In Fine Art, the term landscape which originates from the dutch word ‘landschap’ (a patch of ground), describes any painting or drawing whose subject is the portrayed of a scenic view. The view depicted may be a real place or imaginary scene. (Visual Arts Cork, s.d)
Landscape art and the renaissance
Landscape art wasn’t really noticed as a genre until the renaissance period. It was ranked low in comparison to genres such as history paintings and portrait art. Until the early/mid 16th century, landscape was included in paintings purely as a backdrop. i.e. The Annunciation (1472) by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Distinction between landscape as an ornament and landscape as a the genre is not about the absence of human figures but more about their size and function. When foreground figures take up most of the picture the landscape is mere background. despite Da Vinci’s interest in landscape he never produced a true landscape painting due to the size of human figures he placed in them. In landscape paintings human figures – whether dispersed or in the foreground – exist to indicate scale and evolve the viewers empathy.
Landscape painting in the 18th century continued to develop in response to social and political change of the time. New attitudes to the natural environment emerged and in England distinctive symbolic traditions appeared, reflecting the practice of landscape gardening, seen as the re-ordering of nature to suit aristocratic patrons. Scenic paintings portrayed the harmony of nature and calm in the climate of wealth.
The work of artists such as Richard Wilson (The destruction of Niobe’s Children, 1760)
and Thomas Gainsborough (mr and Mrs Andrews, 1749)
demonstrate order in their landscapes.
In France Jean-Antoine Watteau combined and demonstrated scenery with relationships between people. Her paintings were quite clear and easier to read in comparison to other artist like Jean-Honore Fragonard
who produced frothy foliage and clouds.
After the French revolution and napoleonic wars landscape painting became more and more respected as a genre and became one of the most popular types of art. During the 19th century, arguably, the greatest ever landscapes were produced.
During 1802 JMW (Joseph Mallord William) Turner,
England’s greatest and most original landscape painter had arrived on the scene. He became the youngest ever member of London’s Royal academy, Turner was a watercolorist up until 1796, when in the 1800’s his scenic views became more dramatic and romantic, both in their subject matter and style of painting. He began to bring historical painting into the genre by painting pictures with historical actions and natural forces. From the 1830’s his landscapes became free with their movement and energy in the piece, focusing on atmospheric effect. In the 1840’s some his paintings became slightly abstract in composition, dissolving into a haze of colour and light. With this skill and style, in using colour and light, he anticipated impressionism.
Turners dramatic artwork was very different to landscape art of his contemporaries. Some examples include: German romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich
Caspar David Friedrich Riesengebirgslandschaft / Landschaft mit dem Rosenberg in der böhmischen Schweiz
whose small scale scenic works were full of religious symbolism. (Visual Arts Cork, s.d)
Elements of Renaissance Painting
There are a few elements that are key factors in the development of Renaissance painting. Below are some factors with examples of work throughout the renaissance period.
- in Giotto’s Fresco, the building is like a stage set with one side open to the viewer
- in Paolo Vcello’s Fresco, the townscape gives an impression of depth.
- Masaccio‘s Holy Trinity was painted with carefully calculated mathematical proportions, in which he was probably assisted by the architect Brunelleschi.
The depiction of landscape was influenced by the development of linear perspective and the inclusion of detailed landscapes in the background of many Early Netherlandish paintings of the 15th century. Awareness of atmospheric perspective and the observation of the way distant things are affected by light are also made clear in the drawings and paintings.
•Giotto uses a few rocks to give the impression of a mountain setting.
•Paolo Uccello has created a detailed and surreal setting as a stage for many small scenes.
•In Carpaccio‘s Deposition of the Body of Christ, the desolate rocky landscape echoes the tragedy of the scene.
Light or tone in a drawing is simply the lightness and darkness of areas, graded from white to black.Tone became increasingly important to painters of the 15th century, transforming the depiction of three-dimensional space.
•Taddeo Gaddi‘s Annunciation to the Shepherds is the first known large painting of a night scene. The internal light source of the picture is the angel.
•In Fra Angelico‘s painting, daylight, which appears to come from the actual window of the friary cell which this fresco adorns, gently illuminates the figures and defines the architecture.
Thinking of silhouette drawings and stuff. – which (from my visit to the national gallery today) – George Shaw gets inspiration from renaissance paintings.
The knowledge of anatomy was advanced by Leonardo da Vinci’s meticulous dissection of 30 corpses. Leonardo, among others, impressed upon students the necessity of the close observation of life and made the drawing of live models an essential part of a student’s formal study of the art of painting.
•Cimabue‘s Crucifixion, extensively destroyed by flood in 1966, shows the formal arrangement, with curving body and drooping head that was prevalent in late Medieval art. The anatomy is strongly stylised to conform with traditional iconic formula.
•Giotto abandoned the traditional formula and painted from observation.
•Massacio‘s figure of Christ is foreshortened as if viewed from below, and shows the upper torso strained as if with the effort of breathing.
The observation of nature meant that set forms and symbolic gestures which in Medieval art, and particularly the Byzantine style prevalent in much of Italy, were used to convey meaning, were replaced by the representation of human emotion as displayed by a range of individuals.
•In this Resurrection, Giotto shows the sleeping soldiers with faces hidden by helmets or foreshortened to emphasise the relaxed posture.
•In contrast, Andrea Castagno has painted a life-sized image of the condotierre, Pippo Spano, alert and with his feet over the edge of the painted niche which frames him.
•Filippo Lippi in this early work shows a very naturalistic group of children crowding around the Virgin Mary, but looking with innocent curiosity at the viewer. One of the children has Down syndrome.
Among the preoccupations of artists commissioned to do large works with multiple figures were how to make the subject, usually narrative, easily read by the viewer, natural in appearance and well composed within the picture space.
•Giotto combines three separate narrative elements into this dramatic scene set against the dehumanising helmets of the guards. Judas betrays Jesus to the soldiers by kissing him. The High Priest signals to a guard to seize him. Peter slices the ear off the high priest’s servant as he steps forward to lay hands on Jesus. Five figures dominate the foreground, surrounding Jesus so that only his head is visible. Yet by skilful arrangement of colour and the gestures of the men, Giotto makes the face of Jesus the focal point of the painting.
•In The Death of Adam, Piero della Francesca has set the dying patriarch so that he is cast into relief against the black garment worn by one of his family. His importance to the story is further emphasised by the arch of figures formed around him and the diagonals of the arms which all lead to his head.
• The Resurrection of the Son of Theophilus is a remarkably cohesive whole, considering that it was begun by Masaccio, left unfinished, vandalised, and eventually completed by Filippino Lippi. Masaccio painted the central section. (Wikipedia, 2016)
Wikipedia. (2016) Themes in Italian Renaissance Painting. At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Themes_in_Italian_Renaissance_painting (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
Richard Wilson was a very talented artist, who was known as a portrait painter. At the age of 36 he went to Italy where he worked in Rome and Naples. He was encouraged by other artists to pursue landscape painting. He returned to London 6 years later as a landscape painter. Back in England, Wilson’s Italian landscapes were somewhat ignored by those who longed for glamorous souvenirs of the classical ground. People at the time seem to take view that Wilson’s landscapes were ‘too near common nature’ to include gods and goddesses, something they saw more valuable.
20th Century landscape art
Landscape art has been defined as a genre within a number of 20th century art movements. In America these include: Precisionism (1920s), American scene painting and Regionalism both focus on urban landscapes – see Edward Hopper – and finally photorealism.
Precisionism – An art movement that was established in the early 1920s. Influence strongly by cubism and futurism, it’s main themes included industrialisation and the modernisation of the American landscape which were sharply defined geometrical forms.
Other movements/forms of art are land/earth art, which uses the environment to allow artists to express their feelings within nature. While landscape painting remains popular, it has developed diverse directions without painting the status it achieved during 19th century. (Visual Arts Cork, s.d)
Land art – Richard Long
Richard Long is well known for his work ‘A Line Made by Walking, 1967’ in which he walked back and forth across the same piece of land in Wiltshire. His work experimented with nature and art that had an impact on the land. Bordering with conceptualism and minimalism, land art began to develop as an art form in the late 1960s in America. The aim of lan art was to make the public aware of mans relationship with the natural world and create thought provoking art work. Land art fuses nature with the creative force of the artist. It reminds the viewer that the natural world is far superior to anything humans have ever created or will create.
Origins and history of land art –
It was ancient cultures who first started using earthwork to express themselves. Works by the Nazca Indians, the famous Nazca lines are an example of some land art.
There is a theory of how these lines come about. English explorer Tony Morrison researched the old ways of the people of the Andes mountains. He discovered a tradition of wayside shrines linked by straight pathways. People would move from shrine to shrine to pray and meditate. The symbols may have served as special enclosures for religious ceremonies. There are various other theories which relate to the creation of the lines, for example; surveying techniques, using grids and stakes to create the drawing or that they are connected to water sources in the region.
Other places around the world have found these land art works. Along the pacific coast in the foothills of the Andes mountains there is an etched figure resembling a giant Candelabrum. Archaeologists presume that these figures served as guides for Inca traders.
Principles of land art were similar to these of minimalism and conceptualism, especially in relation of how objects occupied the space and interaction between humans and art. Due to natural materials quickly deteriorating, museums exploited the necessity of photography and video which distance land art form conceptual art. (Unmuseum, 2010)
Fauvist artists explored painting using colour and thickly applied paint. Artist such as; Maurice de Vlaminck, Andre Derain and Albert Marquet followed the fauvist style. (Visual Arts Cork, s.d)
George Braque was inspired by Cezanne’s geometric style landscapes. Braque started to work in the cubist style which can be seen in his works – L’Estque. Picasso also imitated Cezannes style which is clear in his views of Horta Del Ebro in Spain. French artist Louis Vauxelles referred to his expression ‘bizarreries cubiques’ to explain the style, which led to the word cubsim. (Visual Arts Cork, s.d)
John Cosntable was born and lived in Suffolk. He is well known for his countryside landscapes which he creates in Suffolk. He would sketch outside in the country surroundings and then turn to the studio to paint. He was a self-taught artist and developed slowly. Constable was inspired by Dutch artists such as Jacob Van Rvisdael. While he was alive his paintings weren’t very popular n England, but became more valuable after his death. (National Gallery, 2016)
Claude Gelle was born in France but left in 1612 for Germany and then settled in Rome, where he became a studio assistant for Agostina Tassi – a landscape artist. (National Gallery, 2016) He visited Naples and returned to Franc before permanently settling in Rome in 1628. He sketched in the Roman countryside and then completed his paintings using oil paints in the studio. (Claude Lorrain, 2016)
Claude recorded his compositions in drawings, now in the British Museum, to prevent pastiches being sold. Claude was inspired by artist such as El Shimmer and Annibale Carracci. He was an artist of the Baroque era, and is best known for his ‘ideal’ landscape painting. His landscapes capture beauty within nature and classical concepts, with his paintings often containing classical ruins and classically dressed figures. His source of his inspiration is the countryside around Rome and the remains of ancient Rome in the classical period. Claude’s use of light in his painting were particular influential. (Britannica, 2010)
George Shaw was born in Coventry in 1966. He studied Fine Art at Sheffield polytechnic and then gained a MA in painting at the Royal College of Art London. Shaw was nominated for the Turner prize in 2011. He is known for his highly detailed approach to suburban subject matter. His favourite medium is umbral enamel paints (most commonly used for toy painting such as aeroplanes and trains). (National Gallery, 2016)
Recent work – ‘Back to Nature’
Shaw has recently had residency at the National Gallery in London and finally completed his exhibition called ‘Back to Nature’.
He has combined all activities that are conducted within the woods concentrating on all things dirty and dangerous, which is then juxtaposed with nature in the woods. You can see that his paintings are inspired by other artist work within the gallery. He creates an essence of mythological spirits by using objects in his paintings and the eery way that he paints, which closely relate to Cezanne Bathers, Velazquez’s Venus and other great nudes. Traditionally woods and fields are places of desire and dalliance. Within Shaw’s paintings and his residency at the gallery he plays on the softness and metaphorical meanings behind other paintings in the gallery e.g. Correggio’s – The School of Love painting shows Venus, Mercury and Cupid in a leafy environment. Shaw’s painting also called ‘The School of Love’, shows a dirty old mattress in the corner of the woods. The work investigates the idea of a more literal, modern day meaning that he has tried to portray in contrast to Correggio’s work. Perhaps due to modern day art and understanding of the world in a less classical and mystical beliefs.
The Renaissance artist, Giovanni Bellini, painted Saint Peter being hacked to death in a forest. Shaw’s painting has blood stained (red paint) trees, abandoned clothes and imitations of violence, which create a more provoking piece to presume danger or death than in Bellini’s work.
What intrigues me is that he has adopted the style of working like the more classical and renaissance painting but he creates a modern day twist of contemporary art.
Shaw paintings capture the wood as it is. When we walk through the woods, or a landscape we reflect on it with editing out the bottles and beer cans. He crates a scene where we as humans are part of the nature, stains of lust and violence str pointed in the forest now as much as they were during the Renaissance period. (The Guardian, 2016)
After researching I decided to pay a trip to the gallery to visit George Shaw’s work – (will be on next blog post)
Sarah Woodfine is a trained sculptor who focuses on landscape, architecture and optical illusions. She explores imaginary worlds that come between the familiar and fantastical and constructs self contained 3D worlds and uses architectural models and children’s toys, such as cut out card castles. She crates an element of gothic darkness in her work which is achieved by her heavily and precise drawn pencil marks. (Wimbledon College of Arts, 2016)
All elements of the sculptures are drawn in pencil with perfect precision and clarity that reflect reality but are also obsessive and dream like. The scenes that she creates are made up of fragments and clues which intrigue viewers and allows the viewer to interpret their own stories in response to the piece. Her work has been noticed as an independent art form rather than just a stage of development in art.
Woodfine’s recent work – ‘Forever and ever. Pencil on paper on aluminium, 2015’ touches on our mainstream ideas about moral behaviour – what is good, right, desirable and true and our interactions or beliefs. These ‘drawing sculptures’ are drawn realistically but also create an imaginary scene. the drawings create distortion with natural elements.
The viewer witnesses a medieval scientific image where broken branches become serpents, a snake becomes a rope and human hair reconstructs itself like on the head of medusa. (Wall Street International, 2015)
When researching Woodfine I found out that she is the course leader at Wimbledon College of Art for sculpture. Even though I am studying her during my drawing unit, it excites me for the opportunity to take a twist on drawing, to crate something sculptural so I can combine the 2. I have started to enjoy the course more since I have been working harder to create a deeper sense of understanding and trying to expand my creativity. I am eager to test the boundaries of working on a ‘surface’ for my drawing.
Further research into Woodfine and I came across collaborations that she had completed in 2006 with a group of people who are experiencing mental health issues. Woodfine ran a workshop with the participants based on the creative theme of fantastical terrain of the night. They experimented with the transformation of drawing into pop-ups, model landscapes and theatre sets. The final photographic works play on the apparent three-dimensionality of these dreamlike worlds. From eerie forests glittering darkly in the moonlight to bats swarming around a gothic castle, from prowling urban cats to peaceful country scenes, the work reveals personal tales about what lies in the night.
The final works, alongside drawings and objects made during the project, were exhibited at the Digby Stuart Chaplaincy, Roehampton, June 2006. (Victoria & Albert Museum, 2005)
Visual Arts Cork. (s.d) Landscape Painting (1500-present). At: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/genres/landscape-painting.htm (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
Wikipedia. (2016) Themes in Italian Renaissance Painting. At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Themes_in_Italian_Renaissance_painting (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
Krystek, L: Unmuseum. (2010) The Lines of Nazca Peru. At: http://www.unmuseum.org/nazca.htm (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
National Gallery. (2016) John Constable. At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/john-constable (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
National Gallery. (2016) Claude. At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/claude (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
Claude Lorrain. (2016) The Complete Works. At: http://www.claudelorrain.org (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
Britannica. (2010) Claude Lorrain. At: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Claude-Lorrain (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
National Gallery. (2016) George Shaw. At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/associate-artist-scheme/george-shaw-1 (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
Jones, J: The Guardian. (2016) George Shaw review – down, dirty and delightful in the woods. At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/may/09/george-shaw-review-my-back-to-nature-national-gallery (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
Wimbledon College of Arts. (2016) Sarah Woodfine – BA Fine Art: Sculpture Course Leader. At: http://www.arts.ac.uk/wimbledon/people/fine-art-staff/sarah-woodfine/ (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
Wall Street International. (2015) Sarah Woodfine. At: http://wsimag.com/art/18079-sarah-woodfine (Accessed on 22 November 2016)
Victoria & Albert Museum. (2005) ‘Newfoundland’ by Sarah Woodfine. At: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/n/newfoundland-by-sarah-woodfine/ (Accessed on 22 November 2016)