The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem MA is so constantly churning out exciting and curiously curated exhibitions that one might not expect to be so completely enamored with a show about landscapes. Particularly when there are halls full of Man Ray and Lee Miller, or theological musings in Of Gods and Mortals.
But you would be wrong.
Painting the American Vision, on view July 30-November 6th, is a collection that is so transfixing, so full of American spirit that you may as well be playing Bruce Springsteen in the halls and wear your best American Flag apparel while walking through the galleries. This exhibition, brilliantly curated by Sam Scott, and featuring some of the most important works by Hudson River School painters at the first part of the 19th century, is an intimate look at how landscape painting and storytelling through nature went from European convention to the rebel yell of American abandon.
Like opening your favorite book and eagerly following the plot, Scott has arranged the collection in a way that wonderfully demonstrates how the masters of the era went from painting with euro-guidelines, moral allegory, dramatic staging and vignetting, to a more wild, free flowing and sometimes even wonderfully understated visions of the American landscape. As Scott put it “you are seeing the artists compelled to do something new – there is what they were trained to do, and what they ended up doing”.
So, it’s kind of like going from directing action movies with Sylvester Stallone to deciding you want to change things up a bit and do silent nature documentaries – and pulling it off.
CHECK OUT MY FULL REVIEW AT DIGBOSTON.COM
Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square, Salem. 978-745-9500. pem.org
Painting the American Vision [$15 adults, $11 students]
7.30-11.6 [Tuesday-Sunday 10-5pm, Open Monday Holidays]