landscape(redirected from landscapes)
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an objective view of a given locality; in the fine arts, a work in which the main subject is nature, in either a pure state or somewhat altered by man. The landscape as a genre reflects much of man’s world view, representing man’s various emotional and, sometimes, practical relationships with his surroundings.
Landscape elements are encountered in art as early as the Neolithic. It was at this time that the regularities of nature were first represented in art. Cosmological compositions, including stylized representations of the sky, heavenly bodies, and the cardinal points, were also produced.
In the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia and Egypt, tendencies toward narrative sequences, especially scenes of war, hunting, and fishing, were accompanied by a growing conception of nature as a field of action. Landscapes often retained a mythological meaning, while in general becoming more specific. For example, trees became identifiable as particular species. Landscape motifs became widespread in the frescoes and relief carvings of the Middle and New Kingdoms of Egypt and in the art of Crete (16th and 15th centuries B.C.), where for the first time, rhythmic ornament was used to achieve an emotionally convincing unity of fauna, flora, and natural phenomena.
The landscape elements of ancient Greek art were usually subordinated to the depiction of man. Hellenistic Greek and Roman landscapes, which included elements of perspective, were more independent; human figures were included only for staffage or were absent altogether (in illusionistic frescoes, mosaics, and “painted reliefs”).
Early medieval art inherited the classical image of nature as an idyllic world. In the art of medieval Europe, elements of landscape, especially views of cities and individual buildings, sometimes served to organize space (as did the hills and chambers in Russian icons), but usually they were merely laconic indicators of the place of action. In a number of works the details of landscape reflected medieval theological concepts of the universe.
In the medieval art of Oriental Muslim countries, landscape elements initially were rarely represented (apart from occasional examples based on early Byzantine traditions, such as the mosaics in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, 705–715). In the 13th and 14th centuries, landscapes occupied an increasingly important place in book miniatures. In 16th- and 17th-century book miniatures landscape backgrounds, distinguished for radiant purity of colors and carpetlike flatness of composition, were imbued with a concept of nature as an enclosed magical garden, each detail of which was filled with poetic charm. Landscape details achieved great emotional power in the medieval art of India (particularly in miniatures, beginning with the Mogul school), Indochina, and Indonesia (for example, the tropical forests in relief carvings devoted to mythological and epic themes).
Landscape as an independent genre was very important in the painting of medieval China, where eternally self-renewing nature was considered the most obvious embodiment of the world law, or tao. (This concept finds a direct expression in landscapes of the shan-shui, or “mountains-waters,” type.) In viewing a Chinese landscape, one must pay attention to the verse inscriptions, the symbolic motifs signifying lofty spiritual qualities (mountain pine, bamboo, and wild plum), and the tiny human figures placed in spaces that seem limitless owing to the haze and smooth, vast water surfaces in the composition. The different spatial planes of a Chinese landscape are not demarcated but flow freely into one another, obeying the overall pictorial solution. The greatest masters of Chinese landscape painting, which was already established by the sixth century, included Kuo Hsi (11th century), Ma Yüan and Hsia Kuei (late 12th and early 13th centuries), and Mu Ch’i (early 13th century).
Japanese landscape painting, which achieved maturity by the 12th and 13th centuries, was strongly influenced by Chinese art. It was distinguished by graphic intensity (Sesshu, for example, in the 15th century), by a tendency to isolate the most decora-tively effective individual motifs, and, in the 18th and 19th centuries, by a more active role for man in nature (for example, the woodcuts of Hokusai and Hiroshige).
In Western European art of the 13th to 15th centuries, tendencies toward representing the world in a way convincing to the senses led to an interpretation of the landscape background as a vital part of the emotional atmosphere of a composition. Conventional backgrounds (gilded or ornamental) were replaced by landscape backgrounds that sometimes expanded to the dimension of a wide panorama, as in the works of Giotto and A. Lorenzetti in Italy (13th and 14th centuries), Burgundian and Dutch miniaturists (14th and 15th centuries), the brothers van Eyck in the Netherlands, and K. Witz and L. Moser in Switzerland and Germany (first half of the 15th century).
Renaissance artists turned to the direct study of nature, producing sketches and watercolor studies. They further developed spatial perspective in landscape, guided by the concept that the laws of the physical world are rational. The artists, especially the Italian masters of the quattrocento, revived the idea of the landscape as an actual scene of action. Landscape played a major role in the work of Mantegna, Piero della Francesca, II Perugino, Leonardo da Vinci, Gentile Bellini, Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, G. Campagnola, and Dosso Dossi in Italy; Hugo van der Goes, G. David, Geertgen tot Saint Jans, and H. Bosch in the Netherlands; and A. Dürer and M. Grünewald in Germany. The masters of the Danube school in Germany and Austria also often used landscape elements.
The emergence of the landscape as an independent genre dates back to the art of the Renaissance. It appeared first in graphic art (Dürer and the Danube school) and then in small paintings in which nature is the only subject (A. Altdorfer) or completely dominates the scenes in the foreground (a tradition begun by the Dutch artist J. Patinir). Whereas Italian artists strove to emphasize the harmony between man and nature and to portray the ideal architectural milieu in their urban landscapes, the German masters were interested in portraying untamed nature, often imparting to the landscape a stormy and catastrophic quality. The combination, typical of Netherlandish art, of landscape and genre elements was particularly effective in the work of P. Brueghel the Elder. He depicted both powerful panoramas and details from the life of the common people. These details were carefully worked in with the surrounding landscape.
In most Late Renaissance landscapes—be they three-level world panoramas, rural scenes, or forest scenes—the cosmically universal predominated over the topographically specific, and the life of the earth as an animate organism became the main theme. In the works of a number of Dutch masters of the 16th and early 17th centuries (Herri met de Bles, Joost de Momper, Gillis van Coninxloo), the traditional features of Renaissance landscape were interwoven with manneristic fantasy, emphasizing the subjective, emotional attitude of the artist toward the world.
By the early 17th century, the principles of the ideal landscape, subordinate to the rational law hidden under nature’s multiplicity of appearances, were developed by the Italian An-nibale Carracci, the Dutch P. Bril, and the German A. Elsheimer. The three-tier, stagelike composition assumed a fixed form in the art of classicism, and the fundamental difference between a study or sketch and the finished landscape painting was established. At the same time, landscape became the bearer of a lofty ethical content, something particularly characteristic of the works of N. Poussin and Claude Lorraine, whose works represented two variations of the ideal landscape—the heroic and the idyllic.
In the baroque landscapes of the Flemish master P. P. Rubens and the Italians S. Rosa and A. Magnasco, images of the elemental power of nature predominated. Elements of plein air appeared in the landscapes of D. Velázquez, which were notable for their extraordinary freshness of perception. The Dutch painters and graphic artists of the 17th century, including J. van Goyen, H. Seghers, J. van Ruisdael, M. Hobbema, and Rembrandt, further developed aerial perspective and the system of values (shades of a tone). They combined in their works a feeling of the mutability of the world with the idea of the enduring relationship between the lived-in milieu intimately known to man and the majestic, truly limitless spaces of nature. The Dutch masters created a variety of different types of national landscape, including the seascape and the mountainscape, which are popular to this day.
In the 17th century topographical views, such as the prints by the German M. Merian and the Czech W. Hollar, were popular. Their development was largely predetermined by the use of the camera obscura, which permitted views to be transferred to canvas or paper with unprecedented precision. Such views were most highly developed in the 18th century in the Italian landscapes known as vedute of the painters Canaletto and B. Bel-lotto. The vedute were filled with air and light. A qualitatively new stage was begun in the works of F. Guardi, marked by virtuoso reproduction of misty atmosphere.
The topographical view also played a major role in the establishment of landscape art in countries that lacked an independent landscape genre. One such country was Russia, where the principal artists who used landscape elements in the 18th century were the graphic artists A. F. Zubov and M. I. Makhaev and the painter F. Ia. Alekseev.
The etchings of the Italian G. Piranesi reflected the romantic appeal of ruins and imparted to ancient classical architecture a superhuman grandeur. During the rococo period, the classical tradition of the idealized landscape received a decorative interpretation, as seen in the depictions of ruins by the French landscape painter H. Robert. This resulted from the use, popular in the 18th century, of serial landscape panels to visually expand the space of an interior. On the whole, however, the idealized landscape, which under the name of historical or mythological art occupied a secondary position in the neoclassical system of genres, degenerated in the 18th century into an academic school that subjugated natural motifs to abstract compositional variations. Anticipations of romanticism may be found in the intimately lyrical parklike backgrounds of paintings by J. Watteau and J. Fragonard in France, as well as in the work of the founders of the English landscape school, T. Gainsborough and R. Wilson.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, romantic tendencies predominated. This is evident in the works of J. Crome, J. Cot-man, J. R. Cozens, and J. Turner in England; G. Michel in France; K. D. Friedrich in Germany; and J. C. Dahl in Norway. Landscape also played an enormous role in the work of F. Goya and J. Géricault. The landscape was particularly important in romanticism, since the romantics compared the human soul with nature, believing that moral and social imperfections could be corrected by returning to a natural environment. In their works an interest in views that represented most purely the sublime and the picturesque was combined with a sensitivity to the uniqueness of the various states of nature and the individuality of national landscapes. The last two features were especially notable in the work of J. Constable, who contributed greatly to the evolution from idealized landscapes to landscapes retaining the freshness of sketches from nature. A generalized, poetic perception of the world and an interest in plein air characterized not only Constable but also other masters who were leaders of national schools of realistic landscape. These artists included Corot, to some extent, in France; K. Blechen in Germany; and A. A. Ivanov and, to some degree, S. F. Shchedrin and M. I. Lebedev in Russia.
The representatives of realistic landscape of the second half of the 19th century included Corot, the Barbizon school, G. Courbet, J. F. Millet, and E. Boudin in France; the macchiaioli group in Italy; A. Menzel and the Düsseldorf school in Germany; and J. B. Jongkind and the Hague school in Holland. These artists strove to portray nature’s inner dignity by revealing the objective character of its laws. The landscapists of this period also sought to achieve naturalness and simplicity of composition, rejecting, in most cases, “universal,” panoramic views. They worked out chiaroscuro and light-value relationships in careful detail to convey the material palpability of the milieu. The ethical and philosophical tone that landscape art had inherited from romanticism now assumed a more democratic orientation.
In 19th-century Russia, romantic traditions dominated the landscapes of F. M. Matveev and M. N. Vorob’ev and the seascapes of I. K. Aivazovskii. The realistic landscape developed most fully in the late 19th century and was closely connected with the activities of the peredvizhniki (the “wanderers”—a progressive art movement). Overcoming the artificiality and theatricality of the academic landscape, Russian artists, such as L. L. Kamenev and M. K. Klodt, turned to depictions of their native environment. Motifs from Russian nature were marked by particular grandness and epic scale in the works of I. I. Shishkin. A. K. Savrasov often depicted a lyric atmosphere and the transient states of nature. A more dramatic quality was seen in the works of F. A. Vasil’ev. Late romantic trends appeared in the landscapes of A. I. Kuindzhi, who combined a passion for vivid lighting effects with a decorative treatment of pictorial space. In the late 19th century, emotional and lyrical elements were further developed in landscapes portraying mood, as can be seen in the contemplative works of V. D. Polenov and, particularly, the canvases of I. I. Levitan, who combined intimate psychologism with an elevated sociophilosophical interpretation of landscape motifs.
The landscape assumed a dominant position in the art of the impressionists, who set great store by painting landscapes outdoors. Extremely important components of their work were the vibrating light and atmosphere that envelop all objects and thereby ensure the indissoluble merging and homogeneity of nature and man. The impressionists also provided a multifaceted and dynamic picture of modern city life, thanks to which the urban landscape became equally as important as depictions of nature.
At the turn of the 20th century, the landscape developed in several directions, impressionist principles were radically reworked. P. Cézanne asserted the monumentality and power of nature in his works. Some of his landscapes, especially those of his late period, are absolutely void of the presence of man. Each element attests to Cézanne’s skill and talent as an artist.
G. Seurat subordinated motifs of the environment to strictly executed, two-dimensional, decorative compositions. V. van Gogh strove to convey a sublime, sometimes tragic, emotional tone in his landscapes, imparting to certain details an almost human animation. The works of P. Gauguin, who radically reworked the form of the idyllic landscape, contain many features of symbolist landscape.
The artists associated with symbolism and art nouveau (the nabis in France, F. Hodler in Switzerland, E. Munch in Norway, A. Gallen-Kallela in Finland) introduced into landscape art the idea of a mysterious kinship between man and “mother earth” (hence the dream landscapes and nostalgic landscapes popular in this period). In their compositions, they effectively exploited such forms as branches, roots, and stalks, the ornamental rendering of which seemed to be a direct imitation of the rhythms of nature. At the same time, there was an intensification of the approach of national-romantic schools for a generalized image of the native land, often imbued with folkloric or historical reminiscences and containing the most well-known features of the national landscape (the works of the Pole F. Ruszczyc, the Czech A. Slavíček, and the Latvian V. Purvitis).
In the 20th century the fauvists, using a joyous or dramatically intense palette, emphasized the decorative qualities and dynamic tension of landscape. A common feature of the modernist schools of the 20th century has been a tendency to distort landscapes, sometimes turning the genre into a pretext for abstract compositions, a sort of transitional link to abstract art. Such a role was played by landscape in the work of the Dutch P. Mon-drian, the Swiss P. Klee, and the Russian V. V. Kandinsky. As utilized by these artists, the landscape lost all semblance of a realistic genre.
Modernist industrial landscapes depicted the world of technology as antinature and insurmountably hostile to people (for example, works by the American painters C. Demuth N. Spencer, and C. Sheeler). In modernist urban landscapes, such as those of the futurists and expressionists, the environment assumed an intensely aggressive aspect or a look of alienation, imbued with feelings of tragic futility or anguish. At the same time, realistic and national-romantic schools of landscape developed in which images of pristinely beautiful nature were often turned into a direct antithesis of capitalist civilization (the work of B. Palencia in Spain, Kjarval in Iceland, the Group of Seven in Canada, R. Kent in America, and A. Namatjira in Australia).
In Russian landscape art at the turn of the 20th century, the realistic traditions of the late 19th century were interwoven with the influence of impressionism and art nouveau. Close to Levi-tan’s landscapes in mood but more intimate in spirit, the works of V. A. Serov and L. V. Turzhanskii depicted primarily humble views devoid of external effect and distinguished by sketchlike spontaneity of composition and coloring. The landscapes of K. A. Korovin and, more particularly, I. E. Grabar’ combined a lyrical mood with a heightened vividness of color. National-romantic elements typify the works of A. A. Rylov and the landscape-genre compositions of K. F. Iuon. Folkloric, historical, or literary inspiration played an important role in the works of A. M. Vasnetsov, M. V. Nesterov, and N. K. Roerich, as well as in the heroic landscapes of K. F. Bogaevskii.
The group of artists associated with the journal Mir iskusstva (World of Art) developed the genres of the nostalgic landscape, elegiac historical-architectural views (A. N. Benois, E. E. Lan-sere, A. P. Ostroumova-Lebedeva) and dramatic urban landscapes (M. V. Dobuzhinskii). Variations on the imaginary landscapes by V. E. Borisov-Musatov and the artists in the Blue Rose group included the oriental compositions of P. V. Kuzne-tsov and M. Sar’ian and the paintings of N. P. Krymov, who strove for balanced coloristic and compositional solutions. In the landscapes of the Jack of Diamonds group, a vibrant palette was combined with simple composition that distorted the real world but also, to some degree, revealed the artistic grandeur of its sensual materiality.
The elements that typify Soviet landscape, which is imbued with the spirit of socialist realism, reveal the life-affirming beauty of the world and man’s activity aimed at creating this beauty and building socialism. Masters of the prerevolutionary period who entered a new phase of creative development in Soviet times included V. N. Baksheev, I. E. Grabar’, N. P. Krymov, A. V. Kuprin, A. P. Ostroumova-Lebedeva, A. A. Rylov, and K. F. Iuon. Artists whose activity is associated entirely with Soviet times have included L. I. Brodskaia, S. V. Gerasimov, A. M. Gritsai, V. V. Meshkov, N. M. Romadin, la. D. Romas, B. Ia. Riauzov, and S. A. Chuikov.
The 1920’s saw the birth of Soviet industrial landscape (B. N. Iakovlev and others) and memorial landscape (for example, V. K. Bialynitskii-Birulia’s views of Gorki Leninskie and Iasnaia Poliana). Landscapes based on painstaking refinement of studies were most popular from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. An integrated image of the homeland has been reflected in depictions of individual localities, so that even views traditionally associated with the romantic landscape (views of the Crimea or Far North, for example) lose the feeling of exoticism. Artists are attracted by themes that allow them to show the interactions of industrial and natural forms and the dynamic shifts in the spatial perception of the world connected with the constructive labor of Soviet man (A. A. Deineka, G. G. Nisskii).
Leading artists of the landscape schools of the various Soviet republics have included I. I. Bokshai and A. A. Shovkunenko of the Ukraine, D. Kakabadze of Georgia, M. Sar’ian of Armenia, U. Tansykbaev of Uzbekistan, A. Žmuidzinavičius and A. Gudaitis of Lithuania, and E. Kits of Estonia.
The realistic landscape retained its importance in the 1960’s, but a trend toward intensely decorative color and expressive compositional rhythms came to the fore. The most important Soviet landscapists to have emerged in the 1950’s and 1960’s include B. F. Domashnikov, T. Salakhov, and V. F. Stozharov.
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