Dallas Museum of Art Reunites a Pair of Vernet Masterpieces After 200 Years

A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm and A Grand View of the Sea Shore On View at the Dallas Museum of Art through December 11, 2011

Two landscape paintings by eighteenth-century French master Claude-Joseph Vernet have been reunited for the first time in more than 200 years at the Dallas Museum of Art. Commissioned in 1774 at the height of Vernet’s career by famous English collector Lord Lansdowne, the two large-scale paintings depict the complementary scenes of unruly rustic landscape and tranquil seaport. The duo, A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm and A Grand View of the Sea Shore, hung together in the collector’s home, Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, London, until his death, when the paintings were sold to separate private collections in 1806.

On view through December 11, 2011, the Dallas presentation is the first opportunity, since the Museum acquired A Mountain Landscape several decades ago, to bring the two paintings together to be viewed as Vernet originally intended. The exhibition will be accompanied by a new monograph published by the Dallas Museum of Art examining Vernet’s landscape practice.

The Dallas Museum of Art is presenting the paintings in its second-floor European art galleries, where they can be viewed in dialogue with other eighteenth-century masterworks. The landscapes, which are unusually large for the genre, measuring five by eight feet each, reflect both the collector’s neoclassical taste as well as Vernet’s powerful use of light and atmosphere. A Grand View of the Sea Shore depicts elegant buildings set against a tranquil sea at sunset, while A Mountain Landscape portrays an ominous rocky terrain with villagers scrambling to weather an impending storm.

The presentation of the Vernet paintings is made possible by the generous loan of A Grand View of the Sea Shore by collector David H. Koch. The landscape paintings will remain on view at the Dallas Museum of Art through December 11, 2011.

“The temporary reunion of the pair not only presents a singular opportunity for our audiences to experience anew a beloved painting in our collection, but allows for a new scholarly consideration of Vernet’s oeuvre,” said Olivier Meslay, Interim Director of the DMA and its Senior Curator of European and American Art and The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art. “Vernet’s precision in and exploitation of pairings has been highly influential to European art, and we are delighted to be able to display these magnificent works together.”

“The Museum has sought to reunite these two landscape works since the realization, in January 2011, that A Grand View of the Sea Shore was not lost as presumed, and after such a lengthy separation the reunion is extraordinarily vivid, both historically and visually,” said Dr. Heather MacDonald, The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the DMA. “In bringing the pair back together, we are finally able to fully experience the contrasting natural effects and the complex dialogue of aesthetics and ideas created by the two scenes. Their full meaning is finally revealed.”

A monograph, the first English book-length publication on Vernet’s work in thirty years, will be published in conjunction with the reunification of the pair at the DMA. The fifty-page illustrated catalogue, Stormy Skies, Calm Waters: Vernet’s Lansdowne Landscapes, with an introduction by Olivier Meslay and scholarly essay by Heather MacDonald, provides a reappraisal of the Lansdowne commission and examines the meaning of the pairing and the role of pendant canvases within Vernet’s practice as a whole.

About Claude-Joseph Vernet:
By the late eighteenth century, Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714–1789) was among the most famous and influential artists in Europe and an elder statesman in the French Academy in Paris. Vernet first discovered his vocation as a marine painter while sailing from Marseille to Rome in 1734. He spent the first twenty years of his career in Rome, where he became known for his subtle and naturalistic landscapes and developed an international network of elite patrons. The most significant commission of his career came in 1753, when Louis XV asked him to execute a cycle of large topographic views of French ports, bringing him unprecedented attention and critical acclaim. In the last three decades of his career, Vernet continued to produce works for wealthy collectors across Europe, often responding to new ideas emerging from the Enlightenment culture of the 1760s and 1770s and refining themes established earlier in his career. His later work would prove highly influential to landscape painters of the early nineteenth century such as J. M. W. Turner.

About the Dallas Museum of Art:
Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 24,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Established in 1903, the Museum welcomes approximately 500,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings, and dramatic and dance presentations.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.