Well-suited to the Memorial Day holiday, ''For Love of Country: Military Themes in Art'' is an assembly of pieces that pay tribute to bravery on the battlefield. Included are 19th- and 20th-century American and European paintings, prints, sculpture and miniatures from private Long Island lenders and from the Heckscher Museum's own collection.
A useful reminder of the long tradition of patriotism as a motivation for artists, the exhibition offers subjects ranging from English and French wars in the 19th century to examples made during World War II by printmakers in the Artists for Victory program in this country. Respect for history is characteristic of museum visitors, even though some may have a degree of mental resistance to guns and other lethal implements.
References to virtue and valor are constant, with each artist seeking to convey the emotion appropriate to the specific image. Firm determination is reflected in Sir William Beechey's portrait of the Duke of Wellington as Field Marshal; introspection is clear in Etienne Prosper Berne-Bellecour's sensitive depiction of a single soldier against a campfield backdrop; regal stoicism is emphasized in Frederic Remington's painting of a mounted Hussar riding into battle.
While the iconography of warfare might seem obvious, a broad show like this offers a rich mix of interpretations. In one example, a 1941 lithograph by James E. Allen, the fighter planes flying over the Statue of Liberty evoke readily understandable symbols as validation of the military endeavors.
There are fascinating details in the oldest European paintings. There are also elaborately uniformed figures and horses that lend themselves to effective compositions based on rhythmic repetitions. This is especially evident in the formal alignment of the cavalry in Paul Emile Leon Perboyre's crisp work and in the informal groupings in the show's largest canvas, an embarkation scene by Berne-Bellecour.
Perhaps the most engaging alignments occur in impressive layouts of hand-painted lead soldiers. While installations are fixed for this exhibition, the sense of being able to interact and adjust positions of the miniature armies gives a feeling of real time and immediacy.
Abstraction is used architecturally in the often compelling paintings of Jose Gonzalez Veites, an artist living in Mexico City who has exhibited in this country and Europe during his 20-year career. Working primarily with the perceptual properties of thin lines and large geometric areas of color, Mr. Veites suggests structure and roomlike spatial experiences.
Psychological and formal goals vary, and some pieces are more successful than others. One of the most convincing canvases, ''Where No One Else Hides,'' is a large work that defines its spatial units with bold red and yellow pigments.
Many of Mr. Veites's best paintings use scumbled, scratchy markings to raise the level of visual energy. ''Red-to-Come'' is a good example of the way irregular, grainy paint additions are made to interact with the geometric structure, playing off concepts that are resolved with things that seem to be in the process of churning unpredictably. When these tactile elements resemble enlarged fingerprints, a personal element is inserted and identity issues emerge.
Sensuous qualities dominate several works that feature a flaming red tone. In ''Mosque,'' a column of horizontal stripes over the red becomes an additional vibrant force.
Color symbolism seems to be a factor too. In another particularly assertive piece, easily the exhibition's edgiest work, a central red configuration sprouts leglike appendages and takes on the character of an anthropomorphic creature.
The increasing politicization of environmental issues stimulates new directions in art and tends to sharpen sensibilities among artists who have long been committed to examining nature. Ten artists explore a range of ideas in this gentle yet perky overview that includes photography, painting, sculpture and two installations: Barbara Roux's colorful fragments commenting on flowers turned into commercial perfumes, and Brenna Manuel's stark clusters of white eggs on glass, seemingly intended to introduce thoughts about evolution.
Nature is harsh but powerfully mesmerizing in Ai-Chen Lee's pock-marked all-over surfaces and it is soothing in a luminous painting by Annette Merlis that addresses the problem of structuring the sensation of atmosphere. Roy Nicholson's work translates the sensual and energetic qualities of garden growth into loose strokes of pigment, while Anne Raymond's large canvases seem poised midway between color abstraction and the spiritual transcendence of the most intense atmospheric tones.
An implied human presence contributes to the impact and originality of sculpture by Ginny Fox and Duncan Johnson. Both make shapes with natural materials and incorporate a message about the source into their content. Suspended from the ceiling, Mr. Johnson's large boatlike form looks like an object endowed with special powers for a ceremonial journey. Altering the context of branches and other components, Ms. Fox invents haunting headlike ovals that seem infused with an otherworldly, magical aura.
An edgy ambiguity comes across in Patrick Alfieri's hand-colored photographs that suggest a vast terrain irregularly interrupted by markings that could be either accidents of nature or creative interventions by the artist.