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“What Are Men to Rocks and Mountains?”

By Camryn King, 2023 curatorial intern

“What Are Men to Rocks and Mountains?”

Board Room Exhibition

 

Questions to Consider:

How do the various artists translate imagery of the mountain or rock formations onto the canvas differently?

What other elements do the artists utilize in these paintings that help build a greater scene around the mountains and rock formations?

Mountains are enormous subjects to capture on a singular canvas or panel. How do the artists crop and position the mountains on the canvas for a dynamic composition?

Some of the paintings use rock formations and mountains as background elements of the painting rather than as the subject. What effect does this have on the painting?

Why do you think some artists work very small, while others work on a larger scale when all handling the same subject matter?

Simultaneously comforting and breathtaking, but also awe-striking, images of mountains and rough terrain have inspired artists all over the world to pick up a brush. This selection of landscape paintings from the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art’s Permanent Collection appreciates representations of mountains and rock formations, relishing in their glorious serenity and impressive magnitude. Pieces in this selection embrace the stoicism of mountainous imagery, ultimately working to create a character out of the ancient rock formations, for “what are men to rocks and mountains?” These words by the famous literary heroine Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice capture two sentiments: the feeling that mountains, in their grandeur, are a more inspiring subject than people, and the idea that ancient mountains have little interest in relatively tiny, young humans.  Some of the paintings on display here represent the grand presence mountains bring to an environment, while others more intimately explore how to bring the mountain onto the canvas. Featured artists like N.C. Wyeth and Frederick Judd Waugh were inspired by the play of the ocean’s waves on rock formations; they painted the waters in vibrant blues and whites to complement the earthy brown tones of the rocks. Other artists in this exhibition also engaged with the use of lighting, shadows, and highlights.  For example, Old Man of the Mountain by John Frederick Kensett captures a honey-glow sky and gloomy shadows, while Showers at Jackson, N.H. by Huntington depicts a calm, overcast day with the sun barely peeking through the clouds.

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