At Seattle Art Museum, a peek at Paul Allen’s landscapes

“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.”

If money was no object, what art would you buy? Four hundred years ago, European royalty went in for Italian Old Masters; altarpiece-averse 19th-century English and American moguls, by contrast, were eager to collect British portrait painting and trophies from the Dutch Golden Age.

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.


‘Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection’

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays, until 9 p.m. Thursdays through May 23, Seattle Art Museum; $14.95-$24.95 (206 625-8900 or

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…

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