Contemporary Landscapes

Using a variety of media and methods, Contemporary Landscapes explores and expands the conversation of landscape painting in and around Philadelphia.

  • Enterance to Snooks Pond, Sara McCoubrey

    Enterance to Snooks Pond, Sara McCoubrey

  • Under a U-Turn on the Ramp from the George Washington Bridge to Rte. 9A North, Rackstraw Downes

    Under a U-Turn on the Ramp from the George Washington Bridge to Rte. 9A North, Rackstraw Downes

  • Cresson Street, Peter Van Dyck

    Cresson Street, Peter Van Dyck

  • Cedar Breaks, Neil Welliver

    Cedar Breaks, Neil Welliver

The landscape has been an essential part of an artist's expression. For contemporary artists, landscape painting still serves an important place and function, whether it is visualizing the human impact upon nature, searching for the right color passage.

In Contemporary Landscapes, curated by PAFA faculty member Douglas Martenson, artists Rackstraw Downes, Sara McCoubrey, Neil Welliver, and Peter Van Dyck explore landscape painting using a variety of media and approaches—including abstraction, invention, alternative media, and representational painting—with the local landscape in and around Philadelphia serving as a catalyst for their own artistic pursuits.


In her masterful realist style, Sarah McCoubrey's paintings focus on the human landscape and how we shape the earth. Combining fantastical allegory with observational acuity, her work presses us to consider our ecological footprint and how we coexist with the land we live on. Referencing a range of art histories from the techniques of Dutch masters, the landscape tradition of the Hudson River School, and the worlds created by Hieronymus Bosch, her study of painting en plain air and sophisticated glazing allows her to create luminous paintings with intense detail. McCoubrey received her MFA from the University of Pennsylvania and is a Professor in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. She is the recipient of several grants, including the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Painting, a Milton Avery Foundation Fellowship, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant Award, and a New York State Council on the Arts Grant.

Rackstraw Downes (b. 1931) received his BA from University of Cambridge in 1961 and his BFA and MFA from Yale University in 1963 and 1964 respectively. He remained in the United States, becoming a citizen in 1980. He is the recipient of the Guggenheim (1998) and MacArthur (2009) Fellowships and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1999). A retrospective, Rackstraw Downes: Onsite Paintings, 1972-2008, was organized by the Parrish Art Museum in 2010. It traveled to the Portland Museum of Art, ME, and the Weatherspoon Museum in Greensboro, NC. His work is in the collections of several museums including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art.

Neil Welliver (1929–2005) was an American-born modern artist, best known for his large-scale landscape paintings inspired by the deep woods near his home in Maine.

PAFA faculty member Peter Van Dyck was born in Philadelphia in 1978. He studied painting and drawing at the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy from 1998-2002. While studying he also taught in the program from 2000-2002. He returned to Philadelphia in 2002 to paint in his own studio and began exhibiting his work in numerous group shows in Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco. In 2003 he began teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where.