Organized by the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Past Time is an interdisciplinary examination that merges art with science. Watercolors, drawings, oil sketches, and sketchbooks made by European and American artists from the 1770s to the 1890s reflect the period’s new scientific investigation of the earth’s crust that came to be known as geology. The intrinsic curiosity of the era’s artists drove them to explore these new ideas in a variety of media, while interests in minerals and their applications brought wide-ranging explorations of this modern science of the earth. Artists such as Frederic Edwin Church, William Trost Richards, John Ruskin, J. M. W. Turner, and Asher Brown Durand mindfully investigated the land, taking note of exquisite and even surreal landforms in their work.
A selection of works from the Johnson’s permanent collection accompanies the exhibition and explores how this fascination continued into the twentieth century, especially in America.
This exhibition was organized by the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, where it was on view in 2018. Its presentation at Cornell was coordinated by Nancy E. Green, the Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of European and American Art, Prints & Drawings, 1800–1945, at the Johnson, and supported in part by the Helen and Robert J. Appel Exhibition Endowment.