The Power of Landscapes
In 1757, Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke published On the Sublime and the Beautiful, which defined two different emotional responses to landscape in nature and in art. Burke stated that the beautiful is comforting and fosters pleasant and calm feelings—a placid lake, a perfectly formed seashell, a clear blue sky. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the sublime overwhelms with awe, terror, or danger—a steep precipice, a thunderstorm, a crashing waterfall. Burke explained that when experienced at a distance, such as translated through art, the sublime generates delight.
Limoges Enamels during the Reformation
Small and shiny, Limoges enamels glow like jewels in the Taft Museum of Art’s Medieval and Renaissance galleries. Workshops of skilled artisans in Limoges, France, produced these decorative objects by delicately fusing layers of vividly colored glass to copper. By the 16th century, influenced by the Italian Renaissance and aided by a newly developed enameling technique similar to painting, enamellers replaced medieval modes of decoration with dynamic storytelling.
“Life in quietness & ease”: Thomas Gainsborough’s Landscapes
Two paintings by Thomas Gainsborough hang opposite each other in the Taft Museum of Art’s Music Room. On the south wall, two boys dressed in finery look out from a canvas measuring nearly seven feet high. On the north wall, a more modestly sized painting features livestock and rustic peasants dramatically lit within a shadowy copse of trees. This pastoral scene embodies Gainsborough’s true passion: the landscape of England’s countryside.
Cincinnati and the Tafts in the 1880s
In 1888, the city celebrated its 100th birthday with the Centennial Exposition, held in Music Hall and in two temporary structures built especially for the occasion. In that year, at least 6,000 manufacturers in the city employed 93,500 workers. Cincinnati was a world leader in soap production, carriage manufacturing, beer brewing, whiskey distilling, and lithographic printing. In Over-the-Rhine, hundreds of small businesses flourished, each employing a handful of skilled craftsmen who made fine products—including musical instruments, wood carvings, and blown glass—many in the space of their own homes. The city had also become a center for the arts and art education.