Art: The Club Med of the Humanists, from Giorgione to Matisse

A Washington show surveys Arcadia, as seen by painters from Giorgione to Matisse

American museums have so conditioned their public to expect sweeping historical surveys and one-person retrospectives that one forgets how uncommon it is to bump into an exhibition that sets out more modestly to look at ideas about culture. Just such a show is The Pastoral Landscape: The Legacy of Venice and the Modern Vision, organized by the Phillips Collection in Washington and set forth in two parts, one at the Phillips and the other at the National Gallery.

The exhibition is fascinating, but a blockbuster it is not. The pictorial tradition it examines -- broadly, the image of landscape as Arcadia,...

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