The featured exhibition on the schedule at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA through September 20, 2011 is called Romantic Nature: British and French Landscapes, featuring works by John Constable, J. M. W. Turner, and Thomas Gainsborough.
In 1802, John Constable wrote that he championed what he called “a natural painture,” an approach to landscape painting that rejected many principles of traditional art instruction and relied instead upon the artist’s intuitive response to the observable world. By 1824, the year that Constable’s paintings were featured at the Paris Salon, younger generations of artists in Britain and France were equally entrenched in the belief that “pure” landscape paintings held the same emotive power once believed to be the exclusive domain of historical or religious art. French artists such as Théodore Rousseau, Jules Dupré, and Constant Troyon looked to the achievements of Constable and other leading British artists as transformative alternatives to the classical conventions that had long defined
Such ideas about the interplay between art, nature, and subjectivity predominated among European writers, artists, and composers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This phenomenon, known as Romanticism, was not necessarily a cohesive movement, but was generally marked by creative explorations of emotion, irrational thought, and personal experience. The works on view in this gallery explore the Romantic sensibilities shared by British and French artists in the early nineteenth century, particularly their imaginative approach to representing nature.