The Rockies and the Alps
The Newark Museum showcases the rugged art of Alpine painting
With his renderings of the Alps, Swiss painter Alexandre Calame influenced an entire generation of artists. In the 19th century, Calame’s paintings were prominently exhibited in Paris and his prints made their way across the globe, eventually becoming a sort of template for artists to study. His scientific attention to detail— whether it be his analysis of rock formation or the flow patterns of a river bed—serve as building blocks dropped into larger landscape painters. This approach to mountain-scapes was emulated not just by the European artists who studied with Calame, but the American artists who crossed paths with him.
Drawing from its extensive collection of 19th-century landscape art, the Newark Museum highlights the connections between American and European alpine paintings in
The Rockies and the Alps: Bierstadt, Calame, and the Romance of the Mountains. Featuring more than 70 paintings from 40 artists, the exhibition traces the progression of mountain paintings from the influences of Calame and works of early artists, such as J. M.w.turner and John Ruskin, to the 20th-century camping scenes in the Canadian Rockies of John Singer Sargent.
The exhibition opens with two large works, one a view of Mount Torrent by Calame and the other Albert Bierstadt’s view of Yellowstone Western Landscape. Bierstadt traveled to the Alps in 1853, and the excursion had an indelible influence on his paintings when he traveled to the American Rockies for the first time
in 1859.The trip was one of rugged adventure, and he wrote,“this living out of doors, night and day, I find of great benefit…i do not know what some of your Eastern folks would say, who call night air injurious, if they could see us wake up in the morning with dew on our faces!” This spirit of exploration was felt by other mountain painters of the American West.“artists were traveling into uncharted territory, coming back with not just paintings but also specimens of rocks and flora as well as photographs of these hard to access spaces,” explains exhibition co-curator Tricia Laughlin Bloom.
The museum has taken an interdisciplinary approach when selecting its views of the West, acknowledging the Native people who had lived in the region long before Bierstadt and his fellows arrived on the scene. In a large print
titled Ball Players, George Catlin depicts Native men playing a game that is a precursor to modern lacrosse. “As an artist, he was very careful in his depictions of the indigenous people he encountered when he went West,” Bloom says of Catlin.
While the soaring paintings of Bierstadt, Calame and others leave an impression, the exhibition also draws a closer focus on mountain paintings as entertainment.a collection of postcards, stereoscope cards and early photography will show how regular people were first encountering the mountains of the American West. In a section of the exhibition titled “Technologies of the Picturesque,” views of the Rockies will be shown in a simulated magic lantern show for an immersive viewing experience.
The Rockies and the Alps will remain on view at the Newark Museum through August 19.
Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), Western Landscape, 1869. Oil on canvas, 36 x 54 in. Collection of the Newark Museum. Purchase 1961, The Members’ Fund 61.516.
Alexandre Calame (1810-1864), Mountain Torrent Before a Storm (The Aare Rier, Haslitel), 1850. Oil on canvas, 385/8 x 54¼ in. Asbjørn Lunde Collection. Opposite page: Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), Cho-looke, the Yosemite Fall, 1864. Oil on canvas, 34¼...
John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872), Mer de Glace, View of Platz, ca. 1845. Watercolor and gouache over charcoal on paper, 9¼ x 105/8 in. Collection of the Newark Museum, Gift of Paul Magriel 1966, 66.34.
Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910), The Wetterhorn, 1858. Oil on canvas, 39½ x 54 in. Collection of the Newark Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Katzenbach, 1965, 65.143.