Research Point: Artists who use landscapes as their main subject.

Albrecht Dürer’s landscapes are some of the earliest recordings of the northern Renaissance world. Duper was one of the first landscape artists.  He was interested in the details- as exemplified in much of his work.

 A Durer landscape

https://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/online_tours/europe/durer_and_his_legacy/landscape_with_a_woodland_pool.aspx

This is one of Dürer’s most sensitive and atmsopheric portrayals of nature. The tall pine trees and sandy soil of the landscape are typical of the outskirts of Nuremberg. It is one of several watercolours of the region that were probably executed soon after the artist returned from Italy in 1495. The drawing, which is apparently unfinished, seems to represent an evening sky with a setting sun. A tentative sky study of the same location was discovered on the verso (back) of the sheet when it was lifted from an old backing. It shows Dürer entirely preoccupied with the representation of dark evening clouds in broad bands of watercolour, with an outline of the trees suggested in black chalk.

Claude Lorrain (1605-82) designed landscapes based on classical proportions.  He worked at a time when Landscape was not recognised as a higher art form.  He arrived in Rome, from France, possibly as early as 1617, where he was based until his death. Claude specialized in landscape paintings and he became the leading landscape artist in Italy. His paintings and their preparatory drawings are characterized by their depiction of an ideal and classically-inspired world, which he included in order to appeal to his contemporary audience, with classically themed figures and stories playing a minor role compared with nature.

claude Lorrain

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Country Dance, – Italy, AD 1640-41  -pen and brown ink drawing with brown and grey washes. 

The appreciation of nature for its own sake, in art, is relatively recent. Until the seventeenth century landscape was confined to the background of portraits.  In the seventeenth-century the landscape background began to dominate the other subjects although the landscape was stylised or artificial.   At the same time Dutch landscape painters such as Jacob van Ruysdael were developing a much more naturalistic style of landscape painting, based on what they saw around them.  When, also in the seventeenth century, the French Academy classified the genres of art as history, portrait, scenes of everyday life, landscape and still life, it placed landscape fourth in order of importance out of five genres. Landscape painting became increasingly popular through the eighteenth century.

In the nineteenth century, there was an explosion of realistic landscape painting, partly influenced by the idea that nature is a direct manifestation of God, and partly due to the growth of industrialisation and urbanisation. Two important British artists at this time were John Constable and JMW Turner.  J.M.W. Turner and John Constable changed landscape painting in Britain. They were influenced by romanticism, which championed the expression of feeling and an interest in the natural world.

Constable’s painting focused greatly on local Suffolk landscapes and he painted and sketched out-of-doors in order to paint more realistic details with accurate effects of light and weather.

Conversely, Turner travelled extensively both in Britain and abroad, painting dramatic seascapes and landscapes which often had literary or historical reference. However, like Constable, was fascinated by the transient effects of light and weather and he painted light with intensity, creating ethereal landscapes which often appear almost abstract.

The Valley Farm 1835 John Constable 1776-1837 Presented by Robert Vernon 1847 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00327
The Valley Farm 1835 John Constable 1776-1837 Presented by Robert Vernon 1847 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00327
Ploughing Up Turnips, near Slough ('Windsor') exhibited 1809 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00486
Ploughing Up Turnips, near Slough (‘Windsor’) exhibited 1809 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00486

Landscape painting by the impressionists then initiated a revolution in Western modern art and challenged the order of the genres.  Monet has stripped this scene of physical detail, focusing, instead, on recording the all-enveloping light and atmosphere of the river. In 1891 he said,

‘For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life – the air and the light, which vary continuously. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.’

The Seine at Port-Villez 1894 Claude Monet 1840-1926 Purchased 1953 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N06182
The Seine at Port-Villez 1894 Claude Monet 1840-1926 Purchased 1953 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N06182

 Claude Monet The Seine at Port-Villez 1894  Oil on canvas

Moving forward into the twentieth century, L.S. Lowry’s images of Salford industrial life arguably show a more down-to-earth human response.  Some of Lowry’s early oil paintings depict picturesque views, and many of his drawings record his travels around Britain. In his later landscapes the atmosphere is bleaker.

The_Lake_Lowry industrial

LS Lowry (1937)  The Lake painted when Lowry was under great stress, struggling to care for his bedfast mother. Everything in the painting seems bleak. The fence in the foreground is surrounded by what appear to be tombstones; the crucifix-like telegraph poles point into a stagnant area of devastation. To the left, a line of men may be queueing for a chance of work. In the background however, the red mill draws the eye to a finely painted skyline. Mills, mines and smoking chimneys are intertwined with churches and town halls.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the approach to landscape was challenged with the inclusion of urban and industrial.  George Shaw (nominated for the Turner Prize in 2011) shows us the reality of an urban environment- depicting garages, street corners, railings- views that you might walk past everyday without really noticing. .. Have a look at a series of images via this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/george-shaw/paintings/slideshow#/18 

George Shaw; (c) George Shaw; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
George Shaw; (c) George Shaw; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Sarah Woodfine who takes an imaginative approach to drawing spaces and places.  She explores architectural spaces in her drawings, often presented in emotional terms.  They are often 3D constructions for example: voltashow.com/sarah_woodfine.8309.0  

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