On Saturday, November 7th, Picturing the Americas opened at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. This exciting new exhibition of landscape painting is expansive in scope, covering North, South, and Central America from the early nineteenth-century to the early twentieth-century.
The ambitious geographical and temporal focus is well-warranted, allowing for a comparative view of how landscape painters across national boundaries imagined untamed lands and incited others to explore (and colonize) remote regions. Just like the costumbrista novels of the late-nineteenth centuries or the doctrine of “manifest destiny,” these landscape paintings were cultural supports for nationalism and expansion. But these paintings also represent the amazement and sublime awe that untrammeled lands have inspired for humankind for millennia.
If you can’t make it down to the Crystal Bridges Museum, the entire exhibition is online, in an impressively-user-friendly format – you can search by themes, timeline, maps, and artist. The exhibition is the product of transnational cooperation, led, in part, by Chicago’s own Terra Foundation.