This publication presents one hundred and fifteen drawings and paintings from the holdings of Karen B. Cohen, a noted New York collector. These French and English nineteenth-century works include landscapes, portraits, figure compositions, and still lifes by great artists of the Romantic period, of the Barbizon School, and of the Realist School, beginning with Prud'hon and ending with Seurat. A varied range of compositions by such masters as Gericault, Corot, Rousseau, Couture, Daubigny, and especially Delacroix is included. Among the highlights is a group of oil paintings by Courbet—both landscapes and portraits—and a series of cloud studies by Constable. Because these pictures have been held for so long in private hands, most are little known today, despite the fact that they were made by noted masters. Many are published here for the first time, often with comparative illustrations.
Colta Ives conceived this publication and is its main author. She provides documentation and commentary for each work, placing it within the context of the artist's development and connecting it to contemporary artistic trends and innovations. Elizabeth E. Barker has contributed entries on Constable and Bonington.
The character of the images assembled is remarkable, reflecting the collector's personal response to the turbulent dramas of the Romantics, the fresh discovery of landscape by French and English painters of the School of Nature, and the somber realism of Courbet and his followers. Nearly all the artists represented were alternately damned and praised for their modernity, for they were eager to present the natural world in as vivid a way as possible. Their sensitive treatment of nature and of human life, frequently in a fluid, cursory style, was intended to elicit a heightened response from the viewer. For the most part ancient history and myth were left behind for the immediacy of the present. Romanticism and the School of Nature is also the story of an exceptional collector and her independent discoveries. This publication will accompany an exhibition shown at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from October 16, 2000, to January 21, 2001.