“The Pastoral Landscape,” a survey of bucolic imagery in Western art from 1500 to the mid-twentieth century, was mounted in Washington, D.C., this past winter as a joint venture of two great museums. The story began in the West Wing of the National Gallery with Giorgione, then moved through Annibale Carracci and Rembrandt to Watteau; at which point one had to hotfoot it across town to the Phillips Collection, where volume two opened with Corot, took in the English Romantics, French painting from Puvis and Gauguin to Bonnard and Matisse, and concluded with Milton Avery and Howard Hodgkin.1

The exhibition was very ambitious and very subtle, an interweaving of elusive themes: the urban craving for rural life, often an idealized version of...


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