This exhibit showcases paintings, watercolors, sketches, and other works on paper from over 50 National Park Service museum collections. These works of art are seen together here for the first time to illustrate and tell the story of the Service’s first 100 years.Assembled to commemorate the National Park Service Centennial, 1916–2016, artworks capture the diversity of the national parks and Park Service collections, as well as the richness of artists’ encounters. They reflect the critical role that landscape art played in the establishment of the National Park Service. The works shown here capture awe-inspiring landscapes, honor individuals who have contributed to the nation’s identity, and commemorate inspiring American ideas and events.
Three themes are highlighted. The first depicts America’s treasured landscapes. Artists, in particular landscape painters such as Thomas Moran and others, inspired national leaders to protect and preserve these special places for all Americans. Their efforts led to the establishment of Yellowstone, the country’s first national park. The second theme highlights landscape art displayed in the homes of eminent Americans. These works reflect the personal taste and private lives of public figures who contributed to and shaped the nation’s history. The third theme focuses on the artworks that mirror the broad range of American experiences. From war and confinement to experiencing nature, these artworks document experiences that have molded America’s character. Together, they convey a captivating record of the nation’s heritage and reveal the fascinating history of the National Park Service. More. . .
Landscape art played a major role in the establishment of the National Park Service. The works of art that are featured here follow in that great tradition. All fall within a broad definition of landscape art. Each work of art is connected to the land and nature in one form or another.
The works include traditional landscapes that capture monumental views and natural phenomena; solitary figures dwarfed by nature; people outdoors, including armies — both on the move and in camp; waterscapes framed by land, some featuring individuals at the water’s edge; homes and towns set within the cultural landscape; distant horizons viewed from confinement; rustic sylvan scenes; and wildlife within their habitats.
The works of art in National Park Service museum collections invite exploration of grand American places and connection with iconic Americans and experiences through the nation’s “greatest idea,” the National Park System.