For those not native to the great plains, grasslands, and rolling hills of the American Midwest, these landscapes might be categorized as “bland” or “uninteresting.” However, during a fantastic solo exhibition this month, painter John Cleaveland asks his audience to take a deeper look into this region’s incredible aesthetic potential.
Whether it’s the diverse range of grass species, wildflowers, expansive skies, or beautiful wildlife, the landscapes around the hills and prairies of Missouri offered accomplished artist John Cleaveland awesome aesthetic potential for an upcoming solo exhibition at the Missouri State Botanical Gardens.

John Cleaveland, “Not as Quiet as it Looks,” 2016, oil on panel, 31 x 23 1/2 in. (c) John Cleaveland 2016

“Missouri Prairies” will feature approximately 24 superb canvases from Cleaveland composed from several trips to the region and nearly 7,000 photographs. A native of the deep South, Cleaveland has stepped outside his comfort zone for the exhibition, pushing himself to discover in paint the subtle beauties of the American plains. The results? Outstanding.

John Cleaveland, “I can tell you how to get here, but it will take a while,” 2016, oil on panel, 30 x 24 in.
(c) John Cleaveland 2016

John Cleaveland, “A Little Farther,” 2016, oil on panel, 60 x 24 in. (c) John Cleaveland 2016

“Part of the challenge for me was finding new techniques and methods for capturing the incredible range of texture, color, detail, and light of this beautiful landscape,” Cleaveland says. “Although I wasn’t expecting it, these landscapes have taken me back to some of my abstract roots. When you look at this body of work, close inspection of the paintings reveals a high degree of expressive strokes and layering of paint; everything comes together with more distance. It’s such a uniquely beautiful landscape that I also had to teach myself how to see it from an artistic perspective. Luckily, I was introduced to it by locals who know so much about the diverse ecology.”

John Cleaveland, “Snow Flattened Tallgrass,” 2016, oil on panel, 52 x 24 in. (c) John Cleaveland 2016

“Missouri Prairies: Paintings by John Cleaveland” opens in the Ridgway Center at the Missouri State Botanical Gardens on September 7 and will be on view through November 11.
To learn more, visit the Missouri State Botanical Gardens.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.


  1. Thank you for this article on an Athens Artist who has given us all so many wonderful paintings over the years. The evolution of his oil brush is more than a story. It is a long poem, an epic of what it is to be of the South, and in some ways independent of place, but I sure cannot accept it as anything other than a gift from a gifted artist. I had the pleasure of his works on the wall of a cafe in Athens, Ga. There were many reactions, and for each I guided them through the myth building and illustrating that was so alive in each line of vision. It is always a pleasure to discuss the way his eye developed over the years as it is so evident in the paintings in each stage as it flowed into now. More need to be aware of the canvas he gives to us. I hope that many buy them as well and that they are not relegated to the back of a warehouse, that they are always on display somewhere showing us the way home.


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