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The Sublime Landscape

June 19 - August 1, 2004


The Sublime Landscape, at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts June 19-Aug. 1, 2004, re-visits the theme of the Academy's 2002 summer blockbuster, American Sublime: Epic Landscapes of our Nation 1820-1880.

Comprised of some 20 landscape paintings from the Academy's collection, The Sublime Landscape is the Academy's contribution to The Big Nothing, initiated by the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania as a Philadelphia-wide project exploring ideas of nothing and nothingness.

The Sublime Landscape contributes to our understanding of nothing by exploring the vastness of nature. Drawn from the Academy's permanent collection, the exhibition includes American 19th century landscape paintings that seek to inspire awe before overwhelming beauty. The selected works underscore our humble humanity when confronted by the power of the landscape.

This exhibition of works in the permanent collection is organized around the following categories:

The Hudson River School [1] and its various permutations -- featured prominently in the 2002 exhibition American Sublime -- are represented in paintings by Thomas Doughty, Edmund Darch Lewis, and John Frederick Kensett, among others. Landscapes executed by American artists in Europe include works by George Loring Brown, Jasper Cropsey, and William Haseltine. (right: William Stanley Haseltine (1835-1900), Landscape, c. 1881, oil on canvas, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Gift of Helen Haseltine Plowden) 
The Philadelphia painter William Trost Richards exemplifies Pre-Raphaelite landscape painting, an English export.
Luminism -- an indigenous American style whose followers rendered the landscape through saturated light-is represented by Martin Johnson Heade and Sanford Robinson Gifford.
The influence of the Barbizon School of French landscape realism is evident in the work of George Inness and Dwight W. Tryon.
Finally, a tonalist approach to landscape painting is illustrated by William Sartain, a close friend of Thomas Eakins.


In a citywide collaboration surrounding The Big Nothing, May 1-August 1, institutions throughout Philadelphia will present programming exploring ideas of nothing and nothingness such as silence, infinity, the vast, the void, the ineffable, the invisible, negation, death, emptiness and more.

Recent exhibitions featuring the collections, instructors, architecture and history of the Pennsylvania Academy will culminate in the institution's grand 200th Anniversary Celebration in 2005, with the opening of the Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building. The new building is currently under renovation at Broad & Cherry Streets, across the street from the Academy's historic landmark building.


More about The Big Nothing:

According to the Institute of Contemporary Art: "The void, the ineffable, the sublime, nonsense, nihilism, zero-all are encompassed by 'nothing.' Filling two floors and both main gallery spaces, the exhibition at ICA will include painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, video and film. Co-curated by ICA Senior Curator Ingrid Schaffner, Associate Curator Bennett Simpson, and Whitney-Lauder Fellow Tanya Leighton, the show will draw primarily on artwork from the 1970s to the present. It will be accompanied by a catalog publication.... ICA's exhibition spearheads a Philadelphia-wide initiative that includes projects by nearly thirty museums, science centers and performing arts groups to address "nothing" in its many forms." (right: The Big Nothing logo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)


The Sublime Landscape: checklist and wall text:

Thomas Doughty (1793-1856)
One of the earliest artists in America to make a career in landscape painting, Thomas Doughty was born in Philadelphia and worked as a leather currier until 1820, when he abandoned that trade for art. A self-taught artist, his subject matter was drawn primarily from the Hudson River Valley region, and he was one of the first artists to be associated with the Hudson River School. However, many of Doughty's paintings have generalized, or even ideal titles and his poetic vision often makes it difficult to locate the topographical sources of his views. His paintings also lack the monumentality of his more notable contemporaries, such as Thomas Cole. He began exhibiting regularly at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1822 and was elected an Academician in 1824. In New York City and State, where he lived the latter half of his life, he exhibited often and sold paintings to the Apollo Association and the American Art Union. Doughty also worked as a lithographer. In later life, his career declined, perhaps due to competition with the many landscape painters working at mid-century.
Thomas Doughty (1793-1856)
Landscape with Pool, c. 1823
Oil on canvas
Bequest of Henry C. Carey
(The Carey Collection), 1879.8.6
Thomas Doughty (1793-1856)
Morning Among the Hills, 1829-30
Oil on canvas
Bequest of Henry C. Carey
(The Carey Collection), 1879.8.4
Thomas Doughty (1793-1856)
View Near Hartford, Connecticut, 1828
Oil on canvas
Gift of Cephas G. Childs
Thomas Doughty (1793-1856)
View on the Susquehanna near Harrisburg, c. 1830
Oil on canvas
Source unknown
Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904)
Sunset Harbor at Rio, 1864
Oil on canvas
Henry C. Gibson Fund, 1985.10
Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880)
Saint Peter's from Pincian Hill, 1865
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Kesler, 1975.20.3
David Johnson (1827-1908)
Mount Marcy, New York, ca. 1865
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Kesler, 1975.20.6
Edmund Darch Lewis (1835-1910)
Lake Willoughby, 1867
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William W. Jeanes, 1974.3
A prominent figure in Philadelphia's artistic and social circles, Lewis was locally celebrated for his scenes of vacation spots in the Northeast. This painting, exhibited at the Academy in 1867, depicts the Green Mountains of Vermont as both a wild and settled landscape. With its emphasis on the picturesque and sublime aspects of nature, Lake Willoughby belongs to the popular, mid-century genre of spectacular panoramas, commonly known as the Hudson River School, practiced by painters such as the New York-based Albert Bierstadt.
John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872)
Hill Valley Sunrise, 1851
Oil on canvas
Gift of John Frederick Lewis, Jr., 1954.22.2
John Frederick Kensett
At Newport Rhode Island (ca. 1855)
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Kesler, 1975.20.4
William Stanley Haseltine (1835-1900)
Landscape, c. 1881
Oil on canvas
Gift of Helen Haseltine Plowden, 1961.4
Haseltine was born in Philadelphia to an affluent, artistic family that fully supported his ambition to become an artist. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, with Paul Weber in Philadelphia, and with Andreas Achenbach in Düsseldorf, Germany. Several of his landscapes were featured in the 1855 annual at the Pennsylvania Academy. In that same year, the young artist traveled to Germany where he a met a group of American artists, including Worthington Whittredge and Albert Bierstadt, who he joined on a sketching trip down the Rhine to Italy. He spent much of his life in Rome and the majority of his work after the early 1860s concentrates on the Italian landscape.
This painting is similar to a landscape in a private collection entitled Castle of Ostia Seen from the Pine Forest of Castel Fusano, 1881. Hasletine was attracted to this marshy region west of Rome and frequently painted it. The eerie melancholia of this painting represents a departure from his more usual, objective approach.
Charles W. Knapp (1823-1900)
Delaware Valley near Milford, by 1885
Oil on canvas
Source unknown, 1944.21
George Loring Brown (1814-1889)
Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, 1845-46
Oil on canvas
Henry D. Gilpin Fund with contributions from members of the Peale Club, 1969.24
In the era when the Hudson River School determined the artistic taste of the country, a number of American artists, including George Loring Brown and Jasper Cropsey, took to Italy for the inspiration of that country's galleries and landscape. Brown was captivated by the seventeenth-century French landscape painter Claude Lorrain, and was often referred to as "Claude Brown," in reference to his emulation of Claude's treatment of light, composition, and passion for the Italian landscape. Brown was born and grew up in Boston, making his first trip to Europe in 1832. His second trip there was an extended one. He arrived in 1839 and remained in Italy for twenty years, painting scenes in around Rome and Florence-areas that were very popular with Americans making the grand tour. Brown's romantic aesthetic shares a kinship with that of Thomas Cole and Cole painted a version of Saint John in the Wilderness in 1827.
Jasper F. Cropsey (1823-1900)
Landscape with Figures Near Rome, 1847
Oil on canvas
Gift of John Frederick Lewis, Jr., 1954.22.1
Cropsey was trained as an architect in New York, but is best known for his landscapes belonging to the Hudson River School. This painting dates from an 1847 trip to Europe in which he visited London, Paris, Switzerland, and Italy. He returned to London in 1857 and settled there for seven years during which he was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy.
Jasper F. Cropsey (1823-1900)
Mt. Washington from Lake Sebago, Maine, 1867
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Kesler, 1975.20.5
William Trost Richards (1833-1905)
February, 1887
Oil on canvas, mounted on wood
Gift of Mrs. Edward H. Coates
(The Edward H. Coates Memorial Collection), 1923.9.5
A Philadelphian who began exhibiting his work at the Academy in the 1850s, Richards was one of the region's first artists to concentrate on landscape painting. This moody evocation of a winter sunset, painted near Richards' farm in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, suggests a number of influences. While the faithful rendering of details recalls the approach of the English Pre-Raphaelites (whose works received early public attention in America at the Academy in 1858), the dramatic effects of light and color are more like the work of the American painter Frederick Edwin Church, whose monumental Heart of the Andes (in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) was shown at the Academy in 1860. Although Heart of the Andes is not included in American Sublime, several outstanding examples of Church's work are on view.
George Inness (1825-1894)
Apple Blossom Time, 1883
Oil on canvas
Bequest of J. Mitchell Elliot, 1952.22.2
George Inness (1825-1894)
Woodland Scene, 1891
Oil on canvas
Gift of John Frederick Lewis, Jr., 1954.22.3
One of the most acclaimed artists of the late nineteenth century, Inness was an important transitional figure in the history of American landscape painting. Veering away from the Hudson River School aesthetic that characterized his work of the pre-Civil War years, by the late 1880s, he had adopted a more painterly, even abstract approach to his imagery. Inness was the most prominent American painter influenced by the French Barbizon school of the mid-nineteenth century. The Barbizon artists abandoned academic tradition and sought to represent the landscape through direct observation utilizing summary brushwork which often evoked a misty, poetic quality. However, Inness eventually abandoned observation in rendering nature. This haunting, late vision reveals the artist's interest in working increasingly from his imagination.
Dwight Tryon (1849-1925)
Evening, 1886
Oil on canvas
Henry D. Gilpin Fund, 1899.5
The direct study of nature practiced by the so-called Barbizon artists in France, such as Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, had a major influence on American landscape painters and collectors in the years after the Civil War. The audience for these works, as for earlier types of landscape painting, was for the most part urban and well-off; the most active patrons of Barbizon-inspired artists, ironically, were industrial tycoons, whose enterprises were making scenes such as Evening increasingly difficult to find in real life. One of Tryon's most important patrons was Charles Lang Freer, who made his fortune manufacturing railroad cars, then formed the art collection that is now at the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C.
William Sartain (1843-1924)
Solitude, 1892
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mrs. James Mapes Dodge in accordance with the wishes of the artist, 1931.13.1
A son of the revered artist and administrator John Sartain, William was highly regarded during his lifetime for his American landscapes and "orientalist" scenes. Having studied in the company of his close friend Thomas Eakins in both Philadelphia and Paris, Sartain, like his realist colleague, in 1879, embarked on a successful teaching career. He directed life and painting classes at New York's Art Students' League and taught at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design). At the same time, he conducted classes in his Chestnut Street studio, where Cecilia Beaux was one of his best-known pupils. Later in his career, Sartain specialized in tonalist landscapes-such as Solitude-a genre that was directly linked to his educational activities. During these years, he conducted plein-air landscape classes at his studio near Bedford, Massachusetts.


1. The Hudson River School is considered the earliest school of American art.


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