Friday, July 29, 2011

Painting the American Vision

The Catskills and Lake George, by Thomas Cole (American, 1801-1848)

I wasn't sure how the Peabody Essex Museum would follow the exceptional Treasures from the Forbidden City exhibition, and they amazed me with Golden: Dutch & Flemish Masterworks.  As I walked through Golden during its last weekend, awed by the crowds that were 5, 6, 10-deep waiting to look at the incredible paintings, I wondered how they would top that.  I mean really, how high can the barre be set?!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to get a preview of the new exhibit, Painting the American Vision,
and I, once again, stood in awe of the exhibit, the curatorial vision, and the exhibit designers who transform these galleries time and time again to take us to another time and place entirely.

The PEM is not exaggerating when they describe this exhibit as a collection of "Glorious American landscape paintings."  They are glorious, and their scale is something that cannot be conveyed through blog or print.  To stand before these paintings, relax your eyes, and be drawn into the the mountains, forests, sunsets, and vistas is to take a small vacation for one to a time and place in this country that is for the most part gone, built up, plowed over.

This exceptional collection of paintings is from the collection of the New York Historical Society.  It is the first time a collection of this size has been loaned out by the New York Historical Society, and it provides a unique opportunity to see the works in New England.  

Painting the American Vision is on view July 30 through November 6, 2011.  I highly recommend it.  Getting lost in a scene of the Shandaken Range, in a sunset over Lake George, or with the sloops and schooners on the Shrewsbury River is a perfect way to spend a day.   Perhaps you will leave thinking, as I did, "They've done it again." 

Shandaken Range, Kingston, New York, 1854, Asher Brown Durand

And now, a quick post-script about visiting and interacting with PEM.  They love to Tweet with visitors in the gallery, so if you are visiting the PEM, and have a question or a comment about the exhibits, send up a Tweet to @peabodyessex

Image credits:

The Catskills and Lake George
Thomas Cole (American, 1801-1848)
Catskill Creek, N.Y., 1845
Oil on canvas
26 1/2 x 36 in. (67.3 x 91.4 cm)
The Robert L. Stuart Collection, S-157
New-York Historical Society

Shandaken Range, Kingston, New York, 1854
Asher Brown Durand
Oil on canvas
21 1/2 x 17 in. (54.6 x 43.2 cm)
Courtesy The New-York Historical Society

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