In a brilliant pairing, the National Academy Museum has mounted dual shows by artists who draw their greatest inspiration from water. There’s no need for a trip out of town to experience crashing waves, monumental waterfalls, and wide expanses of sea and sky done by one of America’s greatest watercolorists of all time and a celebrated 21st century painter.
William Trost Richards: Visions of Land and Sea features 60 works from the Academy’s collection – early graphite sketches, oil paintings, and beautiful, grand, sweeping watercolor vistas that are some of the tiniest, most meticulous works you’ll see anywhere. Some are on display for the first time, which is remarkable considering that critics believe WTR to be among the greatest American landscape painters of the 19th century.
Pat Steir’s paintings, on the other hand, feature an opposite approach. Like Sam Francis or early post-Pop color-field painters, she pours, splatters, and drips her paint across canvases that seem a mile high and a block long. The masterwork on display at the Academy is Blue River, a virtual waterfall that’s just as mesmerizing as any of WTR’s watercolors, but done in bold, wide strokes on a larger-than-life canvas.
Go this weekend.