Perfect Purple Mountains

Cole_Ruins in the Campagna di Roma

Thomas Cole, Ruins in the Campagna di Roma, Morning, 1842. Oil on panel, 14 1/2 x 24 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

In the Seeing Nature exhibition, the Phillips invites visitors to contribute new, imagined conservation discoveries at the interpretive station “Seeing Beyond the Frame.” For the month of February, visitors responded to Thomas Cole’s pastoral landscape Ruins in the Campagna di Roma, Morning (1842).

In addition to some of the creative conservation discoveries our visitors imagined, our visitors have been sharing other kinds of wonderfully visual and lyrical responses. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! See more or share your own ideas with #SeeingNature.

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Visitors share their lyrical responses to the “Seeing Beyond the Frame” in-gallery interactive.

The Five Senses: Hearing

One gallery in Seeing Nature is dedicated to Jan Brueghel the Younger’s The Five Senses series. Painted in 1625, this series is a close copy of five paintings by Brueghel’s father, Jan Brueghel the Elder (who painted the backgrounds) and Peter Paul Rubens (who painted the figures) in 1617–18, now in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Each painting focuses on one of the five senses, providing a platform for visitors to consider their own encounters with nature. Today we focus on Hearing.


Jan Brueghel the Younger, The Five Senses: Hearing, c. 1625. Oil on panel, 27 5/8 x 44 5/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

In Hearing (as well as in Sight) dedicated to the senses associated with lofty intellectual pursuits, Jan Brueghel the Younger elevates the settings to reveal pleasing vistas with archducal residences. Each vista yields a view of a royal home, adding political and dynastic associations to these complex but harmonious renderings of earthly experience and accomplishment. Here, Venus sings and plays the lute, surrounded by natural and man-made noisemakers, including exotic parrots, hunting horns, and musical instruments.

Canvas, Paint Brush, and Opera Glasses

Klimt_Birch Forest

Gustav Klimt, Birch Forest, 1903. Oil on canvas, 42 1/4 x 42 1/4 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

On view in Seeing Nature, Birch Forest is one of many scenes Gustav Klimt painted at the Attersee, a lake near Salzburg where he often spent his summers beginning in 1900.

Klimt frequently used a telescope or opera glasses when composing his landscapes; these devices allowed him to see in great detail while at the same time collapsing the middle distance. The flatness of the resulting close-up perspective gives the surface of the canvas the appearance of a densely knotted tapestry. As in many of the artist’s other landscapes, a hushed reverence pervades the painting, infusing the simple forest with a sense of the sacred.