November 10, 2008

Painting the Polar landscape: Majesty and awe

In the Boston Globe Sebastian Smee reports that "To the Ends of the Earth, Painting the Polar Landscape" at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem "shows us what happened when 19th- and early 20th-century painters finally decided they were ready to see - and get excited about - the polar regions. Assembled and researched by Samuel Scott, 'To the Ends of the Earth' is a marvelous show. You could be forgiven for feeling that it presents rather too much of the same thing: Sea, sky, and ice, after all, can make for a monotonous stage set. What's more, although the artists here were among the most intrepid of their time, they were not all of the highest caliber. It doesn't matter. Among the smattering of banal and mediocre things on display are some of the most mysterious and haunting images ever painted. The trick is to sniff them out....Some saw the polar regions as a stage set for heroic drama. Others were driven by a quasi-scientific impulse to bear witness to parts of the world previously unseen and unexplored. A third response was more spiritual, tapping the power of the poles to evoke majesty and awe." Read more.

"To the Ends of the Earth, Painting the Polar Landscape," organized by Samuel Scott. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. Through March 1.

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