Visions of the South

Ahmanson Building, Level 2
March 2, 2014–July 13, 2014

Through a selection of paintings, prints and photographs from the museum's rich collections, this exhibition explores the artistic vision of the South and its evolution over centuries. Throughout the history of European art, the South has served as a concept, suggesting both a geographical reality as well as fantasies of the exotic. As early as the 16th century, artists traveled to Italy in search of Arcadia, a mythical utopia, attracted by the archaeological remains of the Roman Empire set in picturesque landscapes and bathed in the warm southern light. By the 19th century, open-air painting had gained popularity, inspired by the radiant sun and the abundance of Mediterranean nature. Later, photographers journeyed throughout the Italian peninsula, depicting famous monuments and sites. By the end of the 19th century, scientific expeditions documented more distant lands, notably the islands of the South Pacific. German Expressionists, among them Emil Nolde and Max Pechstein, were even inspired to travel to the South Seas. In the 20th century, artists including Pablo Picasso, Nicolas de Staël, and Richard Seewald favored Southern France and spent significant parts of their careers there. The exhibition includes around 40 works, some of them rarely exhibited, drawn from the European Painting, Modern Art, Prints and Drawings, and Photography departments, as well as from the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at LACMA.

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Images: Top: Emil Nolde, Dancer, 1913, lithograph printed in black, brownish red, carmine, and gray-violet on simili-japan paper, image: 20 7/8 x 27 1/8 in. (53 x 68.9 cm), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll, Germany. Bottom: Nicolas de Staël, View of Marseille (detail), c. 1955, Estate of Hans G. M. De Schulthess © Nicolas de Staël Estate © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Capturing the South through Words and Images

When you enter the exhibition Visions of the South, you will notice—among the colorful paintings, expressive prints, dramatic photographs, and delicate drawings—a flat screen showing a short film that complements the exhibition. Since the “south” can evoke so many different things, we wanted to give a voice to artists and writers who were fascinated by it.

Visions of the South

We all dream about faraway lands, with miles of sandy beaches, palm trees rustling in the wind, the sound of waves. This idyllic escape is generally associated with countries in the southern hemisphere, notably in the Pacific and Central and South America. Just as we are allured by these sunbathed images of the south, artists throughout history have been inspired by them…