The present exhibition aims to show this process
through three tematics groupings, devoted to the painting of the Low Countries, and
nineteenth-century North American and European painting.
It was the artists of
seventeenth-century Holland who initiated pictorial naturalism. In their desire to
represent their surrounding in a life-like manner, they made numerous sketches and studies
out of doors. Later, back in the studio, they would reinterpret these, using them as the
basis for fully worked-out and highly finished compositions. Rather than remaining
faithful to a particular reality, the landscapes and urban views of artists like Van
Goyen, Ruysdael, De Witte and Van der Neer express the prosperity of the young Dutch
nation and capture the spectators religious feelings through making the landscape
monumental, using light in a symbolic way, painting broad skies, and so on. In a similar
way the genre scenes of Steen, De Hooch And Vrel contain a markedly moralising content. A
similar tension between realism and symbolic intent is to be found in the work of artists
like Crespi, Piazzetta and Goya working in the next century.
The North American artists of
the nineteenth century, did not hesitate to make landscape the leading pictorial genre,
convinced that the American people had been granted the enjoyment of a idyllic land.
Science art and religion, each in its way, shared a common aim: to reveal the secrets of
the Sacred Book of a nature uncorrupted by civilisation, in contrast to that of Europe.
Such ideas are to be found in the work of artists such as Church, Bierstadt and Kensett,
whose oils share an almost scientific approach to nature (in their focus on the most
minute detail) with the expression of it sanctity (in this case, through the use of
baroque rhetoric). The sacredness of the landscape, characteristic of North American
painting until the end of the nineteenth century, is also to be found in the Luminist
paintings of Heade, Richards, Jones and Hart, all heirs of the tradition of seventeenth
century Dutch painting, whose works exude a silence and mysticism in their glowing
lighting effects, their immobility and the strict arrangement of the elements within the