Opened on 24 September at the Museo Thyssen‐Bornemisza
is the 7th edition in the exhibition series, in this case focusing on the depiction of landscape from two different historical periods and places. Entitled The Rhythm of the Earth. 17th‐century Dutch and 19th‐century American Landscapes, the exhibition brings together a selection of ten works representing Dutch Golden Age and American 19th‐century painting, both areas particularly well represented in the Museums permanent collections. Once again, the exhibition is located in the viewing balcony on the First Floor, with direct access from the Main Hall and free entry.
This new installation reveals the influence of Dutch landscape on American landscape painting. This influence was noted in 1980 by the art historian Barbara Novak in one of her best known books, on American landscape painting from 1825 to 1875, a period when works by the great Dutch landscape painters could be seen in the USA. Both schools, with their different styles and artistic idioms, chose landscape as the fundamental genre for their works, the Dutch painters transforming it into an independent genre and the Americans into a vehicle for the expression of profound sentiments.
The exhibition is organised into four sections: Boundless Land; Rural Nature; On the Road; and Wooded Glades. It reveals analogies and differences in the interpretation of landscape offered by the Dutch artists Philips Koninck, Jan Josephsz. van Goyen, Jan Jansz. van der Heyden, Aert van der Neer and Meindert Hobbema and by the Americans William Louis Sonntag, George Henry Durrie, Albert Bierstadt, Asher B. Durand and John Frederick Kensett.
Two large canvases open this display, depicting panoramic views with distant horizons, a landscape format that interested numerous artists: Panoramic View with a City in the Background (1655) by Philips Koninck and Fishermen in the Adirondacks (ca.1860‐1870) by William Louis Sonntag.
Separated by two centuries, both paintings use a raised viewpoint and include elements that introduce the human presence: figures of peasants, houses and a glimpse of a city in Konincks landscape and fishermen and a hut in the Adirondacks, as depicted by Sonntag. In both cases the way the artists blurred the most distant planes achieves the effect of seemingly infinite views, blending the earth and sky in the distance and using mist as a pictorial device.
Works by Jan van Goyen and George Henry Durrie depict rural life, albeit from different viewpoints. The grey clouds, the force of the wind and the tumbledown house in Van Goyens painting conveys a harshness that contrasts with the light, order and calm of Durries rural scene. Scarcity compared to abundance thus appear here in two interpretations of the rural world.
On the Road
Roads and paths were also sources of inspiration for Dutch and American artists. Jan Jansz. van der Heyden chose a winding path in his composition, while Albert Bierstadt focused on a broad avenue in the Bahamas for his work. The two artists coincide in the addition of various figures along these roads and in the use of light to emphasise them. Van der Heyden illuminates the crossroads and trees while Bierstadt allows the sun to filter through the treetops in order to emphasise an avenue that continues into the far distance, suggesting the roads that would become an authentically American theme in art many years later.
The last section in the exhibition looks at the natural variety to be found in woods and forests. The two American canvases, by Asher B. Durand and John Frederick Kensett, make use of a vertical format in which the artists primarily focused on tall trees in dense forests, allowing the motif to occupy the entire canvas from top to bottom.
In contrast, the works by the Dutch painters Aert van der Neer (left) and Meindert Hobbema are horizontal in format, creating more space between the trees and leaving room for a larger area of sky and clouds, which are thus as important as the vegetation in compositional terms. The element common to all four landscapes is the presence of water, which occupies a smaller area in the American paintings than in the Dutch ones, in which it visually fuses with the earth.