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Rome. Nature and the Ideal. Landscapes 1600-1650 Saturday, July 2, 2011

Featuring more than one hundred works, the exhibition ROME. Nature and the Ideal. Landscapes 1600-1650 opens at the Museo del Prado after its showing at the Grand Palais in Paris, thanks to the support of the Comunidad de Madrid. The exhibition is one of the Prado’s most ambitious projects to date and has involved the participation of more than 45 lenders with the aim of assembling the most important group of landscapes ever to be seen. For the first time this exhibition analyses the birth and development of the genre of landscape painting up to the period coinciding with the peak of its achievement. It includes the work of all the leading names in this field and is set within the context of the city of Rome at the height of its splendour. The result is a group of masterpieces that covers all the sub-genres and themes devised by these leading painters.

Among the figures represented in the exhibition are Annibale Carracci, the father of landscape painting; Claude Lorrain and Poussin, both outstanding figures within this genre who endowed it with a solemn, philosophical nature; Velázquez, who evolved a new way of looking at nature; and the other painters commissioned to produce the series of landscapes for the Buen Retiro Palace in Madrid, which is the subject of a particularly important section in the exhibition due to this project’s crucial role in the evolution of landscape painting.

Rome. Nature and the Ideal. Landscapes 1600-1650

Landscape with the Funeral of Phocion, Nicolas Poussin. Oil on canvas, 117 x 178 cm. 1648. United Kingdom, prívate collection, deposited in Cardiff, Amgueddfa Cymru–National Museum Wales

With a selection of works very similar to that seen at the Grand Palais in Paris and in close collaboration with the Musée du Louvre, the exhibition now opening at the Prado is the most ambitious and international ever to be devoted to the subject of landscape. It includes the most important works by the leading artists in this field with the aim of analysing the rise and development of landscape painting, a crucial genre within western painting and one that acquired independent status at this period. It includes 83 paintings and 19 drawings arranged in chronological sections but combining artists of different nationalities in order to reveal mutual influences and the development of the genre up to its maximum expression in the work of Claude Lorrain (Chamagne, Vosges, ca.1600 - Rome, 1682) and Poussin (Les Andelys, 1594 – Rome, 1665). As the leading artists within this genre they are the subject of the two most important sections in the exhibition, which reveal how their work changed the status of landscape painting from that of a minor genre to one of acknowledged prestige with specific characteristics that defined its unique nature.

The section on the pictorial decoration of the Buen Retiro Palace is given more emphasis than it received in the Paris version of the exhibition. It includes works from the Prado’s collection that are not normally on display. It also includes a landscape by the Neapolitan artist Salvator Rosa from the Prado that has recently been restored and researched, allowing it to be incorporated into the Gallery of Landscapes commissioned by Philip IV.

In order to locate the exhibition within its context it is essential to note that in the early years of the seventeenth century Rome was a veritable experimental laboratory for the exchange of ideas between artists of different nationalities. Italians, French, Dutch, German and Spanish painters worked alongside each other in Italy’s leading cultural centre, attracted not only by its impressive architecture and monuments but also by the stylistic options that this vibrant context offered them.