began to study the collection of 19th-century works on paper nearly two years ago, she came across Bovin’s drawings and wanted to display them in the context of this little-known artist’s contemporaries. The idea grew to encompass landscapes from all over Europe and America throughout the century.

Nature Sublime follows in the footsteps of Landscape in Detail, an exhibition of 16th- and 17th-century landscape prints and drawings from the Museum’s collection which took place in 1996 and revealed how the landscape began as a pictorial backdrop and eventually became a subject in its own right. By the 19th century, the landscape had become the primary subject of avant-garde art. Nature Sublime celebrates the theme of the landscape in all of its aspects.

Nature Sublime will provide viewers with the opportunity to compare prints and drawings and to examine works of paper in a wide range of media, including watercolor, pastel, graphite, charcoal, monotype, etching, woodcut, lithography and cliché-verre.

John Ruskin (British, 1819–1900)
Budding Sycamore, 1875
Wash and gouache over graphite
Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1989.14

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