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Westmoreland Museum of American Art Presents American Landscapes Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art presents American Landscapes: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum, on view through Sunday April 24, 2011.

American art abounds in landscape images that frame the way we look at nature and serve as visual points of reference for our memory. We may be drawn to these works for their descriptive evocations of the natural world or for their power to remind us of places we have known, but seldom do we reflect on the force of this attraction. Perhaps it is a longing for ‘putting down roots’ in a society where ‘transplanting’ has become the norm. These terms, borrowed from the lexicon of gardening, may serve to remind us that we are creatures of nature, too, and that our human condition is inextricably bound up with that of the natural world around us. This exhibition, a selection of forty-one nineteenth and twentieth-century American landscape paintings drawn from the permanent collection of the Parrish Art Museum, invites viewers to consider how these images of place can trigger our memory, stir our feelings and kindle a yearning for the reassuring familiarity of the past.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, artists of the Hudson River School were among the first to record the ‘New Eden’ that was the North American continent. In scaling the heights and framing the long distance into the wilderness, American artists were inventing a new vision of history. By the middle of the century, the border on the wilderness had been pushed further and further west and the rise of industrialization had begun to transform the topography of the eastern United States. Artists in the post-Civil War period, many of whom traveled to Europe to study, reflected such changes in their choice of landscape subject matter and increased awareness of European painting techniques, both the naturalism of the French Barbizon painters and the optical effects of the French Impressionists. The dramatic effects and carefully composed structure of the majestic landscape gave way to the meticulous naturalism of a more intimate view of nature, often associated with the evocation of specific place, with light and color used to astonishing success.

In the twentieth century, Long Island’s East End has continued to attract artists drawn by the beauty of its land and shore. Idyllic views may mask the menace of over development, reminding us that memory has the power to function selectively in preserving only what we want to remember. In the end it is perhaps these images that we carry with us that most inform the way we look at landscape paintings.

American Landscapes: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum was organized by the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York.

Funding for the American Landscapes: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum exhibition is provided by: The Heinz Endowments, Henry L. Hillman Foundation, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Millstein Charitable Foundation.

Image: William Stanley Haseltine (American, 1835–1900) Anacapri, 1892, oil on canvas, 22¾ x 36 3/8 inches, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY, Littlejohn Collection

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art was established in 1949 at the bequest of Mary Marchand Woods, a long time resident of Greensburg interested in the arts. This visionary founder bequeathed her entire estate in order for the Museum facility to be built in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 35 miles east of Pittsburgh. In 1959, the Museum opened its doors to the public, and its focus became the collection and exhibition of American and southwestern Pennsylvania art.

Westmoreland Museum of American Art
221 North Main Street
Greensburg, PA 15601
724/837-1500 phone
724/837-2921 fax

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