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Exhibition examines the complex power of landscape through masterpieces from museum in Wales
Thomas Gainsborough, Rocky Wooded Landscape with Rustic Lovers, Herdsman, and Cows, 1771–74. Oil on canvas. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Amgueddfa Cymru–National Museum Wales, 2001. Courtesy American Federation of Arts.
PRINCETON, NJ.- For centuries, artists have been fascinated by Britain’s changing landscape and the changing dialogue surrounding nature and culture, country and city, rolling hills and urban industry. Pastures Green and Dark Satanic Mills: The British Passion for Landscape follows the rise of British landscape painting, from the Industrial Revolution through 19thcentury Romanticism and Impressionism, to 20th-century modernism and contemporary art.

The exhibition presents more than 60 masterpieces drawn from the remarkable collection of the National Museum Wales and offers powerful insights into the enduring role of landscape during this time of rapid change. Focusing on the period from 1770 to the present, the exhibition includes works by Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, J. M. W. Turner, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Oskar Kokoschka, David Nash, and Stanley Spencer.

Pastures Green and Dark Satanic Mills is on view at the Princeton University Art Museum from Jan. 23 through Apr. 24, 2016. The exhibition was co-curated by Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art at Yale University, and Oliver Fairclough, Keeper of Art at the National Museum Wales, and was organized in collaboration with Amgueddfa Cymru– National Museum Wales.

“Bringing together painting, watercolor and photography, Pastures Green and Dark Satanic Mills invites us to consider why the landscape as subject has been so central to British artmaking and indeed to British national identity,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director. “This compelling exhibition reveals the many ways in which artists developed new vocabularies to understand and respond to the world around them throughout the modern period.”

The British passion for landscape—already present in the literary works of Milton, Shakespeare, and Chaucer—began to dominate the visual arts at the time of the Industrial Revolution. In his preface to Milton (ca. 1804–10), the poet William Blake wrote of both “England’s green and pleasant land” and the “dark satanic mills” of its new industrial cities. As Britain became the world’s first industrial nation in the late 18th century, cities—where the nation’s new wealth was generated and its population increasingly concentrated—mills and factories started to challenge country estates and rolling hills as the defining images of the nation. Artists tracked, recorded and resisted these changes, inaugurating a new era of British landscape painting which both celebrated the land’s natural beauty and a certain idea of Britain—one tied to the land itself—while also observing the feverish new energies of the modern world.

Loosely chronological, the exhibition begins with “Classical Visions and Picturesque Prospects,” looking back to the 17th-century origins of landscape painting through iconic works by Claude Lorrain and Salvator Rosa, canvases by the early British landscapists Thomas Gainsborough and Joseph Wright of Derby and the rise of watercolor as an increasingly valued artistic medium. “Turner and the Sublime” features major oil paintings—including The Storm (1840–45) and The Morning after the Wreck (ca. 1840)—and watercolors by the revered British artist who did so much to invent fundamentally new modes of painting. “Truth to Nature” focuses on artists’ direct and objective depictions of the natural world through works by John Constable and Stanley Spencer, among others. “Picturing Modernity” looks at the subsequent urban industrial transformation of Britain through representations by artists such as Lionel Walden and Oskar Kokoschka. Claude Monet’s visionary reflections of the Thames—The Pool of London (1871) and Charing Cross Bridge (1902)—during his seminal period in London are spotlighted in “Monet and Impressions of Britain.” Finally “Neo-Romantic to Post-Modern” considers the reemergence of traditional landscape subjects, inflected by modernism, the environmental movement, and growing concern for the dark side of human impact on the natural world.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by the curators and individual entries on each work of art as well as by extensive public programming, including a film series examining the power of landscape on film offered in partnership with the Princeton Garden Theatre.

Pastures Green and Dark Satanic Mills: The British Passion for Landscape is organized by the American Federation of Arts and Amgueddfa Cymru–National Museum Wales. The exhibition tour and catalogue are generously supported by the JFM Foundation, Mrs. Donald M. Cox, and the Marc Fitch Fund. In-kind support is provided by Barbara and Richard S. Lane and Christie’s. The exhibition at Princeton has been made possible by support from the Frances E. and Elias Wolf, Class of 1920, Fund; the National Endowment for the Arts; Christopher E. Olofson, Class of 1992; and Susan and John Diekman, Class of 1965. Additional support has been made possible by the Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Exhibitions Fund; the Judith and Anthony B. Evnin, Class of 1962, Exhibitions Fund; the Rita Allen Foundation; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts; Katherine P. Holden, M.D., Class of 1973, and Joshua S. Jaffe, M.D.; and the Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum.

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