"British Landscapes" gallery inspires Utah artists

The main hall where part of The British Passion for Landscapes exhibit hangs until Dec. 13.  Photos by Blake Bekken

The main hall where part of The British Passion for Landscapes exhibit hangs until Dec. 13.  Photos by Blake Bekken

Because of The British Passion for Landscapes gallery that arrived Aug. 29 from the National Museum in Wales, Utah artists are inspired to represent the state’s landscapes through various styles of painting.

The British Passion for Landscapes: Masterpieces from National Museum Wales will be making the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) its home for nearly three and a half months before its departure on Dec. 13.

Steelworks, Cardiff at Night (1897) by Lionel Walden.

Steelworks, Cardiff at Night (1897) by Lionel Walden.

Inside, extending from the back rooms of the building to the end of the long and narrow corridor leading to the front desk, the gallery has over 53 artists and over 60 oil, watercolor paintings and photographs that depicts the tension between the opposites of nature and culture, country and city.

Viewers were overwhelmed standing in the large room surrounded by paintings of landscapes ranging from the 1660s to photography from year 2000.

“Stand in the middle of the room and look down one way and see classical, composed, beautiful, tranquil nature,” said Luke Kelly, scanning the gallery with his eyes while explaining the placement of the paintings and why they currently hang where are. “Then turn around and just be assaulted and overwhelmed by a sense of machinery in the urban setting.”

Kelly is the associate curator of antiquities and took part in choosing the placement of the paintings within the room.

The gallery argues that the emergence of the industrial age generated a heightened awareness and passion for the natural world.

UMFA created it’s own response in the “education gallery” to the traveling exhibit for visitors to reflect on the contrasts of nature and city.

“Illustrating a Utah landscape which is very familiar to us,” said Virginia Catherall, explaining her role in bringing the educational reflection to the visitors. “Everything that families learn here can be translated to the British landscapes.”

Catherall is the curator of education and was in charge of creating the Constructing the Utah Landscape gallery and conveying the educational theme it carries.

A woman sits looking at The Bard (1774) by Thomas Jones. This dramatic painting is part of the larger The British Passion for Landscape: Masterpieces from National Museum Wales exhibit at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

A woman sits looking at The Bard (1774) by Thomas Jones. This dramatic painting is part of the larger The British Passion for Landscape: Masterpieces from National Museum Wales exhibit at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

“America and Utah did not have that same gut reaction during the Industrial Revolution that Great Britain did,” Catherall said. “That kind of gut reaction of satanic mills never happened here, and, because of that, we just don’t have that angst.”

The gallery does not have the dichotomy between the beauty of nature and the taint industrialism that The British Passion for Landscapes gallery contains because “the impact wasn’t there,” according to Catherall.

“The idea is we’re not hitting them with a hammer, we’re giving people tools to think about and look at any art critically,” Catherall said. “Landscape is in our blood, it dictates everything, policy, politics… we’re letting them experience and have an epiphany.”

The lack of the industrial representation within the Utah landscapes is meant for viewers to see the beauty in Utah.

“One of the most important types of our history is how it’s been portrayed through art,” said Lucy Blatt, senior visual communication major, while reflecting on the idea behind the Constructing the Utah Landscape gallery. “It’s a great way to document what’s gone on and who we are and where we came from… I like the contrast between what happened in Britain and here.”

For more information email the Utah Museum of Fine Arts gala@umfa.utah.edu or call (801) 585-7174 umfa.utah.edu