The works presented here all followed the Wars of Independence, when during the early 1820s most Latin American nations won their independence from Spain. As a result of the openings of ports and borders, it became easier for European expeditions to travel to Latin America. As Auguste Morisot’s extraordinary visual record of the 1886 expedition to Venezuela demonstrates, the French artist was a key member of such expeditions. Morisot’s works not only provide the centerpiece of this installation, but they offer a rare taxonomy of the visual language of expeditions that is echoed in works by other artists: the landscape rendered by artists traveling on water, flora and fauna drawn with scientific accuracy, and indigenous people and customs observed by Europeans who inconsistently ennobled and degraded their subjects.
Notable counterpoints to the views of European and U.S. artists are provided by the Mexican painter José María Velasco and the Brazilian photographer Marc Ferrez, both of whom refused to imbue their landscapes with the romanticism or idealism evident in those by their European peers. Velasco offers views of the Mexican landscape that not only depart from European conventions but also present scenes marked by histories of colonial conflict and indigenous cultures. Ferrez signals the enormously important entrance of the photograph, which he used to capture a view of the landscape occupied by decidedly modern Latin Americans–the rising class of inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro who enjoyed nature as leisure. The works in this gallery bring the practice of landscape painting into the era of industrialization and nationalism, offering a rare glimpse of the convergence of old and new means of imagining the Latin American landscape.