Nature's Nation: American Art and Environment

Albert Bierstadt, Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh (left); Valerie Hegarty. Fallen Bierstadt. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Campari, USA © Valerie Hegarty (right)

Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment presents more than 120 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, videos, and works of decorative art, from the colonial period to the present, exploring for the first time how American artists of different traditions and backgrounds have both reflected and shaped environmental understanding while contributing to the development of a modern ecological consciousness.

This sweeping exhibition engages a wide range of genres and historical contexts—from colonial furniture to the art of Jeffersonian natural science, from Hudson River landscape painting to Native American basketry, from Dust Bowl regionalism to modernist abstraction and postwar environmental activism—highlighting the evolving ecological implications of subjects and contexts of creation as well as artistic materials and techniques. The result is a major reinterpretation of American art that examines both iconic masterpieces and rarely seen objects through a lens uniting art historical interpretation with environmental history, scientific analysis, and the dynamic field of ecocriticism.

Organized by the Princeton University Art Museum, the exhibition is co-curated by Karl Kusserow, John Wilmerding Curator of American Art at the Princeton University Art Museum, and Alan C. Braddock, Ralph H. Wark Associate Professor of Art History and American Studies at the College of William & Mary.

After its premiere at Princeton (Oct. 13, 2018–Jan. 6, 2019), the exhibition travels to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts (Feb. 2–May 5, 2019) and to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas (May 25–Sept. 9, 2019).

A two-day international symposium, "Picture Ecology: Art and Ecocriticism in Planetary Perspective," is being convened December 7–8, 2018, in conjunction with the exhibition. 

Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment has been made possible with leadership support from Shelly Malkin, Class of 1986, and Tony Malkin; Annette Merle-Smith; Henry Luce Foundation; the Princeton Environmental Institute; and the Barr Ferree Foundation Fund for Publications, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University. Generous support has been provided by the Humanities Council, the Dean for Research Innovation Fund, and the Humanities Council’s David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Grant, Princeton University; and the National Endowment for the Arts. Further support has been provided by Susan and John Diekman, Class of 1965; Gail and Peter Ochs, Class of 1965; the PSEG Foundation; the Kathleen C. Sherrerd Program Fund for American Art; Stacey Roth Goergen, Class of 1990, and Robert B. Goergen; the High Meadows Foundation Sustainability Fund; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; the Program in American Studies, Princeton University; and the Partners and Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum.

 This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.