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We look across and slightly down onto a rocky, natural stone arch next to a cave opening, both perched on a high, grassy cliff in front of a shimmering, aquamarine-blue body of water in this horizontal landscape painting. The arch is situated to our left of center, and the cave beyond the gaping opening extends off the left side of the canvas. In tones of ash and caramel brown, the jagged arch and outcroppings are lit from our left so deep shadows are cast along crevasses to our right. Shadow also sweeps across the emerald-green grass at the base of the arch and cave. A few more serrated rocks poke out of the water like teeth far below, to our right, presumably at the base of the cliff on which we stand. To our left, the rocky shoreline juts into the water in the distance in front of mauve-colored mountains in the deep distance along the horizon, which comes about halfway up this composition. Tiny in scale, miniscule, triangular white sails dot the waterway. Similarly tiny white birds fly high above the water. Pale, petal-pink and cream-white clouds line the horizon beneath a sky that deepens from light turquoise over the clouds to the same aquamarine blue of the water below.

William Stanley Haseltine, Natural Arch at Capri, 1871, oil on canvas, Gift of Guest Services, Inc., in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1989.13.1

Canceled—Geology in Art

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2020
  • 1:00 p.m.
  • West Building, Main Floor - Rotunda

Designed in conjunction with the True to Nature: Open-Air Painting in Europe, 1780–1870 exhibition, this gallery talk explores the depiction of geologic features in landscape paintings in the Gallery’s permanent collection.

Heidi Applegate, lecturer