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The History of Landscape Art – Part 2

In part one of the series we delved into the beginnings of the landscape art, discussed how this particular genre evolved and changed over time. In the second part of the series we continue the narrative of the change and improvement, as well as taking a look at the modernity of the style.

Evolution continued

One glance at The Fighting Temeraire or Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus and you will immediately understand why Turner was given the nickname he was. Constable, on the other hand, expressed in his work an affection for the countryside in Suffolk, where he spent the early part of his life.

Constable’s paintings were on display at the Salon de Paris where his Romantic rural works inspired artists in France to focus on nature in their work, rather than use it as a mere backdrop. Jean-François Millet, Théodore Rousseau, and other members of the Barbizon school painters expanded upon this idea into a more realist context by including peasants in their works.

After photography was introduced in the 19th century, landscape art’s realistic style began to suffer to the point that many speculated whether painting event belonged in culture. These concerns were addressed directly by the Impressionist movement with its use of abstract painting styles and unnaturally bold colours, which soon started to make its way through 19th-century Europe. Among Monet’s more famous landscape paintings include The Four Trees and Impression, Sunrise. Van Gogh’s influential works include The Starry Night and his wheat field series.

France’s Paul Cézanne is believed to have bridged the gap between the later Impressionist era and 20th century Modernism. Cézanne’s work embraced an intelligent use of composition, bold colour, and an experimental brushstroke style. Cezanne was passionate about his country’s landscapes; in particular, the Province region, and was inspired by nature’s beauty. His works depicting Mont Sainte-Victoire’s various views demonstrate this passion.

Modern day

From the 20th century, Modernism became the order of the day, taking over where Impressionism left off. In the postmodern era, however, landscape painting was somewhat cast aside as a genre by the increased popularity of such American influences as Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. It was also considered to be unfashionable due to installation art and new technology. It’s noteworthy that the Turner prize (named after the landscape artist) has never gone to an actual landscape artist since its conception in 1984. Artists like L.S. Lowry, however, managed to gain recognition in the 1950’s with such urban landscapes as “Industrial Landscape”. These works starkly contrast with the Romantic Landscapes we were used to. This was quite a statement on the environmental changes we had experienced since the Industrial Revolution.

In the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st century, photography had gained more acceptance as a valid form of art and artists have again turned to realism with such contemporary painters as Peter Doig utilising photographic elements as a reference for landscape paintings. Roy Lichtenstein’s Three Landscapes were featured in a video installation at The Tate in 2003, which combined elements of kinetics, comic strip, billboard, painting, and film. It appears that new media has allowed for landscape art to be interpreted in a fresh way, and modern artists are continuing to inspire and surprise us with their landscape works.

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