West Bend Art Museum

West Bend, WI

(414) 334-9638


Beyond the Horizon: Sudlow and Jacobshagen

April 7 - May 9, 1999


Robert Sudlow and Keith Jacobshagen are two artists of the Great Plains who portray the landscape in a way that is simultaneously unique and universal. Their depictions of the relationship of the earth to the sky hold for the viewer an opportunity to view panoramic space versus the inferred specificity of place. Above left: Keith Jacobshagen, Return from..., 1996, oil on canvas, 6 x 28 inches, courtesy of the artist; Lower right: Keith Jacobshagen, From Church Road, 1992, oil on paper, 10 x 22 inches, courtesy of the artist; Lower left: Keith Jacobshagen, Cut Brush Fires..., 1997, oil on paper, 13 x 14 inches, courtesy of the artist

Jacobshagen's work speaks of the importance to his landscape paintings of the transcendent potential of the mundane. Through seemingly straightforward transcriptions of the American Midwest, he offers meditations on metaphor, biography, the landscape's relevance to contemporary culture and the nature of the sublime.

Rather than describing the prairie in terms of its actual physical expanse, Jacobshagen instead implies its immensity through explorations of the land's relationship to the ever-changing sky. His lyrical canvases challenge the popular notion that artists painting landscapes merely reproduce what they see in nature. Aiming beyond mere atmospheric accuracy, Jacobshagen embraces the abstract potential of the sky as a means of defining himself artistically, creating paintings that are as much a commentary on the act of painting itself as they are descriptions of the landscapes.

Robert Sudlow's landscapes aspire to a quiet grandeur, one that suggests the depth of the artist's connection to his native Kansas. Left: Robert Sudlow, A Spring Morn..., 1995, oil on canvas, 29 x 31 inches, courtesy of the artist; Lower right; Robert Sudlow, Cold Front..., 1994, oil on canvas, 32 x 42 inches, courtesy of the artist; Robert Sudlow, Melting Snow Bank, 1997, oil on canvas, 21 x 30 inches, courtesy of the artist

Taking as his subject the Flint Hills region, Sudlow challenges the viewer with seemingly prosaic, ruthless, and horizontal expanses of low-relief prairie. He acknowledges the untraditionally spare qualities of his landscape subject while delighting in the inherent wealth of expressive potential.

An ardent proponent of plein aire painting, his works suggest quiet meditation rather than rugged outdoor experience. "I can think of no more moving sight than sunlight through a thistle head or pale winter grass blazing with glory I can never paint. These extraordinary things lead me and my canvases get tangled in roadside ditches, weeds and brambles," said Sudlow in 1987 in a University Press of Kansas publication.

This exhibition is toured by EXHIBITS USA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance, and a non-profit regional arts organization and sponsored by the Lila Wallace-Readers' Digest Fund. Additional support is provided to EXHIBITS USA by the H. & R. Block Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Samuel H. Kress Foundation, The Phillips Petroleum Foundation and the Union Pacific Foundation. Mid-America Art Alliance is assisted by its six-partner arts agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts and private contributors.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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