Museum Exhibitions

Lois Dodd’s naturalism: Elegant and intricate

Lois Dodd (American, b. 1927)
Natural Order, 1978
Oil on linen, 50 x 38 in.
Hall Collection. Courtesy Hall Art Foundation

Contributed by Jac Lahav / The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, has reopened after a stunning 70,000 square-foot renovation. The new building was carefully designed and constructed to blend into the surrounding New England landscape and weave together a vast tapestry of art and science. It is fitting that “Natural Order,” a retrospective of the brilliant naturalist painter Lois Dodd’s work featuring almost 80 paintings from the mid-1950s to 2021, is the revamped museum’s first major exhibition. Her personal landscapes and interiors embody a unique style that is both sentimental and painterly.

Lois Dodd (American, b. 1927)
Pond, 1962
Oil on linen, 58 x 65 inches
Cordelia Nicholas LLC, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York

Given how alive with light and emotion Dodd’s work is, it is somewhat surprising that she is associated with the so-called deadpan realism of her contemporaries Alex Katz and Fairfield Porter. Her gallerist, Phil Alexandre, notes that “at first glance the paintings appear simple and straightforward, but Lois’s work is grounded in very close, intense focused observation … distilled into … poetic essentials.” While Dodd paints everyday scenes, upon close inspection they reveal a complex and mesmerizing interplay of color, light, and form. They are at once elegant geometric depictions of spaces and intricate studies of color and light.

Lois Dodd (American, b. 1927)
Winter Sunset, Blair Pond, 2008
Oil on linen, 48 x 52 inches
Courtesy Private Collection, Holyoke, Massachusetts
Lois Dodd (American, b. 1927)
8 Nudes in the Garden, 2009-10
Oil on linen, 25 x 80 inches, courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York

Dodd’s work spans a considerable range of content, including lush landscapes, intimate close-ups of flowers, nocturnal skies, dense woods, windows, weather-worn clapboard barns, and desolate urban vistas. In her creative process, she has followed the tradition of plein air painting, often returning to the same locations over years or even decades and working rapidly to capture the nuances of changing light, weather, and atmosphere at different moments. At age 95, she still paints every day, though now usually from inside looking out, embracing still-life and interior motifs.

Lois Dodd (American, b. 1927)
Night Sky Loft, 1973
Oil on linen, 66 x 64 inches
Hall Collection. Courtesy Hall Art Foundation
Lois Dodd (American, b. 1927)
Cow Parsnip, 1996
Oil on linen, 38 x 80 inches
Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME, Gift of Alex Katz, 2005.008

A standout piece in the exhibition is Yellow Cow. Painted in 1958, it is one of the oldest works on view and exemplifies Dodd’s early rural naturalism, which she established in New York even as Abstract Expressionism dominated the scene. The bulbous chrome-yellow cow and the flattened planes of the pasture behind it are fused into an interlocking cluster of geometric forms combining abstraction and figuration in a manner that was then iconoclastic. Indeed, the show traces a 70-year career outside the confines of trend. As figuration recedes, some think abstract landscapes will return, and Dodd’s paintings fit snugly into this genre. Yet, as Alexandre observes, “there is nothing trendy about Lois except how entirely untrendy she is, which is quite hip.”

Lois Dodd, Yellow Cow, 1958, oil on linen, 26 x 20 inches
Bruce Museum: Lois Dodd, Natural Order, 2023, Installation View

“Lois Dodd: Natural Order,” Bruce Museum, 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, CT. Through May 28, 2023.

About the author: Jac Lahav (he/them) is a Persian Polish artist, curator, and author, born in Jerusalem and raised in the United States, They graduated with an MFA from Brooklyn College, where they studied with Vito Acconci.


  1. Winter Sunset, Blair Pond, 2008 is a beautiful landscape painting. Does everything I love about landscape, including using a mystical symbol.

  2. She was born in 1027?? Good heavens has she been busy.

  3. Thank you, Jac Lehav for your insightful article. I’ve known Lois for some years and I think you got it right!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *