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Jan 26, 2013

The Past is Now...

The more I learn about art history and painting, the more I realize there is nothing new under the sun. Which I find reassuring in this era of Post-Post-Modernism. (ummmm, Post-Everything?) Perhaps it is due to my age, or perhaps I have simply come to accept that there is something bigger to the thread of art than setting out to paint pretty pictures.

Here is a repost for your enjoyment about a current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It's a New York Times Art Review – with a link to the full article below. Click it if you want to read it all...


The Great Outdoors 
‘The Path of Nature,’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Collection

The Path of Nature Paul Flandrin’s “View of the Villa Torlonia, Frascati, at Dusk,” in this show at the Met.
By HOLLAND COTTER   | Published: January 24, 2013 
“Sparkle with repose” was the effect the British artist John Constable (1776-1837) said he strove for in his landscape paintings. His French contemporaries, following his lead, had the same idea. If success is measured by fame, Constable achieved his goal, and they didn’t. He’s a star. But León Pallière? Adrien Dauzats? Alexandre-Hyacinthe Dunouy? Only wonkish scholars are likely to know their names now. 
Lucky for them that one of those scholars is the collector and dealer Wheelock Whitney III, who has a passion for French art from the years between neo-Classicism and Romanticism, and a particular love for gleaming little oil sketches on paper done out of doors — en plein-air — in that time. For years he sought them out and bought them up. In 2003 he gave his pictures to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where 50 of them make up the exhibition called “The Path of Nature: French Paintings From the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785-1850.” 
Although most of the artists are French, when you’re in the show, you’re in Italy. For northern European artists in the late 18th century that was the place to be, especially Rome and its environs. The allure was much the same as for tourists now: history, warmth, la dolce vita, and, for artists, a taste of creative freedom. In Paris painters plugged away in cramped studios mastering their craft by the book. If they hoped for acceptance into the career mills known as salons, that had to adhere to academic fashion. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with the Revolution succeeded by the reign of Napoleon, that meant history painting: magniloquent tableaus — battles, shipwrecks, coronations — in which myth and reality met. 
Once on the highway south, though, clear of Paris, away from schools and salons, artists could loosen up, relax, paint what they wanted. They carried their materials on their backs: brushes, pencils, paint, a portable easel and lots of paper. They set up their studios where they pleased, often outside, in a roadside grove of trees, on a rise overlooking a town, at the foot of a waterfall crashing down . . .

© 2013 The New York Times Company

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