Landscape painting

From New World Encyclopedia

Autumn Landscape and the view from Steen castle, by Peter Paul Rubens, circa 1725

Landscape Painting depicts the scenery of the natural world with the views that impact the artists eye. In an effort to represent the beauty that meets the eye, the artist tries to capture that fleeting moment in time and space, for all time, thus becoming a co-creator with the original Creator.

In these visions may be, any element that may be natural or man-made. Flora and fauna, the weather, light and darkness all can play a part. There may or may not be, form and color, for even the lack of it shows the painter's perception in the quest for artistry.

From the point of view of the public there is the subtle difference of the merely pictorial and the melding of the artist's own sensibilities and creativity. In other words, one contains the spark of the Divine and is art while the other, merely representation.

Deep Valley, by Guo Xi, (fl. 1020–1090) a representative painter of landscape painting in the Northern Song dynasty, well known for depicting mountains, rivers and forests in winter. By using light ink and magnificent composition to express his open and high artistic conception this piece shows a scene of deep and serene mountain valley covered with snow and several old trees struggling to survive on precipitous cliffs.

Notes on Landscape Painting

"Landscape is a state of mind." Swiss essayist, Henri Frederic Amiel, nineteenth century.

Landscape painters are also painters of light. It is said that, the overall flood of constant heat and light in the Orient created the monochromatic styles there and the use of pure line as a graphic description. In the West, the ever shifting seasons and subtleties of changing, suffused light, created a very different style of painting, championed by artists such as the Dutch Masters, the Romantics and the sublime, W.J.M. Turner, the Impressionists and Luminists in the United States of America.

Indian Summer, Vermont, by Willard Leroy Metcalf.
Study of Gneiss Rock, Glenfinlas, Pen and ink and wash with Chinese ink on paper, by John Ruskin, 1853

In Western art, Landscape painting before the sixteenth century, with few exceptions, such as wall pictures in the Hellenistic period, have been mostly a decorative backdrop until the seventeenth century when serious artists of 'pure' landscape were active. Even then, they were thought of as very low on the scale of subject matter, second only to the flowers and fruit varieties.

Traditionally, landscape art depicts the surface of the Earth, but there are other sorts of landscapes, such as moonscapes and starscapes for example.

The word landscape is from the Dutch, landschap meaning a sheaf, a patch of cultivated ground. The word entered the English vocabulary of the connoisseur in the late seventeenth century.

In Europe, as John Ruskin realized,[1] and Sir Kenneth Clark brought to view, in a series of lectures to the Slade School of Art, London, that Landscape Painting was the "chief artistic creation of the nineteenth century," with the result that in the following period people were "apt to assume that the appreciation of natural beauty and the painting of landscape is a normal and enduring part of our spiritual activity"[2] In Clark's analysis, underlying European ways to convert the complexity of landscape to an idea were four fundamental approaches:

  • By the acceptance of descriptive symbols,
  • By curiosity about the facts of nature,
  • By the creation of fantasy to allay deep-rooted fears of nature,
  • By the belief in a Golden Age of harmony and order, which might be retrieved.

He said that, "we are surrounded by things which we have not made and which have a life and a structure different from our own and for centuries have inspired us with curiosity and awe." He continued to say that, "Landscape Painting marks the stages in our conception of nature. Its rise and development since the Middle Ages is part of a cycle in which the human spirit attempted once more to create a harmony with its environment." Sir Kenneth Clark also wrote that, "landscape painting was an act of faith and in the early nineteenth century as values declined, faith in nature became a form of religion." and "Almost every Englishman when asked what he thought was meant by the word 'beauty' would begin to describe a landscape."

Sir Kenneth Clark also wrote that Henri Rousseau's ideal of total immersion, could be seen in the paintings of both J.M.W. Turner and Claude Monet.

In a book on the phenomena of Krakatoa, (The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester) the volcanic eruption that could be heard clear across the world, the writer states that "Art was born out of the after-effects of this volcano." After millions of tons of dust were hurled into the air in the East Indies, it disseminated around the world for many years and extraordinary sunsets were seen in unusual colors and hues exciting many landscape painters. One of those artists was, Frederic Edwin Church, a member of the Hudson River School, an American nineteenth-century painting group. Sunset Over the Ice on Chaumont Bay, Lake Ontario, a watercolor painting, is said to be the only major painting made after the immediate aftermath of the explosion and stands as vivid testimony to the great eruption. His oil, Twilight in the Wilderness, also has unusual richness of color. J.M.W. Turner the great English master-painter, was also thought to have been influenced by these unusual effects and is famous for painting evening skies colored in the aftermath of the 1815 eruption of Tambora, an earlier but not as lethal, eruption.

A lesser artist, William Ashcroft, who lived on the Thames River in Chelsea, London, painted some five hundred, plus, watercolors and made notes of the unique tints in the sunsets, for several months. These were shown in exhibition but then locked away in the Natural History Museum, in London, almost forgotten.

Landscape painting (European tradition)

The oldest recorded views in the West were cut into rock at Valcamonica, near Lake Guarda, Italy, some 2000 years B.C.E. However, these are geometric and not regarded strictly, as art. The pre-classical civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Agean had landscape motifs that are considered art. The Hellenistic period, shows us the first known paintings of a more naturalistic nature.

In the first century C.E., Roman frescoes of landscapes, decorated rooms that have been preserved at Pompeii and Herculaneum and the first of 'pure' landscapes.

The Renaissance

In Italy, Giovanni Bellini was perhaps the first to mold all the varying styles of precision and mastery of light into one harmonious whole with man, nature and his environment seen on equal terms. The Renaissance produced both Christian and Pagan symbols along with Classical mythology, to praise man rather than any one system. A shift from divine to earthly love is shown in portrayals by both Sandro Botticelli and Titian. Artists began to look at the landscape in a much more studied and scientific way, tired of the old symbolic representations of nature. Leonardo da Vinci studied closely and drew, rocks and the way water and clouds move and botanicals among other subjects, in his Notebooks.

Christ on the Sea of Galilee, by Jacopo Tintoretto, 1560
Flight into Egypt, by Jacob Patinir, 1524
Proverbs, by Jan Breughel the Elder, copied from a painting by his father Pieter Breughel the Elder.

Spiritual reaction

Mannerism was a reaction to the Renaissance, a way to depict Spirituality over Humanism. A form of Expressionism, it had a love of visual excitement akin to the Gothic tradition, everything was for effect. Tintoretto, Saint Mary of Egypt in Meditation, 1585 (oil on canvas) and El Greco, the Greek, 1541-1614, View of Toledo (oil on canvas) were great examples. Peter Paul Rubens', 1577-1640, landscapes were full of both naturalism and romantic escapism. The Hurricane, 1624 (oil on wood) is typical and his rainbows anticipated W.J.M. Turner.

The Northern naturalism

Sixteenth century Flemish landscape began with Joachim Patinir and lasts over a hundred years and ends with the refined Jan Breughel the Elder, or Velvet or Flower Breughel, with sublime religious subjects, as in, Sodom and Gomorrah, (oil on copper). His father, Pieter Breughel the Elder, or Peasant Breughel (for his portrayals of that life) was considered the greatest of Flemish painters of the period with his combination of Italian maniera or style and Netherlands realism. Hunters in the Snow, 1565 (Oil on wood) is believed to be, December or January, from a series of the Months.

Dutch painters soon moved towards a new naturalism unhampered by literary or classical allusions. This commitment to landscape for its own sake was novel in it's time. Light, became the dominant theme and realism needed by a newly rich class. These were the honest tributes to this northern landscape of flat fields and low skies. The new Dutch syle began with Hercules Seghjers of Haarlem, 1590-1638, with a kind of imaginative realism as in Rocky Landscape (oil on canvas) and a golden light that Rembrandt admired, owning several of his work.

The new French and English Schools

In France during the reign of Louis XIV, the argument as to which was more important, color or drawing came to a head. The partisans of drawing favored Nicolas Poussin, whilst those of color, Peter Paul Rubens. This battle was won when, a product of the Rococo period, Antoine Watteau was accepted into the French Academy in 1717, with his Embarkation for Cythera. This painting has wistful lovers in a theatrical tableau and it began the career of the most famous French colorist and painter of lovers and musicians of the eighteenth century. This later led to the idylls of Jean-Honore Fragonard, 1732-1806, the last great painter of the eighteenth century, who along with Watteau, seemed to consider nature as well-tended parks and gardens and the latter contemplated the world with more than delight and painted it with freshness and freedom. The Shady Avenue, 1736-1776, (oil on wood) a fine example.

Thomas Gainsborough, a portraitist, in England, belonged to a period in which his fellow countrymen tried to make actual 'places' into living versions of classical paintings. When these formal gardens were then used as starting points of landscape paintings, history had gone full circle, as in Landscape with a Bridge, after 1774, Oil on canvas. In the nineteenth century, Romanticism, the opposite of classicism or neo-classicism began to take on a variety of meanings and introduced the idea of the sublime. This, was to bring forth the ideal of feeling, as to opposed to cold reason. This resulted in very dramatic works, later echoed in some of the Hudson Valley painters in America.

The Romantic North

In northern countries theRomantic view of nature varied enormously. Painters either were sternly realistic or tried to show off the characteristic beauties of their country. German artist,Caspar David Friedrich 1774–1840, was the exception and the greatest exponent of the Romantic landscape in northern Europe. Mountain Landscape with Rainbow, 1809 (oil on canvas) conveys a sense of mystery of the bewilderment of man confronted with the huge Creation. His conveyance of the romantic and the sublime also had great influence later in American painting as with the English painters, John Martin and J.M.W. Turner.

The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists

The Banks of the Marne, Paul Cezanne, 1888

From a small exhibition given by a few close friends working in the same way together, came the name for their genre. The freshness and immediacy of execution, shocked the public and the neglect of proper 'subjects' byClaude Monet, Camille Pissarro,Alfred Sisley and Paul Cezanne. Monet's Impression: Sunrise gave rise to the sarcastic comment, "an exhibition of impressionists."

When the Impressionists were at their best, they wove a pattern of light and shade over their canvases, eliminating hard outlines and graded shading. Their sheer use of pure color would have amazed their predecessors. Black and brown were removed for color absorbed them. Claude Monet 1840-1926, profited from working with Pierre-Auguste Renoir, (1841-1919), who'd been a painter of china. As plein air artists they'd finish canvases in their studios, with Monet's on a house boat at one point.


Over the centuries Russian culture has been formed both in opposition to social and material reality and its artists transformed the tragedy of existence into metaphysical beauty. For many the artistic image represented life itself. The messianic attitude towards creativity has always existed in Russia and especially during the early twentieth century when the artists of the Russian avant-garde like Marc Chagall and Vasily Kandinsky changed the very concept of the relationship between the visible and invisible worlds. The artist is always a missionary who must look beyond the objective world into the mysteries of existence.

Examples are;

  • Isak Leitan, Above Eternal Rest, 1894 (oil on canvas) The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow,
  • Silvester Schedrin, Russian Romantic, A Small Harbour in Sorrento near Naples (oil on canvas) The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
  • Alexander Ivanov, between Classicism and Romanticism, Via Appia, 1845 (oil on canvas) The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow,
  • Fedor Alexev, View of the Palace Embankment from the Peter and Paul Fortress (oil on canvas) The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow,
  • Alexei Venetsianov On the Harvest: Summer (oil on canvas) The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow,
  • Nikifor Krylov, Winter Landscape, 1827 (oil on canvas) State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg,
  • Grigorii Soroka, Fishermen We, 1840s (oil on canvas) State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg,
  • Fedor Vasiliev, Wet Meadow, 1872 (oil on canvas) The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow,
  • Ivan Shishkin, Rye, 1878 (oil on canvas) The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow,
  • Arkship Kuindzhi, At Night, 1905-1908 (oil on canvas) State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg,
  • Isaak Levitan Spring, High Water (oil on canvas) The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow,
  • Victor Borisov-Musatov, Gobelin, 1901, Oil on canvas, The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow,
  • Pavel Kuznetsov, Shearing Sheep, ca. 1912 (oil on canvas) State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg,
  • Aristarkh Lentulov, Cubist, Moscow, 1913 (oil on canvas) The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow,
  • Wasily Kandinsky, Sketch For Composition, 1909-1910 (oil on canvas) Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York,
  • Kasmir Malevich, Red Cavalry, 1928-1932 (oil on canvas) State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg.
  • Alexander Labas, The Train is Going, 1929 (oil on canvas) State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg,
  • Alexander Deineka, Collective Farmworker on a Bicycle, 1935 (oil on canvas) State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg,
  • Arkady Plastov, Reaping, 1945 (oil on canvas) The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow,
  • Eric Bulatov, Krasikov Street, 1977 (oil on canvas) Jane Vorhees Zimmerli Museum, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, the Norton and Nancy Dodge collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union.

Gallery Russian landscape art

Freedom in the twentieth century

Freed from many old constraints, artists began to experiment more and more, with happy results; Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, a brilliant colorist with The Blue Room, The Bluff 1907 (oil on canvas) and a leading spirit of the the Fauves or "wild beasts," with vivid and highly decorative motifs. Raoul Dufy a designer, painted with sketchy frivolity and decorative color, Maurice Utrillo his beloved Paris-scapes, and Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958) painted by laying on thick layers of oil with a knife and other flat instruments. Wasily Kandinsky, 1866–1944, a Russian painter, printmaker and art theorist, is credited with making the the first abstract paintings in the West.

Landscape painting (American tradition)

In The Beginning, All the World was America - John Locke

In the woods, is perpetual Youth. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. - Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nature

Young America

Florimells Flucht, by Washington Allston, 1819
View in the White Mountains, by Thomas Cole, 1827
Tower Creek, by Thomas Moran, 1871

In America the young nation began with its influences chiefly from England and the European tradition. gradually, over time as if molded by the landscape itself, uniquely American genres and styles were born with more than an occasional nod back over the ocean.

The thoroughly American branch of painting, based upon the facts and tastes of the country and people is … landscape James Jackson Jarves in his book The Art-idea, 1864.

The Hudson River School painters

Many of the landscapes produced in the eighteenth century were strictly topographical; views of towns or beauty spots and were often made by military men. In the early decades of the nineteenth, landscape began to be created as pure and ideal. Thomas Doughty, 1793-1852, from Philadelphia began with picturesque composition, while History painter Washington Allston, Diana On a Chase 1805, trained in London, with his allegorical scenes rooted in the Italian tradition and naturalized by the English, gave stimuli to Thomas Cole's ambitious program to create a uniquely American landscape art.

Coming of Age

Frederic Edwin Church painted prolifically in the Hudson River valley and also traveled and painted in South America. His landscape painting were rivaled was Albert Bierstadt, with his sensational paintings of the American West. Born In Germany in 1830 and with his family, moved to America at age two and later returned to Dusseldorf to study painting. On return in 1859, he went on an expedition the explore the Rocky Mountains. The great picture that he made on his return was The Rocky Mountain, Lander's Peak, 1863 (oil on linen). His style was cool, objective and very detailed and had already been proved by a Swiss painting of Lake Lucerne. His technique was to make pencil sketches and small oil studies. His brothers ran a photographic studio and he also used a camera. His work was known as new Ideal landscape as in Among the Sierra Mountains, California shown in London in 1868, 'not fiction but portraiture', was the reaction. Sunset in the Yosemite Valley, 1868 (oil on canvas) was described by the artist as the Garden Eden, 'the most magnificent place I was in,' recalling Cole's Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, 1827-1828 (oil on canvas). As a result of paintings from this area, in 1864, during the American Civil War, landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted (creator of Central Park, in New York City drafted a bill for the preservation of Yosemite Valley, for the nation, which President Abraham Lincoln signed into law.

A new century, new ideas

Winslow Homer another great painter began as an illustrator in Boston and served as an artist during the Civil War, he was famous for wood engravings and soon his oils and watercolors became as popular. He travelled extensively and saw Japanese prints in France and took the best ideas of the west and the east and made them his own. He described the physical phenomena of the sea with spontaneity in both watercolor and oil. His West Point, Prout's Neck, 1900 (oil on canvas) combined these elements of style, a new vision for a new century.

Marsden Hartley was one of the first great modern painters, although an itinerant, constantly struggling with his personal life and finances and unable to settle, he alternated between Nova Scotia, Maine, New England and New York. His paintings of The Last Stone Walls, Dogtown (Gloucester, Mass.) 1936-1937 (oil on canvas) reminiscent of Pynkham Ryder, point the way to future modernism.

Regionalism, the Mid-West and South-West

Grant Wood's Fall Plowing 1931 (oil on canvas) at a time of great financial depression shows an ideal mid-western agrarianism. Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry are considered the trinity of Regionalism, an anti-dote toModern Art. Wood had studied Flemish art and was highly stylized but Alexandre Hogue made stronger comments on the abuse and exploitation of the land with his The Crucified Land 1939 (oil on canvas) and paintings of the Dust Bowl. Georgia O'Keefe, who had made her mark in New York City with her city-scapes and close-up flower paintings moved to New Mexico permanently after her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz's death in 1946. Moving between abstraction and realism she portrayed the Southwest and the desert with sensuality and ambiguity as in Black Place 11 (oil on canvas).

Towards realism and a new realism

Andrew Wyeth for all the argument about his work is indeed a painter of significance and realism. At first his work was thought of as photographic but with the advent of Photo Realism (in the 1970s) it was realized just how interpretive he was. Ring Road 1985 (tempera) shows an almost oriental feeling and abstraction. In the mid-1950s and 1960s came a shift from abstract to figurative painting on both the East and West coasts. In California, the influences included Henri Matisse; Richard Diebenkorn, View From a Porch (oil on canvas) 1959, Wayne Thiebaud, Coloma Ridge, 1967-1968 (acrylic and pastel on canvas) David Park, Elmer Bischoff, Landscape Afternoon 1959 (oil on canvas) Paul Wonner, James Weeks and Theophilus Brown. In the East, the Abstract Expressionists had held sway but that began to change, too.

The inner landscape

Other artists who work with an abstract or surrealistic style to explore the inner landscapes of ourselves and our imagination, include; Jan Parker in Hawaii and Benny Andersson in New Jersey.

Benny Andersson paints "visual prayers, intended to promote deep reflection and healing within the viewer and to have a spiritual and uplifting effect on the soul, to keep dreams alive." He likens artists as "messengers of truth and beauty." His landscapes, full of unique imagery, cosmic and earthly visions, recall Hieronymus Bosch and are endowed with transparent colors as clear as glass. Unlike Bosch, Andersson shows the viewer worlds free from danger, impurity and abuse and allows nature to be seen as through the eyes of the newborn child.

Canada landscape painting

As explorers, naturalists, mariners, merchants and settlers arrived on the shores of Atlantic Canada in the early centuries of its exploration, they were confronted by what they saw as a hostile and dangerous environment and an unforgiving sea. These Europeans tried to cope with the daunting new land by mapping, recording and claiming it as their own. Their understanding of the specific nature of this land and its inhabitants varied greatly, with observations ranging from highly accurate and scientific to outlandish or fantastic. These observations are documented in the landscape works they produced. In more recent times some of the best examples of Canadian landscape art can be found in the works of the Group of Seven.[3]and the British Columbia forest-scapes of Emily Carr. The indigenous peoples of Canada, the Inuit and First Nations' peoples, created their art work as part of their daily lives and did not have languages for art. In examples of hunting and fishing, the waters and other natural elements are a backdrop to the action.

"Artistic expression is a spirit, not a method, a pursuit, not a settled goal, an instinct, not a body of rules." - Foreword, Group of 7 Exhibition of Paintings, exhibition catalog, Art Gallery of Toronto, 1922.

Among the thousands of artists that have worked in these extensive and vast lands, here are a few, some who have been influenced by European and American traditions and a few who have created their own. George Back, 1796-1878, Broaching to, - Canoe crossing the Melville Sound, 1821 (watercolor) from sketchbook. Made during a heroic voyage on an overland Arctic expedition to the Coppermine River.

James Pattison Cockburn, 1779-1847, General Hospital, Quebec, 1830 (watercolor and gum arabic over graphite on woven paper). A Major General and Commander of the Royal Artillery in British North America, he was able to use his sketchbooks on his tours of Upper and Lower Canada. At his home garrison at Quebec City, he was to paint many points of view.

William Brymner, 1855-1925, A Wreath of Flowers, 1884 (oil on canvas). An influential teacher at the Art Institute of Montreal, this was painted in England with some knowlege of Impressionism.

Franklin Carmichael, 1890-1945, Bay of Islands 1930 (watercolor on paper). The youngest member of the Group of Seven artists, giving a panoramic view north of Lake Superior.

Emily Carr, 1871-1945, Red Cedar, 1931-1933 (oil on canvas) and Sky, 1935 (oil on wove paper). Speaking of her love for the beauty of Canadas' woods, she asked, "Am I one-idea'd, small, narrow? God is in them all." Her depictions of a cloud-filled heaven radiates with life and energy which she noted reflected her spiritual beliefs. She is also remembered for her depictions of First Nations' villages.

Jack Chambers, 1931-1978, Towards London No. 1 1968-1969 (Oil on mahogany). Working from a photograph, he states that he wants to capture "this eternal present." The year that he finished this painting he published an essay, "Perceptual Realism."

Alfred Joseph Casson, 1898-1992, Hillside Village. 1927 (Watercolor on paper). As a member of the Group of Seven he painted the Ontario hillside town to be different from the others and because he loved these old but disappearing places. He helped form the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Color.

Gallery Canadian landscape art

Australia landscape painting

Back to Australian Tales is from the collection of Warrnambool Art Gallery, Hamilton Art Gallery, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Geelong Gallery, Benalla Art Gallery, Lismore Regional Art Gallery, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Devonport Gallery and Arts Centre, Logan Art Gallery and University of South Australia Art Museum.

This small selection of Australian landscape painting, beginning with the period of European settlement, highlights different ways of depicting land and organizing pictorial space. Of course for a long time before the arrival of Europeans, Aboriginal people were interpreting aspects of their land through song, art, dance and ceremony.

It is interesting to note changes in regard to creating the illusion of depth in landscape painting. In the past a horizon line was used to create a sense of vast space. The resulting effect was that it positioned the viewer at a distance from the landscape. Later, as indigenous and contemporary art influenced artists and as we have come to know the landscape better, the use of a horizon has diminished or totally disappeared.

Mount Townsend, by Eugene von Guérard, 1863

Eugene von Guerard and Thomas Clark both arrived in Australia in the early 1850s yet they depict land in quite different ways. Von Guerard (1811-1901) painted Tower Hill as an idyllic landscape where the Aboriginal group, shown in the foreground, appear to live in a latter-day paradise. Between the contrast of the detailed foreground and the distant horizon one senses the artist's desire to explore this unknown land.

Muntham by Thomas Clark (1814-1883), painted approximately five years later than Tower Hill, shows measured paddocks, denuded hills, grazing animals and farm-workers leaving no sense of the un-known. The focus of the painting is the homestead nestled in the valleys. Unlike von Guerard, Clark is not interested in exploration or botanical correctness but rather in belonging and ownership.

In von Guerard's later painting of 1884, Old Ballarat as it was in the summer of 1853-54, the genesis of a city is captured. By showing cleared land and a horizon of disappearing wilderness, von Guerard may also be questioning the price of progress.

The Letter 1884, by Frederick McCubbin.

Fredrick McCubbin (1855-1917) painted A Bush Burial in 1890 when the colony was experiencing the worst drought and depression in its history and this possibly influenced the choice of subject. McCubbin creates an engulfing, claustrophobic landscape by barely suggesting any horizon and compressing midground and background. In contrast, the bush folk are portrayed as heroic figures.

There is no sense of the heroic in Clarice Beckett's work. Instead, Beckett (1887-1935) pays homage to the everyday scenes and small events that we all experience. Misty suburban landscapes are painted with a transient beauty that suggests the impermanence of existence. Beckett often painted en plein air—completing her work outside rather than in the studio. Between the heroics of McCubbin and the cherished everyday events seen in Beckett's work, we could speculate on how World War 1 may have had an effect on the choice of subject matter deemed worthy enough to paint.

Albert Namatjira (1902-1959) grew up on the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission near Alice Springs and knew the Central Australian desert intimately. A characteristic common to most of Namatjira's landscapes is the sense of energy within the land. Though his paintings conform to European traditions of landscape painting in that they contain foreground, midground, background and distant horizon, the forms pulsate through the patterning of shadows across the painting, making the land itself appear to breathe.

Sidney Nolan (1917-1992), like McCubbin, was interested in depicting narratives in the landscape. In Kelly at the Mines the horizon appears disjointed and forms are not anchored in space. Instead they seem to float and the landscape becomes the locale for surreal dramas: a dreamed place. The Ned Kelly series was painted during World War II when Nolan was himself hiding out from army authorities after deserting.

In Yellow Landscape, Fred Williams (1927-1982) also disturbs the organization of pictorial space by evaporating the horizon line in what appears to be searing heat, allowing the tree forms to float in heat and space. Through thoughtful distillation of forms accompanied by gestural brush strokes, Williams transforms half-cleared, unremarkable scrub into a kind of calligraphic meditation on observation.

Eagle Landscape by William Robinson (b. 1936) depicts a horizon line totally abandoned and the viewer is made to feel that they are surrounded by the landscape as one simultaneously sees above, below, through and over. As the title suggests, this painting may well be an imagined bird's view as it swoops over hilltops. Robinson often depicts the land close to his home and this gives his paintings a sense of familiarity and sensitivity to the connections between land and living things.

Leaving a Mountain by Bea Maddock (b. 1934) has very little sense of depth as one mountain dominates the horizon. Instead we are made aware of how the landscape was observed: slowly, bit by bit. The artist might be suggesting that intimate knowledge of the land can only be gained through slow observation. Her work often has a feeling of being wrought from earth as she uses ochers from her native Tasmania mixed with en-caustic (pigment mixed with molten wax).

Kathleen Petyarre (b. circa 1940) was born on Utopia Station, north-east of Alice Springs. Common themes in Petyarre's paintings are the Dreaming stories she inherited from her mother and father. There is a feeling of immense space in Petyarre's paintings though there is no hint of a horizon line and the subject matter may be as minute as the trail a lizard leaves across sand. The viewer is made to feel that they are surrounded by and submerged in the landscape.

Gallery Australian landscape art

Landscape painting (Latin tradition)

Painted in Latin America

Love of travel and adventure has historically been an important characteristic of American cultural identity. In the nineteenth century, these interests were manifested in a vogue for travel literature and artist renderings, especially paintings of exotic places, an interest that reached an unprecedented peak in the mid-century. Some artists traveled to the far North of the American continent, creating images of icebergs and frozen seas; others made their way to the far West, capturing nature's wonders there, while still others headed South to the Hispanic-speaking countries of Latin America. For many of these artists, the experience was the turning point in their careers.

Gallery Latin American landscape art

Twentieth century Latin America art

There are a few landscape painters in each nation of Latin America.

Campfire in the Woods, by José Bernal, 1950
Dia de Sol, by Benito Quinquela Martín, 1958

Carlos Orozco Romero, Sueno (Dream), 1940 (oil on canvas) private collection, Mexico City.

Manuel Gonzalez Serrano, Aprendices de Toreo (Bullfighters' apprentices) 1948 (oil on wood) private collection.

Central America, Honduras

Jose Antonio Valasquez, Paisaje (Landscape), 1976 (oil on canvas) private collection.


Arnoldo Guillen, Coloso VIII (Colossus VIII), 1993 (acrylic on canvas) Managua.

Costa Rica

Asilia Guillen, Autorretrato de la Artista Pintado (Self-Portrait of the Artist Painting), 1954 (oil on canvas) private collection.

Teodorico Quiros, Caserio (Village), 1946 (oil on canvas) private collection.


Roberto Lewis, Tamarindos (Tamarind Trees), 1948 (oil on canvas) private collection.


Leopoldo Romanach, Cruzando El Rio (Fording the River), 1900 (oil on canvas) private collection.

Tomas Sanchez, Buscador de Bosques (Seeker of Forests), 1991 (acrylic on canvas) private collection.

Dominican Republic

Yoryi Morel, A La Fiesta (At the Fiesta), 1948 (oil on canvas) Museo Juan Jose Bellapart, Santa Domingo.

Puerto Rico

Virginia Patrone La Hora de las Puertas Cerradas, 2005 (acrylic on canvas) private collection.

Landscape painting (Eastern tradition)

While Europe and the United States of America, hold a central place in the public eye and in the general History of Art, other civilizations have some elements of landscape painting in varying degrees. In Asia, India and Persia and Turkey, these are mostly found in jewel-like miniature paintings, in which depictions of flora and lanscape appear. In India, Buddha is often in the relief carvings of stupas or shrines, depicted sitting beneath a tree, under which his mother Maya gave birth to him. In Indian Mogul art are Lovers in a Landscape c.1760-1770, Miniature, New Delhi, National Museum.

India landscape art and philosophy

Indian paintings historically revolved around the religious deities and kings. Indian art is a collective term for several different schools of art that existed in the Indian subcontinent. The paintings varied from large frescoes of Ellora to the intricate Mughal miniature paintings to the metal embellished works from the Tanjore school. The paintings from the Gandhar-Taxila are influenced by Persian works in the west. The eastern style of painting was mostly developed around the Nalanda school of art. The works are mostly inspired by various scenes from Indian mythology. None of these pictures portrayed landscape as such but occasionally small elements would be act as a backdrop.

The Bengal School of Art was an influential style of art that flourished in India during the British Raj in the early twentieth century. It was associated with Indian nationalism, but was also promoted and supported by many British arts administrators.

The artist Abanindranath Tagore, a nephew of the poet Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore painted a number of works influenced by Mughal art, a style that he believed to be expressive of India's distinct spiritual qualities, as opposed to the "materialism" of the West. Tagore later attempted to develop links with Japanese artists as part of an aspiration to construct a pan-Asianist model of art.

In the post-independence period, Indian artists showed more adaptability as they borrowed freely from European styles and amalgamated them freely with the Indian motifs to new forms of art. While artists like Francis Newton Souza and Tyeb Mehta were more western in their approach, there were others like Ganesh Pyne and Maqbool Fida Hussain who developed thoroughly indigenous styles of work. Today after the process of liberalization of the market in India, the artists are experiencing more exposure to the international art-scene which is helping them in emerging with newer forms of art which were hitherto not seen in India.

Gallery India landscape art

Islam landscape art and philosophy

Sa'di in a Rose Garden, Mughal Dynasty, from the reign of Shah Jahan, early sixteenth century, repainted 1645

The depiction of humans, animals or any another figurative subjects is forbidden within Islam to prevent believers from idolatry so there is no religiously motivated painting (or sculpture) tradition within Muslim culture. Pictorial activity was reduced to Arabesque, mainly abstract, with geometrical configuration or floral and plant-like patterns. Notable illustrator M.C. Escher was influenced by this geometrical and pattern based art. Art Nouveau (Aubrey Beardsley and the architect Antonio Gaudi) re-introduced abstract floral patterns into western art. Note that despite the taboo of figurative visualization, some muslim countries did cultivate a rich tradition in painting, though not in its own right, but as a companion to the written word. Iranian or Persian art, widely known as Persian miniature, concentrates on the illustration of epic or romantic works of literature. Persian illustrators deliberately avoided the use of shading and perspective, though familiar with it in their pre-islamic history, in order to abide by the rule of not creating any life-like illusion of the real world. Their aim was not to depict the world as it is, but to create images of an ideal world of timeless beauty and perfect order.


In present days, painting by art students or professional artists in Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries follow the same tendencies of Western culture art.

Paintings of the Qajar period, are a combination of European influences and Safavid miniature schools of painting such as those introduced by Reza Abbasi. Masters such as Kamal-ol-molk, further pushed forward the European influence in Iran. It was during the Qajar era when "Coffee House painting" emerged. Subjects of this style were often religious in nature depicting scenes from Shi'a epics and the like.

Gallery Islamic landscape art

Chinese landscape art and philosophy

Emperor Minghuang's Journey to Sichuan; this section of a much larger Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Chinese handscroll painting on silk shows Tang Minghuang, or Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, fleeing the capital Chang'an and the violence of the An Shi Rebellion that began in the year 755 during the mid Tang Dynasty. This handscroll painting is a late Ming copy after an original painting by the renowned Ming artist Qiu Ying (1494-1552).

The Chinese tradition of "pure" landscape, in which the minute human figure simply gives scale and invites the viewer to participate in the experience, was well established by the time the oldest surviving ink paintings were executed.

Chinese painters over a period of fifteen centuries have developed certain methods that are meant for the beginner to learn and practice before any creative departures. The evolution of Chinese painting over many centuries has been continuous whilst making some adjustments for certain other influences. It has established strong traditions and a self generating force.

The simple use of brush and ink on absorbent paper in monochromatic forms and voids coupled with an exclusive choice of subjects from nature form the basis for this language of art. For thousands of years the Chinese people have been farmers struggling with the changes in nature until they began to seek a way of harmony with those forces which became eventually the philosophy of Dao or the Way, a fundamental notion that nature and humanity are one.

So, artists aspired also to become one with nature, superseding other forms such as figure painting. As a result Chinese painting came to have universal appeal. The artist intends the landscape not just for viewing but for a more spiritual journey.

Gallery Chinese landscape art

Japanese painting traditions

As nearly all forms of art, Japanese early painting had been under the influence of the Chinese culture. By and by, new and specifically Japanese styles were developed and painting schools were established. Each school practiced their own style. But the Chinese influence remained strong until the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1867). There is a general term to describe painting in Japanese style - yamato-e.

Painting Schools and Styles
  • Suibokuga or Sumi-e, is the term for painting in black ink. It was adopted from China and strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism. During the fifteenth century ink painting gained a more Japanese style of its own.
  • Kano Masanobu (1453-1490) and his son Kano Motonobu (1476-1559) established the Kano painting school. It began as a protest against the Chinese ink painting technique in black. The Kano school used bright colors and introduced daring compositions with large flat areas that later should dominate the ukiyo-e designs. The Kano school split into several branches over the time, but remained dominant during the Edo period. Many ukiyo-e artists were trained as Kano painters.
  • The nanga painting style was strong at the beginning of the nineteenth century during the bunka and bunsai era. The advocates of this style painted idealized landscapes and natural subjects like birds and flowers for a cultural elite. The style was rather Chinese.

Japanese painters used a wide variety of media over the centuries. The only one not used until the late nineteenth century, is the Western style framed canvas.

Japanese paintings may evoke an association with landscapes and natural scenes drawn with a few simple brush strokes.

Gallery Japanese landscape art

Korean landscape painting

The study and appreciation of Korean art is still at a formative stage in the West. Because of Korea’s geographical position between China and Japan, Korea was seen as a mere conduit of Chinese culture into Japan. However, scholars have begun recently to acknowledge Korea’s own unique art culture and important role in not only transmitting Chinese culture but creating distinctive styles as well.

While studies on Korean aesthetics are rare, a useful place to begin understanding of how Korean art developed as an aesthetic is in Korean philosophy, and related articles on Korean Buddhism, and Korean Confucianism. To the Korean painter brush-strokes are far more important than they are to the western artist; and paintings are judged on individual brush-strokes more often than pure technique.

Generally the history of Korean painting is dated to approximately 108 C.E., when it first appears as an independent form. Until the Joseon Dynasty the primary influence was Chinese painting although done with Korean landscapes. Most of the early notable painters in Japan were either born in Korea or trained by Korean artists during the Baekje era as Japan assimilated Korean culture without restraint at that time.

Privately owned Korean-style painting drawn by a modern Korean artist.

Throughout the history of Korean painting, there has been a constant separation of monochromatic works of black brushwork on very often mulberry paper or silk; and the colorful folk art or min-hwa, ritual arts, tomb paintings, andfestival arts which had extensive use of color. This distinction was often class-based. Scholars, particularly in Confucian art felt that one could see color in monochromatic paintings within the gradations of ink and felt that the actual use of color coarsened the paintings, and restricted the imagination.

Korean painters in the post-1945 period have assimilated some of the approaches of their western counterparts. Certain European artists using a thick impasto technique and foregrounded brush-strokes captured the Korean interest. Such artists as Paul Gauguin, Adolphe Monticelli, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Camille Pissarro, and Georges Braque have been highly influential as they have been the most taught in art schools, with books both readily available and translated into Korean early.

The expected genres of Buddhist art showing the Buddha, or Buddhist monks, and Confucian art of scholars in repose, or studying in quiet often mountainous surroundings follows general Asian art trends.

Hunting scenes, familiar throughout the entire world, are often seen in Korean courtly art, and are reminiscent of Mongolian and Persian hunting scenes.

Baejke painters

Yi painted alongside and influenced the originals of Japanese zen art; and was known in Japan by his Japanese name Ri Shubun or the Korean Bhubun. Descent of Japanese zen painting thus can be traced to: Yi su-mun (Ri Shubun), alongside Josetsu and Sesshu who was taught by Yi su-mun.

Joseon Dynasty painting

Mid-dynasty painting styles moved towards increased realism. A national painting style of landscapes called "true view" began - moving from the traditional Chinese style of idealized general landscapes to particular locations exactly rendered. While not photographic, the style was academic enough to become established and supported as a standardized style in Korean painting.

The list of major painters is long, but most notable names include Jeong Seon (1676-1759), a literati painter influenced by theWu school of the Ming dynasty in China; much taken by the Diamond mountain landscape. Shin Yun-bok (b. 1758), a court painter who did paintings often of the scholarly or yangban classes in motion through stylized natural settings; he is famous for his strong reds and blues, and grayish mountain-scapes.

North Korean painters who escaped to the United States in the 1950s include the Fwhang sisters. Duk Soon Fwhang and Chung Soon Fwhang O'Dwyer avoid overtly political statements in favor of tempestuous landscapes, bridging Western and Far Eastern painting techniques.

Gallery Korean landscape art

The Importance and impact of Landscape painting

In the need to represent nature comes the need to show it. We all wish to share that which we love and landscapes are no exception. When gazing on a Chinese panorama in some long dim past dynasty, surely we share and relive the emotions felt by that artist. This way is the way not only of feeling but of intelligence for we now begin to learn of our history far and wide. The artist becomes a recorder of feelings and fact, delving into the mysteries of how things are and come to be.

Landscape painting not only gives us a view into this material universe with an image frozen in time and space but takes us back to that very moment of its conception. Not only history but philosophy and even religion may be embedded with the artist's individual stamp, thoughts and ideas. Science too is present, in an examination of a scene, it's light, form and color, skillfully rendered by the painter, akin to the botanical illustrator. Most of all we feel the emotion of one standing in awe, striving to bring that moment to life, reborn in another form, the painting, a work of art.

For many, the tranquil depictions of nature give respite and relaxation, calming of the soul and spirit in one's own home. Yet, more than a sense of wonder is felt in the public and private galleries of art. Moreover, we now experience in this modern life, more and more, not only the visions of this physical creation but also the abstract, exploration and landscapes of our inner worlds, as noted by current abstract artist, Jan Parker.

The great romantic, Lafcadio Hearn wrote from Japan, a century ago:

…As the scene, too swiftly receding diminishes, … I vainly wish I could buy this last vision of it … and delight my soul betime with gazing thereon.

Related -scapes

  • Vedute is the Italian term for view, and generally used for the painted landscape, often cityscapes which were a common eighteenth century painting thematic.
  • Skyscapes or Cloudscapes are depictions of clouds, weatherforms, and atmospheric conditions.
  • Moonscapes show the landscape of a moon.
  • Seascapes depict oceans or beaches.
  • Riverscapes depict rivers or creeks.
  • Cityscapes or townscapes depict cities (urban landscapes).
  • Hardscapes are paved over areas like streets and sidewalks, large business complexes and housing developments, and industrial areas.
  • Aerial landscapes depict a surface or ground from above, especially as seen from an airplane or spacecraft. (When the viewpoint is directly overhead, looking down, there is of course no depiction of a horizon or sky.) This genre can be combined with others, as in the aerial cloudscapes of Georgia O'Keeffe, the aerial moonscapes of Nancy Graves, or the aerial cityscapes of Yvonne Jacquette.
  • Inscapes are landscape-like (usually surrealist or abstract) artworks which seek to convey the psychoanalytic view of the mind as a three-dimensional space. For sources on this statement, see the Inscape (visual art) article.


  1. John Ruskin. Modern Painters, Vol. 3 Of Many Things. "Of the novelty of landscape." (Adamant Publishing, 2000. ISBN 142122903X)
  2. Sir Kenneth Clark. Landscape into Art. preface. (New York: Harper and Row, 1949.)
  3. "Landscapes" in Virtual Vault, an online exhibition of Canadian historical art at Library and Archives Canada

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Arthur, John. Spirit of Place, Contemporary Landscape Painting & The American tradition. Bullfinch Press, 1989. ISBN 0821217070
  • Bazarov, Konstantin. Landscape painting. London: Octopus Books; NY: Mayflower Books, 1981. OCLC 8686498
  • Brigante, Guiliano. The View Painters of Europe. Phaidon Press Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0714814075
  • Carli, Enzo. The Landscape In Art, from 3,000 B.C.E. to Today. Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., English translation copyright Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., Milano, 1979. ISBN 0688036783
  • Clark, Sir Kenneth. Landscape into Art. Slade Lectures, Harper and Row, 1949. ISBN 0060107812
  • Jeffares, Bo. Landscape Painting. NY: Mayflower Books Inc., 1979. ISBN 0831754133
  • Kiers, Judikje, and Tissink Fieke. The Golden Age of Dutch Art. Thames and Hudson Ltd., 2000. ISBN 0500237743
  • Leonard, Elizabeth. Painting the Landscape. Watson-Guptill Publications, 1984. ISBN 0823036553
  • McShine, Kynaston, Ed. The Natural Paradise, Painting in America 1800-1950. NY: The Museum of Modern Art, 1976. ISBN 0870705059.
  • Newlands, Anne. Canadian Art, From its beginings. Firefly Books Ltd., 2000. ISBN 1552094502
  • Novak, Barbara. Nature and culture: American landscape and painting, 1825-1875. Oxford University Press, 1980. ISBN 0195026063
  • Ruskin, John. Modern Painters, Vol. 3 Of Many Things. "Of the novelty of landscape." Adamant Publishing, 2000. ISBN 142122903X
  • Shanes, Eric. Turner The Masterwoks. Portland House, 1990. ISBN 0517015099
  • Sullivan, Edward J., Ed. Latin American Art, in the Twentieth Century., Phaidon Press Ltd., 1996. ISBN 0714832103
  • Wilton, Andrew, T. J. Barringer, Tate Britain (Gallery); Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Minneapolis Institute of Arts. American sublime: landscape painting in the United States, 1820-1880 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002. ISBN 0691096708
  • Wilton, Andrew, and Tim Barringer. American Sublime, Landscape Painting in the United States, 1820-1880. Princeton University Press, 2002. ISBN 0691096708
  • Winchester, Simon. Krakatoa, The Day the World Exploded, 27 August 1883. The Penguin Group, 2003. ISBN 0670911267
  • Wong, Wucius. The Tao of Chinese Painting, Principles & Methods. Hong Kong: Everbest Printing Co. Ltd.; NY: Design Press, 1991. ISBN 0830690107


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