DETAIL : 
Martin Johnson HEADE  
United States of America 1819 � 1904-09-04  
Sunlight and shadow: the Newbury Marshes c.1871-75, oil on canvas National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. John Wilmerding Collection (Promised Gift). Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
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EXHIBITION GROUPING : GALLERY 1 | GALLERY 2 | GALLERY 3 | GALLERY 4 | GALLERY 5 | GALLERY 6 |

Gallery 2:

Artists used the idea of the Sublime to convey the spectacle of nature, from vast alpine scenes, stormy seas and sunsets, to single, isolated trees. The English Sublime is exemplified in Turner’s later works, which are characterised by expressive vigour and heightened emotion. His mood ranges from a renewed Classicism in Overlooking the coast, with classical building to the glorious uncertainty of his late A mountain scene, Val d’Aosta.

Paintings by German Romantic masters, neglected in the English-speaking world, have never been exhibited in Australia before. Their art shows a melancholic introspection as well as quasi-scientific exactness. In paintings by Friedrich and Carus, single, paired or small groups of figures appear in the landscape. Their backs are often turned, a device that invites us to contemplate the view as though we are present. By virtue of their isolation and extreme stillness, we sense that contemplation of nature becomes an almost religious experience, of the glory of God’s Creation.

By the 1830s and 1840s the nature of Creation related in the Bible was increasingly brought into question by discoveries in the natural sciences. Friedrich and Dahl, like Constable, made studies of clouds, inspired by the developing science of meteorology. Calm skies – dawn, moonlight, sunset – contrast with Dahl’s dramatic views of Vesuvius erupting. Intense colours show the beauty of the New World as well as the Old.