Through more than 100 works, including an in-depth presentation of the Seattle Art Museum’s painting Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast (1870) by Albert Bierstadt, Beauty and Bounty surveys great 19th and early 20th-century American landscape paintings and photographs, showing American artists’ responses as they encountered the North American continent’s ever-expanding vastness of natural beauty and nature’s bounty. The exhibition presents a rare opportunity to view great works of American art that have rarely—or never—been seen by the greater public.
Painters including Sanford Gifford, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran gave form to landscapes of once unimaginable character, as they crossed the continent on expeditions through the plains and the mountains of the Great West. Beauty and Bounty includes 45 of these majestic works—many of which are held in private collections and were previously unknown to the public. Also included in the exhibition are approximately 60 landscape photographs, including mammoth plate images by the pioneers of the western photography, including Carleton Watkins, Edward Muybridge, and Timothy O’Sullivan.
The paintings and photographs on view demonstrate that it was often these artist-explorers who were raising important questions about humankind’s place in the world and how best to respond to a continent that many at the time viewed as a divine blessing of beauty and bounty from nature.