Spanning the summer months, two exhibitions at the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery explore ideas of utopian landscapes and the long-lasting power of objects. From a second century Roman bronze lamp to an 1865 oil painting of a homestead in Wyoming, both exhibitions examine the various ways in which people have assigned meaning and ideologies to images and objects throughout history.
The wide-ranging works on display move seamlessly through the ancient and modern worlds, encouraging viewers to draw connections and through-lines from themselves to their ancestors.
Curated by Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery Director Joseph S. Mella, "Pastorals, Landscapes and the Arcadian Vision" features over 50 paintings and works on paper that demonstrate how notions of nature as a tranquil, idyllic landscape evolved from the 17th to 20th centuries.
The "Arcadian Vision" part of the title refers to the mythologized Arcadia, a mountainous region in the Peloponnesian peninsula, that emerged in the first century BCE when the Roman poet Virgil wrote the "Eclogues and Georgics." These poems re-create Arcadia as a place of country life in its purest form, removed from the civilized city.
"Pastorals have often been created as a fiction for an educated, urban audience," said Mella. "Whether manifesting in poetry or in the visual arts, this genre helps the consumer envision a peaceful and harmonic world in contrast to an urban one of bustle and conflict."
Among the many generations of painters represented in the show, a close connection between poetry and the visual arts links them together. A selection of poetry excerpts is included throughout the exhibition to reinforce this relationship.
Claudine Bouzonnet Stella (French, 1636-1697), "The Dance," from a series of 17 works entitled "Pastorales" after Jacques Stella (1596-1657), 1667. Etching and engraving. 9-1/2" x 12-1/8" (Photo: The Anna C. Hoyt Collection, Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Galler y)
Italian masters Titian and Georgione popularized the pastoral landscape during the Italian Renaissance in the 16th century. Vanderbilt's exhibition picks up in the 17th century with Dutch Italianate painters and printmakers Jan Both and Nicolaes Berchem and the intimate etchings of Dutch genre artist Adriaen van Ostade. It then traces the steady popularity of landscapes in France through the work of Claudine Stella, Philippe Caresme and Théodore Rousseau. Work by English and American artists are also included.
The show follows the theme through the modern era. Two small 1950 woodcuts by French artist Aristide Maillol illustrate Virgil's "Georgics and Eclogues," while Thomas Nason's "Connecticut Pastoral" from 1936 illustrates a quintessentially American vision of Arcadia.
Juan Alonzo Villabrille y Ron (Spanish, 1663-1728), "Head of St. John the Baptist on a Platter," ca. early 17th century. Wood with traces of polychrome. (Photo: Vanderbilt Art Association Acquisition Fund Purchase)
The student-curated exhibition, "Out of the Vault: Stories of People and Things," explores the journeys of 12 works of art across space and time and the meanings people have assigned to them throughout their histories. These pieces, ranging in origin from ancient Mesoamerica to contemporary Nashville, are all from the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery collection.
Included in the exhibition are preColumbian gold pendants, carved wood sculpture from Baroque Spain, carved wood objects from China, sculpture with Christian religious symbolism, everyday objects including a lamp, headrest and carved wooden cassone chest, bronze sculpture, a contemporary ceramic water-carrier and a compilation of sound art pieces.
"Out of the Vault" is the third student-curated exhibition in a partnership between the Department of History of Art and the Fine Arts Gallery. The curators are Haley Bowse, Lilia Briskin, Joe Eilbert, Sophia Jorasch, Gabrielle Levitt, Lauren Linquest, Edward McElwreath, Sarah Robinson, Vivian Saxon, Rebekah Smith, Clancy Taylor and Daniel Weitz.
The students reflect on the objects and their histories in essays for the exhibition's excellent online catalog, which is available on an interactive interface in the gallery and also online at http://scalar.usc.edu/works/exhibiting-historical-art/index.
Thomas Shannon (American, b. 1947), "Smashing Beauty," photolithograph from "Revolutions Per Minute (The Art Record)," 1982. (Photo: Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery Collection)
If you go
What: "Pastorals, Landscapes, and the Arcadian Vision" and "Out of the Vault" at Vanderbilt University Fine Art Gallery
When: Exhibitions on view through Sept. 9
Where: 1220 21st Ave. S. The gallery is located on the second floor of Cohen Memorial Hall, Peabody Campus.
Hours: Through Aug. 23: noon-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 1-5 p.m. Saturday. Aug. 24-Sept. 9: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; 1-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
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