Cycles of Nature: Highlights from the Collections of the Hudson River Museum and Art Bridges
February 11, 2022–February 12, 2023
The cyclical essence of nature and the universe exists on both grand and small scales: day becomes night; seasons pass and return; plants grow, die, and bloom again; and tides ebb and flow. This exhibition presents sixteen landscape paintings, still lifes, and photographs to invite us to take a closer look at how artists embrace nature’s cycles, explicitly or implicitly, in their work. The art on view, including superb recent acquisitions to the HRM’s collection, alongside exciting loans from Art Bridges, embodies these themes of growth, change, and resilience.
In Lee Krasner’sRe-Echo, 1957, one of two newly arrived loans from Art Bridges, swirling forms and bold strokes in shades of pink, brown, gold, and touches of green suggest flesh, foliage, growth, and decay. Re-Echo is part of Krasner’s 17-painting Earth Green series, which reflects the artistic transformation Krasner experienced after the sudden death of her husband, artist Jackson Pollock, in 1956. During a time of grief, she created an expression of energetic vitality and regeneration in organic forms. Re-Echo is one of the earliest paintings in the series, thought by many to be her most accomplished body of work.
Krasner’s powerful abstract work provides a new framework for looking at artworks featuring nature in the Museum’s collection. Surprising pairings—such as an Asher B. Durand Hudson River School landscape with a Berenice Abbott photograph of lumberjacks felling a tree—focus conversations around preservation. We see more clearly the tensions between the concern over the loss of the American “wilderness” and the mythology of frontiersmen and approaches to responsible forestry.
George Bellows’s powerful Evening Swell, 1911, also on loan from Art Bridges, gives us a sense of the day-to-day, season-by-season struggles of people who make their living from the sea. The artist painted the scene on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine, where he often summered. The dark, expressive composition of fishermen in a small boat tossed by waves and silhouetted against a fathomless depth becomes a metaphor for the mysteries of eternity. Richard Mayhew’s 2019 painting Desire, on loan from ACA Galleries, and Jeremy Dennis’s 2016 photograph The Duke Site—two artists with Shinnecock Indian Nation heritage—both bring to mind that the Bellows’s figures represent a colonizing heritage that disrupted generations of indigenous life along the eastern seaboard.
The exhibition features two new acquisitions by Fitz Henry Lane and Severin Roesen, as well as works from HRM’s collection by James Renwick Brevoort, Joséphine Douet, Camille Eskell, Erika Harrsch, Barbara Morgan, Hiram Powers, and Librado Romero, as well as an engraving by James Smillie after Thomas Cole. Together, these artists compel us to better understand the ecosystems in which we operate, embrace change, and consider opportunities for renewal and reinvigoration.