Yves Tanguy’s Illusionistic Landscapes

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Yves Tanguy, A Large Picture That Represents a Landscape, 1927. Oil on canvas, 45 7/8 x 35 3/4 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

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.

Nearby more realistic depictions of landscapes in Seeing Nature, this work makes for interesting conversation. Look closely at Tanguy’s painting—what jumps out at you first?

Canaletto’s Venice

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Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto, The Grand Canal, Venice, Looking South-East from San Stae to the Fabbriche Nuove di Rialto, c. 1738. Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 30 5/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Venice, one of collector Paul Allen’s favorite cities, is represented in Seeing Nature with scenes of the grand canal, gondolas, and the signature bridges of the Italian city. Among these sumptuous scenes is Canaletto’s The Grand Canal, Venice, Looking South-East from San Stae to the Fabbriche Nuove di Rialto (c. 1738). Canaletto mostly made views of famous sites in Venice for tourists, but lesser-known areas often inspired his finest evocations of the unique poetic qualities of his native city. This handsome stretch of the Grand Canal is lined with the stately palaces of great Venetian families and the lovely church of San Stae, designed by Domenico Rossi. The artist exploited the long, straight vista and raking light to create visual drama. His mastery of subtle Venice-specific effects is revealed in the differentiation of still and ruffled water and in the sun-drenched building facades bleeding into their reflections in the canal.

Landscape Parallels: Gornik’s Lake Light and Irish Skies

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April Gornik, Lake Light, 2008. Oil on linen, 72 1/4 x 108 1/4 x 1 5/8 in. Both Paul G. Allen Family Collection.

Phillips fan Candace Carota Pollack saw April Gornik’s Lake Light (2008), on view in Seeing Nature, in a photo the Phillips shared on Facebook and noticed a striking similarity to some pictures she took during a trip to Ireland. Candace’s photos are below; I can’t help but agree that the ominous clouds and blue-green color palette of Pollack’s photos are echoed in Gornik’s painting.

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Panorama of a stormy sky in Ireland. Photo: Candace Carota Pollack

Candace Carota Pollack_Ireland sky

“Then it got too close and we just got in the car in time to not get soaked,” says Candace of this photo.