Interpreting the Landscape: Realism and Abstraction

There are no purely “real” or completely abstract portrayals of the landscape.  Rather, each artist approaches and interprets nature in her or his own way.  Joan Backes, who often incorporates natural materials in her work, has created a highly realistic, detailed “portrait” of a tree wound. Neil Welliver’s Brook on Ledge is a representational landscape that plays with reflections in pools of water to complicate the image, while George McNeil’s Landscape Abstraction #2 is a kaleidoscope of colors and forms, suggesting rather than representing the landscape.  Yvonne Jacquette’s aerial views, from a plane window, of the land below become abstract tapestries of patterns of fields and city lights at night.  Mike Glier’s four paintings from the Along a Long Line series are neither wholly representational nor abstract.  Based on actual locations in along longitudinal lines “a quarter turn around the earth,” the small paintings record his response to the environment as he paints in nature, on-site.


Images: LEFT | Neil G. Welliver, American (1929–2005).  Brook on Ledge, 1982. Oil on canvas. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William A. Small Jr. (Susan Spencer, class of 1948). SC 1994:11–92. RIGHT | George McNeil. American, 1908–1995. Landscape Abstraction #2.  1978. Acrylic on canvas. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William A. Small, Jr. (Susan Spencer, class of 1948). SC 1994:11–74