The Five Senses: Sight

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 Sight.


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

Jan Brueghel the Younger worked in a similar painting style to his father, and followed his father’s practice of depicting art galleries of both existing and imaginary collections. The painting Sight was most important—the foundation for art and science, making possible everything from sculpture and painting to celestial navigation, measurement, and mapping the globe.

Sight shows how art collections reflect both the wealth and the learning of their owners. It is a fitting allusion to the current owner of the painting, Mr. Allen, as well as the history of The Phillips Collection.

Monet’s Inverted Landscape

Monet_the water-lily pond

Claude Monet, Water Lily Pond, 1919. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 78 7/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Visitors have enjoyed the “wall of Monet” in Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Collection, on which three stunning works by the artist are displayed side by side. In 1883, Claude Monet moved to the village of Giverny, France, and set out to convert his home into a source of inspiration for his art. A passionate gardener, he transformed his property into an idealized landscape that expressed his interests in Eastern culture and ideals. Here, as in many of his later works, Monet gives equal attention to the trees, plants, sky, and water, creating an abstract amalgamation of tone and shadow. He also inverts the right-side-up orientation of the traditional landscape: the viewer looks down into the sky, which is reflected in water that acts as a mirror.

J. M. W. Turner’s Tribute to Giovanni Bellini

Turner_la chiesa redentore

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Depositing of John Bellini’s Three Pictures in La Chiesa Redentore, Venice, 1841. Oil on canvas, 29 x 45 1/2 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

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.