This work, on view in Seeing Nature, reflects the exhibition’s theme of Venetian scenes. Turner showed this painting at the Royal Academy the year after his final trip to Venice. He invented the scene to pay homage to a beloved place and a favorite Venetian painter, Giovanni Bellini (c. 1431–1516). Turner imagines a great aquatic procession accompanying the delivery of paintings to the church of Il Redentore. The church’s three works then attributed to Bellini were never famous, so the subject was a pretext for celebrating Venetian culture. The luminous buildings seem to float in the city’s distinctive union of water and sky, which had beguiled the artist for decades.
An inventor of convincingly illusionistic landscapes, Yves Tanguy had no artistic training. His first exhibition included this painting, A Large Picture That Represents a Landscape, and set forth all the surreal elements he would continue to examine in his lifetime.
This scene shows a windswept beach where rippled sands dotted with dune grass stretch toward breaking waves. At left looms a gray monolith, evocative of menhirs—huge, upright stones of ancient origin and uncertain use. Clustered on and around it are faceless, quasi-humanoid figures. Fishy shapes swim among the slender poles, plunging the viewer into an imagined submarine realm.
Marketing Intern Olivia Bensimon spent some time with Milton Avery’s Dancing Trees (1960), on view in Seeing Nature, recording her thoughts and reactions in a freewriting exercise:
Blue triangles of different size superposed on a turquoise and blue-grey background. Cones with legs and spots. Milton Avery’s abstract painting evokes something more like a dream than a landscape. The swaying of these cones is discernible; the circular brushstrokes of the cones in the foreground in comparison to the straight strokes of the background show movement. Candy corn from the Halloween trick or treats of my childhood comes to mind. The kernels float around and echo the movement of the wind. Shrubs begin to appear, branches and leaves sprout out from what once was a two dimensional triangle. The wind picks up as the cones are completely covered in a homogeneous surface of leaves. The wind whistles through the leaves; the cones still swaying with the wind, now swaying with the whistling. Finally, trees appear instead of cones, dancing against the wind on a flat landscape of turquoise grass.
The landscapes on view in Seeing Nature can inspire any number of different emotions and reactions. Does one of the works from the exhibition stand out to you? Take a stab at your own freewriting exercise in response! Let your pen take the lead and send us the result at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to win a Phillips gift bag. We’ll feature our favorite submissions here on the blog.
Olivia Bensimon, Marketing & Communications Intern