Guest curated by Iwona Blazwick of London’s Whitechapel Gallery, In Cloud Country is a unique anthology from the 18th to the 21st century. It brings together works on paper by some of the world’s most acclaimed artists including John Constable, Thomas Girtin, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Edgar Degas, Joan Miro, William Morris, Julian Opie, Chris Ofili, J.M.W. Turner, Rachel Whiteread & Thomas Gainsborough

In her poem, Two Campers in Cloud Country (1960), Sylvia Plath notes the indifference of the natural world ‘…where trees and clouds… pay no notice’. It is this autonomy which has also inspired generations of artists to make observations from nature to lead them to formal or symbolic abstraction.   

This exhibition brings together works on paper created by artists from the 18th to the 21st centuries who have made studies of plants and of land, sea or skyscapes. They translate what they have seen or felt, into a staggering array of different artistic strategies.

The great 18th century watercolourist John Sell Cotman uses pencil to capture the dynamism of light falling on trees by a riverbank; while the fleeting volumes of cumulous clouds are trapped by John Constable in his intense oil studies. 20th century Modernist, Henry Moore uses the branches of a tree to make vein like traceries of lines; while Italian sculptor Giuseppe Penone uses drawing to resurrect the tree that has been subsumed in a domestic plank of wood. Rachel Whiteread takes a symbol of the Arts & Crafts movement, the Tree of Life, and translates it into a contemporary icon.

Whether it is atmospheric phenomena, the linear or textural qualities of the botanical world or their political and metaphoric potential, artists’ studies from nature offer a breathtaking range of abstractions. 

In Cloud Country is a unique anthology that includes art, the abstract and the classic, and a collection of works that haven’t before been displayed together.