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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 12:08 GMT
Rare landscape art on show
An exhibition of huge canvases depicting the natural wonders of the United States opens at Tate Britain on Thursday.

American Sublime is a rare show of epic landscapes painted in the 19th Century and almost never seen outside the US.

The painters include Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church of the Hudson River School as well as Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, who specialised in large canvases of the American West.

Queen Victoria was known to be an admirer of US landscape painters, who built on the work of English and European painters such as JMW Turner.

Many strived to express the 18th Century aesthetic concept of the sublime - defined by the philosopher Edmund Burke as an effect productive of the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling.

The ambition and scope of the style is exemplified in the work of Thomas Cole, who pursued what he called "a higher style of landscape".


Thomas Cole responded to his own despair at the rapid transformation of the scenery caused by industrialisation with the apocalyptic series of paintings The Course Of Empire, which charted the rise and fall of an imaginary nation.

In the exhibition there are depictions of many celebrated North American sights - from the Hudson River Valley and the Niagara Falls in the east, to the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon and the Yellowstone and Yosemite valleys in the west.

And the central importance of religion in American culture is reflected in Frederic Edwin Church's vision of US nature as a manifestation of the divine, exemplified in his Twilight in the Wilderness.

More intimate aspects of the American landscape are shown in the smaller canvases of the Hudson by John Frederick Kensett, and the visions of New England coasts and meadows by Martin Johnson Heade.

The curation of the exhibition is the product of a collaboration between the Tate's Senior Research Fellow Andrew Wilton, and Yale University's Assistant Professor in History of Art, Dr Tim Barringer.

See also:

01 Nov 01 | Arts
Tate Britain goes public
30 Oct 01 | Arts
Tate galleries' success story
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