A number of outstanding historical artworks that examine the world of natural science will be presented alongside works by contemporary artists during a great show in New York.

This January, Sotheby’s Old Masters Department has combined forces with New York City’s Paul Kasmin Gallery to present “Naturalia,” a fascinating exhibition curated by Danny Moynihan. “Naturalia” features a range of outstanding historical works from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries along with works by contemporary artists.

The theme of the show revolves around the myriad presentations of the natural sciences in art. Via the gallery: “It is hard to imagine now the sense of wonder and discovery that artists of centuries past felt when studying nature, for man was still on the edge of the world; discovering new species of plants and animals at a pace unlike almost any other in modern history. Nature was as admired as it was feared, concurrently paradisiacal and dangerous, giving it both the sense of the exotic and of dark mystery.

Walton Ford, “Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros,” 2008, watercolor, gouache, pencil, and ink on paper panel, (wings) 98 1/4 x 42 3/4 in. (center) 98 1/4 x 62 3/4 in. (c) Paul Kasmin Gallery 2017
Walton Ford, “Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros,” 2008, watercolor, gouache, pencil, and ink on paper panel, (wings) 98 1/4 x 42 3/4 in. (center) 98 1/4 x 62 3/4 in. (c) Paul Kasmin Gallery 2017

It is in this spirit that earthly metaphors have been borrowed, stolen and created by artists and writers over the millennia. A host of preeminent contemporary artists, including Mat Collishaw, Mark Dion, Walton Ford, Damien Hirst and Sam Taylor-Johnson, have lent or created works especially for this exhibition.

“The sense of wonder and the sublime in nature is represented by Walton Ford’s monumental ‘Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros,’ 2008, juxtaposed here with Albrecht Dürer’s famous depiction of the very same exotic animal, both inspired by the story of the animal’s tragic 15th century voyage to Rome. With these two critical images as launching points, we cannot but help reflect on the consequences of human interference in our delicate world. Works by Theodora Allen, Adam Fuss, Michael Joo and Sean Landers evoke the sublime and conjure the same fantastical anthropomorphic narratives as the 17th century Dutch painter Matthias Withoos’ extraordinary ‘Landscape with Birds and Flowers in the Underbrush of a Wood,’ 1660.”

“Naturalia” opens on January 19 and will continue through March 4. To learn more, visit Paul Kasmin Gallery.

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.


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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.

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