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Landscapes: Real and Imagined Opens at The Nelson Atkins-Museum in Kansas City
Martin van Heemskerck, Flemish (1537-1612). Colosseum at Rome. Engraving, 8 3/8 x 10 1/4 inches. Gift of Milton McGreevy, F76-55/29.

KANSAS CITY.- Reality and Fantasy: Land, Town and Sea, an exhibition of 24 European works from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, is on view through Oct. 19 as part of a series of rotations of works on paper from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s extensive collection.

“Landscapes are often thought to be a record of what an artist actually saw, but in many cases are partly or wholly fantasy. Slavish observation of nature was thought to be less creative than the use of imagination, and artists were especially admired for showing how inventive they could be,” said Ian Kennedy, the Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Curator, European Painting and Sculpture at the Nelson-Atkins.

Prints of the Seven Wonders of the World, for example, by the Flemish artist Martin van Heemskerck, have wondrous detail and appear to be real, but were invented from the artist’s imagination. In most instances the buildings or objects represented, such as the Colossus of Rhodes, had not survived. Others, such as the Colosseum at Rome, also by Heemskerck, depict the Colosseum recognizable today.

“Canaletto’s View of Dolo on the Brenta is topographically accurate view of Venice. Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s Alpine Landscape is a work of imagination,” Kennedy said.

The desire for reality was also present and led the 17th century Dutch artist William van de Velde The Younger, for example, to enter naval battle scenes to depict them accurately and to row himself into harbors to draw ships.
There are more than 6,000 items in the Nelson-Atkins works on paper collection and by rotating works for public display much of the collection can be seen in a five-year period. Sensitive to light, the works of art also must not be shown for long periods of time.

“Visitors to the Museum should be encouraged to return often as we continue to rotate art from the collections for public viewing,” Kennedy said.
Other artists represented in Reality and Fantasy: Land, Town and Sea include: Claude Gellee (called Le Lorrain), Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Roeland Roghman, Augustin Hirschvogel, Joseph Mallord William Turner, Jean de Gourmont, Adam Perelle, Jean-Michel Moreua le Jeune, Remigio Cantagallina, Jan Josephsz. van Goyen, Thomas Rowlandson, Jacob van der Ulft, Gillis Claesz. D’Hondecoeter, and Hans Lautensack.

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