Rocks and Mountains: Oil Sketches from the Thaw Collection

July 19, 2016 through August 6, 2017

During the second half of the eighteenth century, the practice of using oil paint on paper while working outdoors became popular among landscape artists. Rugged topography emerged as an important motif for oil sketch practitioners. Mountain settings, as well as single majestic boulders or outcroppings, provided a challenging focus for artists learning to capture light, color, and texture in oils. Rocky terrain allowed for close, prolonged study, while rushing streams and surrounding foliage gave artists the opportunity to grapple with depicting movement and the ephemeral effects of light and atmosphere.

Artists from France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Scandinavia, including celebrated landscape painters such as Théodore Rousseau, Eugène Delacroix, Alexandre Calame, and Thomas Fearnley, are featured in this selection. Directly engaging with nature, these artists used the oil sketch as a means of investigation and exploration.

Rocks and Mountains is the fourth exhibition in a series drawn from the collection of oil sketches acquired by Morgan Trustee Eugene V. Thaw and his wife, Clare. Mr. Thaw is also an honorary trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This installation is a program of the Drawing Institute at the Morgan Library & Museum.

Alexandre Calame (Swiss, 1810–1864), Mountain Landscape, Valais, Switzerland, ca. 1838–40. Oil on illustration board. Thaw Collection, jointly owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library & Museum; Gift of Eugene V. Thaw, 2009