landscape painting

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landscape painting,

portrayal of scenes found in the natural world; these scenes are treated as the subject of the work of art rather than as an element in another kind of painting.

Early Landscapes

In the West, the concept of landscape grew very slowly. Nature was traditionally viewed as consisting of isolated objects long before it was appreciated as scene or environment. As a result landscape painting as an independent art was a late development in the West. Many scenes, from the Hellenistic pastoral paintings of antiquity to the religious works of the 16th cent. A.D., contained expansive landscape backgrounds, but they were usually subordinated within a narrative context.

The Renaissance and the Sixteenth Century

In Renaissance Italy the study of perspectiveperspective,
in art, any method employed to represent three-dimensional space on a flat surface or in relief sculpture. Although many periods in art showed some progressive diminution of objects seen in depth, linear perspective, in the modern sense, was probably first
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 gave rise to a careful rendering of scenery according to conventional formulas. GiorgioneGiorgione
, c.1478–1510, Venetian painter, b. Castelfranco Veneto; fellow student of Titian under Giovanni Bellini in Venice. Giorgione was known also as Zorgo or Zorgi da Castelfranco and as Giorgio Barbarelli.
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 and the Venetian painters excelled at pastoral vistas that recalled scenes from classical literature. Flemish works enhanced by meticulous landscape detail became popular in Italy and encouraged PatinirPatinir, Patenier, or Patiner, Joachim de
, d. 1524, Flemish landscape and religious painter. He probably studied with Gerard David in Bruges.
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 and others to cater to this taste. AltdorferAltdorfer, Albrecht
, 1480–1538, German painter and engraver. He served as city architect of Regensburg, where much of his life was spent. Although influenced by Dürer, Altdorfer's works are less severe in mood.
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, the Danube painter of the early 16th cent., created some of the first works devoted entirely to landscape.

During and after the Reformation the use of religious subject matter was restricted and numerous artists in the north became specialists in the landscape genre at which, when painting backgrounds of religious works, they had become proficient. These artists, among whom Pieter BruegelBruegel,
or Breughel
, outstanding family of Flemish genre and landscape painters. The foremost, Pieter Bruegel, the Elder, c.
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 the elder was most notable, were devoted to fantastic scenes painted according to established convention in tones of brown for the foreground, green for the middle ground, and blue for the background panorama. In Rome, Dutch artists, led by ConinxlooConinxloo or Koninksloo, Gillis van
, 1544–1607, Flemish landscape painter. His Judgment of Midas (Dresden), Latona (Hermitage, St.
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, initiated the concept of the ideal landscape.

The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Claude LorrainClaude Lorrain
, whose original name was Claude Gelée or Gellée
, 1600–1682, French painter, b. Lorraine. Claude was the foremost landscape painter of his time.
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 was supreme master of this genre. His serene pastoral works and the heroic compositions of PoussinPoussin, Gaspard
, 1615–75, French landscape painter, b. Rome. The son of a Frenchman named Dughet, he adopted the name of his brother-in-law, Nicolas Poussin, in whose studio he worked and whose influence is visible in his interpretations of the Italian countryside.
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 contrasted with the concurrent Dutch tendency toward realism. The great 17th-century Dutch landscape masters from van GoyenGoyen, Jan Josephszoon van
, 1596–1656, Dutch landscape painter. He studied at Leiden and Haarlem. In 1631 he settled at The Hague. His typically Dutch landscapes of harbors, canals, riverbanks, and winter scenes with skaters and sleighs are naturalistically painted in a
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 to RuisdaelRuisdael or Ruysdael, Jacob van
, c.1628–1682, Dutch painter and etcher, the most celebrated of the Dutch landscape painters.
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, HobbemaHobbema, Meindert
, 1638–1709, Dutch landscape painter. In landscape art Hobbema was second only to his contemporary Jacob van Ruisdael, with whom he may have studied. Most of his life was spent in a poor district of Amsterdam, where he died a pauper.
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, and RembrandtRembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn or Ryn
, 1606–69, Dutch painter, etcher, and draftsman, b. Leiden. Rembrandt is acknowledged as the greatest master of the Dutch school.
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 transformed into paint what they saw in the Dutch countryside (see Dutch artDutch art,
the art of the region that is now the Netherlands. As a distinct national style, this art dates from about the turn of the 17th cent., when the country emerged as a political entity and developed a clearly independent culture.
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). The Rococo saw a revival of ideal pastoral scenes in the works of WatteauWatteau, Jean-Antoine
, 1684–1721, French painter of Flemish descent, b. Valenciennes. Until 1704 poverty forced him to work in the shops of mediocre artists, where he produced genre and devotional subjects.
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 and GainsboroughGainsborough, Thomas
, 1727–88, English portrait and landscape painter, b. Sudbury. In 1740 he went to London and became the assistant and pupil of the French engraver Hubert Gravelot.
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. The 18th-century Englishman Thomas GirtinGirtin, Thomas
, 1775–1802, English draftsman and watercolorist. He was apprenticed to an engraver but was employed, together with J. M. W. Turner, to make topographical drawings.
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 was an important influence on future landscape painting.

The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

England produced the major late 19th-century landscape masters: the visionary TurnerTurner, Joseph Mallord William,
1775–1851, English landscape painter, b. London. Turner was the foremost English romantic painter and the most original of English landscape artists; in watercolor he is unsurpassed.
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 and the poetic ConstableConstable, John,
1776–1837, English painter, b. Suffolk. Constable and Turner were the leading figures in English landscape painting of the 19th cent. Constable became famous for his landscapes of Suffolk, Hampstead, Salisbury, and Brighton.
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. Constable, who greatly influenced the French Romantics, also served as an important inspiration to the Barbizon schoolBarbizon school
, an informal school of French landscape painting that flourished c.1830–1870. Its name derives from the village of Barbizon, a favorite residence of the painters associated with the school.
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 in France, whose members returned to the serene pastoral mood. In Germany, C. D. FriedrichFriedrich, Caspar David
, 1774–1840, German romantic landscape painter. After studying painting in Copenhagen he visited various scenic spots in Germany and chose to live in Dresden, where he remained until his death.
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 sustained the poetic tradition of landscape, as did the luminists of the American Hudson River schoolHudson River school,
group of American landscape painters, working from 1825 to 1875. The 19th-century romantic movements of England, Germany, and France were introduced to the United States by such writers as Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper.
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. Turner's exploration of the atmospheric effects of light interested MonetMonet, Claude
, 1840–1926, French landscape painter, b. Paris. Monet was a founder of impressionism. He adhered to its principles throughout his long career and is considered the most consistently representative painter of the school as well as one of the foremost painters
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, whose plein-airplein-air
[Fr.,=open-air], term used for paintings or drawings made directly from nature and infused with a feeling of the open air. Painting outdoors is a relatively recent practice; the impressionists and the painters of the Barbizon school made plein-air painting an important
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 works, forming the basis of impressionismimpressionism,
in painting, late-19th-century French school that was generally characterized by the attempt to depict transitory visual impressions, often painted directly from nature, and by the use of pure, broken color to achieve brilliance and luminosity.
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, elevated landscape to the highest position in artists' esteem that it had yet held.

Landscape also became a principal source material of postimpressionismpostimpressionism,
term coined by Roger Fry to refer to the work of a number of French painters active at the end of the 19th cent. who, although they developed their varied styles quite independently, were united in their rejection of impressionism.
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. The exponents of surrealismsurrealism
, literary and art movement influenced by Freudianism and dedicated to the expression of imagination as revealed in dreams, free of the conscious control of reason and free of convention.
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 revealed the fearful power of imaginary landscape. In addition, many of the 20th-century artists working in the abstract idiom have employed both landscape and still life as basic sources for their widely differing work.

Landscape Art in the East

In China landscape art reached extraordinary perfection as early as the 8th cent. It engaged the highest talents during the T'ang, Sung, and Ming dynasties (see Chinese artChinese art,
works of art produced in the vast geographical region of China. It the oldest art in the world and has its origins in remote antiquity. (For the history of Chinese civilization, see China.
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). The prominence accorded landscape in both Chinese and Japanese artJapanese art,
works of art created in the islands that make up the nation of Japan. Early Works

The earliest art of Japan, probably dating from the 3d and 2d millennia B.C.
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 reflects the esteem for nature characteristic of East Asian religions.


See K. Clark, Landscape into Art (1949, repr. 1961); Z. Szabo, Landscape Painting in Watercolor (1971); P. Monahan, Landscape Painting (1985); J. Arthur, Spirit of Place: Contemporary Landscape Painting and the American Tradition (1989); A. Wilton and T. Barringer, American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States, 1820–1880 (2002).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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