KANSAS CITY.- The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art presents Looking at Historic Lands: Urban and Rural, on view through April 1, 2007. This group of French and English 18th-century prints and drawings was created during a period of on-going fascination with exotic lands and cultures and a passion for travel. At this time, Britain was the wealthiest nation in the world, and a significant number of both English and French citizens had the time, money and inclination to wander the continent. The wealthiest purchased topographical paintings, but others chose drawings, or the least expensive option, prints, to commemorate their experiences.
Artists such as Pond and Gainsborough included piping shepherds in idyllic settings with Roman ruins. They responded to a growing trend toward a romanticized view of nature and rural or village life. Even in the more urban views of Robert and Boissieu, nature imposes itself on the works of man, eroding the structure of a bridge and promising the same, inevitable fate to buildings that wait silently like spectators in a theatre.