Taking Measure: American Landscape 1850-1950
September 08, 2011 – May 13, 2012
Taking Measure: American Landscape 1850-1950 examines native landscape imagery during a period when the subject was experiencing a series of cathartic changes; some caused by physical alterations to the land, and others that were a result of changing aesthetics and philosophy. For over a century after being discovered, the northern continent was explored by Europeans who had never seen a true wilderness, especially of the size and scale of America. The landscape’s grandeur gave rise, in the early 19th century, to the Hudson River School, the country’s first native aesthetic style. Later, population growth, industrialization, and the advent of abstraction in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries tempered enthusiasm for the subject. A group of American artists responded in the 1920s and 30s by incorporating landscape into representational images that championed positive indigenous values often associated with farming. These “American Scene” artists stayed in demand throughout the Second World War. After the conflict, native tastes changed as abstraction and Surrealism entered the country on a wave of European immigration. By 1950, Action Painting as practiced by the New York School’s Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, and Willem de Kooning had taken over the stylistic spotlight and representational landscape imagery once again receded into the background.