“Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection” is an interesting mix, including the outlier Klimt landscape “Birch Forest” and the Cezanne post-Impressionist masterpiece “Mont Sainte-Victoire.”
Nowadays, the ultrawealthy are more individual in their tastes, with contemporary art commanding the highest prices and the most buzz at recent auctions. But in the case of Paul Allen, far and away the leading art collector in the Northwest, it’s a bit challenging to characterize his taste as the extent and nature of his full collection remains a state secret, impervious so far even to strategic leaks.
Several recent shows have given us a peek into Allen’s art trove. Based on what we’ve seen so far, one can say it’s eclectic, historically broad and heavily weighted to Name Brands. And fortunately, at least in the case of the just-opened exhibit of landscape paintings now on view at the Seattle Art Museum, there is a generous helping of top-flight work by those A-list artists.
There is little besides ownership tying together the 39-odd works in “Seeing Nature,” which range from cluttered rooms with expansive views (Bruegel, 17th century), to heavily stylized close-ups of an iris (O’Keeffe), to nearly abstract groves of trees (Avery). Most interesting are the fortuitous links between individual works, such as the eight paintings of Venice by seven different artists, or the two dramatically different views of the Grand Canyon, one an eye-popping, 14-foot Technicolor panorama by the extravagantly ambitious David Hockney (“The Grand Canyon” 1998).
(Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)