WSJ reviews Crystal Bridges' 'Picturing the Americas' | Rock Candy

WSJ reviews Crystal Bridges' 'Picturing the Americas'

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"Cachapoal River," by the Chilean painter Antonio Smith Irisarri.
  • "Cachapoal River," by the Chilean painter Antonio Smith Irisarri.


Judith Dobryzynski, in her Wall Street Journal review of "Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic" at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, says that the exhibition illustrates "how artists used landscapes to make statements" rather than focusing on the artistic merits of the works. She writes:
 
"The works — more than 100 paintings and works on paper from the 19th through the early 20th centuries — are presented as tools that forged or reinforced opinion about nationhood, cultural identity and the environment, natural and (later) built. They may be aesthetically pleasing, but they all contain messages, overt or subliminal.

"Thus, the first gallery here at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is filled with seven paintings that helped shape national identity, beginning with Albert Bierstadt’s light-bathed “Yosemite Valley” (1868). President Abraham Lincoln had designated the area as a park in 1864, at least partly as a sign of hope during the Civil War. Moreover, paintings of the glorious West like this one helped solidify support for Manifest Destiny."

Dobryzynski, like others who've been to the show have noted, remarks that the indigenous populations that Europeans routed in their settling of the new world are ignored or presented as at peace with their lot, as in Worthington Whittredge’s “Indian Encampment.”

The show goes down Jan. 18. If, like me, you haven't made it to the exhibition, here are some more images:
 
"Baia de Guanabara Vista da Ilha das Cobras," Rio de Janeiro by  Felix-Emile Taunay.
  • "Baia de Guanabara Vista da Ilha das Cobras," Rio de Janeiro by Felix-Emile Taunay.


"Montmorency Falls," a Canadian scene by Cornelius Krieghoff.
  • "Montmorency Falls," a Canadian scene by Cornelius Krieghoff.
Paul Kane's "The Cackabakah Falls," another Canadian image.
  • Paul Kane's "The Cackabakah Falls," another Canadian image.


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