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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Presents Landscapes East/Landscapes West: Representing Nature from Mount Fuji to Canyon de Chelly

Artists have long been inspired to capture the beauty of nature in two-dimensional images, and Landscapes East/Landscapes West: Representing Nature from Mount Fugi to Canyon de Chelly explores the creative ways artists have responded to this universal theme. A collaboration among six curatorial departments at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the exhibition juxtaposes landscape paintings, drawings, prints and photographs by Chinese, Japanese, European and American artists from the 15th century to the present. Landscapes East/ Landscapes West opens Aug. 27 and runs through Feb. 26, 2012.

Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese Shower under the Summit, 1831, series: 36 Views of Fuji

“It’s important to remember that in the light of our pressing concerns about the environment, landscape, and how humans interact with it is hugely relevant to us today,” said Colin Mackenzie, Senior curator, Early Chinese Art. “It is not just about the past, it is about the present and the future.”

From early times in China, spiritual communion with the natural world inspired artists to master the techniques of landscape painting, termed in Chinese shanshui, “mountain and water.” By the end of the 10th century, landscape had become the backbone of Chinese painting, a role it continues to play today. Interest in landscape arose later in the West, where it was first used as a background for figures, often in Biblical settings. In 17th century Europe, however, landscape painting emerged as a distinct genre, and by the 1800s, it came to rival figure painting in importance. During the middle of the 19th century photography, especially in America, embraced landscape as a central theme. Today, as environmental concerns become ever more pressing, nature has been reaffirmed as a universally relevant and enduring source of artistic inspiration.

“We hope that visitors to the exhibition will sense the palpable spirituality that imbues many of these sublime images,” said MacKenzie. “The vastness of nature and the insignificance of the figures so vividly depicted here remind us of a grander, universal scheme of creation of which humankind is merely one part.”

The exhibition includes representative works by revered artists of the past such as Shen Zhou, Claude Gellee, and Katushika Hokusai, as well as more recent ones such as Thomas Hart Benton, Ansel Easton Adams and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

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