Ugo Rondinone Shares the Story of His Prized Louis Michel Eilshemius Painting
The celebrated contemporary artist tells the story of a treasured landscape from his collection
“I saw Louis Michel Eilshemius’s paintings for the first time at the National Academy of Design in New York in November 2001. From then on, his work has appeared startlingly suggestive to me, in wanting to find a way of reconciling romanticism with modernity. Visionary is an overused and underdefined term, but it perfectly describes the way that Eilshemius took the raw stuff of the real world and turned it into his own version.
The art world loves an overlooked genius, especially one who can be described as ahead of his time. Whereas J. M. W. Turner and John Constable gave their contemporaries a vision of England that tactfully harmonized the new and the old, Eilshemius did something quite different for America. His landscapes are not only innocent of the signs and tokens of the Industrial Age, but they bear only a fleeting resemblance to what you might have seen if you had stood by his elbow at the moment of their making.
As you look into this pastoral setting, you see that nothing is taken for granted, nothing is sketched or suggested. Our senses are made aware of nature’s particulars, of its complexity. His landscape is like a womb. Unlike the usual outdoors art from Albert Bierstadt and Camille Corot, it has little interest in spreading land, in far horizons, and open skies. Its forms are bounded. Its details proliferate. It holds and strains. It is deep nature.”
One-on-One: Ugo Rondinone / Louis Eilshemius is on view at The Phillips Collection January 14, 2024.
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2023 Collectors Issue under the headline “In Focus.” Subscribe to the magazine.