|"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens."|
The pastoral, as a literary and artistic genre, finds its roots in the country writings of Theocritus. The Idylls, a series of bucolic lyrics probably deriving from Sicilian folk stories, depict mythological scenes of goatherds, shepherds, Nymphs and the god of the countryside, Pan. In these Idylls the important thematic foundations of the pastoral genre are established: the countryside as a place of leisure and beauty, the mythological and amorous qualities of characters such as shepherds, and the a-historical nature of the countryside as a locus amoenus, a place both literally and figuratively outside the city’s confines. This exhibition, “Art in the Countryside: A Look at the Pastoral” explores these general themes of pastoral art from the Renaissance, when artists and writers first looked back to the pastoral models of their classical forbears, through the Barbizon period when the French idealized their countryside in opposition to the growing bustle of urban life, and into the modern age, in which artists investigate both contemporary farms and metaphorical depictions of the pastoral ideal.