The following is edited from article by on Tate website
Born and bred in Lexington, Virginia, Twombly was deeply influenced by Modern European art, particularly twentieth century European painting, and moved to Italy in 1957. Since that date he has worked in Rome and various locations in Italy and the United States as well as travelling widely around the Mediterranean.
Throughout his career, Twombly’s paintings have been based on two components – line and paint.
In such early works as Panorama 1955 (Daros Collection, Switzerland), a monotone grey canvas is covered in irregular chalk scribbles which hover on the verge of becoming recognisable as letters or ciphers.
In the 1960s, daubs, smears and drips of colourful paint applied with a brush, the brush handle and the tips of the artist’s fingers begin to supersede the crayon and graphite marks of his earlier paintings. In some paintings, such as August Notes from Rome 1961 (Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC), line is almost completely replaced by colourful patches of paint; in others, such as Leda and the Swan 1961 (collection the artist), it is a source of violent energy.
Since the mid 1970s, the linear marks frequently take the form of text, introducing a third component: written language. Clumsy capitals or scrawled cursive letters are mixed with doodled shapes and indecipherable scribbles usually in compositional balance with painted elements. The tension between the graphic qualities of linear inscription and the sensual materiality of paint is central to the impact of the work. This runs parallel to a tension between intellectual cultural history and intuitive emotional expression enacted in Twombly’s paintings. Classical mythology, literature and historical works of art are appropriated and translated into a visual response which is tactile, visceral and aesthetic. His particular reference to Greek and Roman myths evokes an archaic symbolism, a subject he shares with the American Abstract Expressionists. A generation younger, he is further connected to this movement by his expressive, ‘gestural’ use of paint.
Primavera, or spring, represents the first season of the year. A column of red curved and slashed forms dominates the image. These relate to traditional Egyptian rowing boats which, it has been suggested, symbolise the journey through the underworld in the Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ (Bastian, p.37, note 15). Twombly lived for several months in Egypt in the mid 1980s and began to use the symbol of the boat in 1992. In Primavera, the red boat forms are smeared with patches of yellow, as though touched by the sun. In part II, Estate (Tate T07888), echoes of the boat forms in black, over-painted with white, are entirely covered with yellow, perhaps concealed by the blinding summer sun. The yellow patches in Primavera are applied in a central row, drawing the eye upwards to the top of the painting, where they culminate in a bouquet-like form containing touches of purple and pink. Strokes of white paint cover parts of the bouquet and the red boats, obliterate long dribbles of red paint and other smears and form a background for areas of text. The title Primavera, with the artist’s initials and the date ‘June 94’ written in red crayon, is followed by a fragment of poetic text in pencil referring to happiness and emotion ‘that almost overwhelms’. Twombly’s impression of spring is vibrant and celebratory.
Autunno, or autumn, represents the third season of the year. The idea for the cycle began with this season, inspired by the wine harvest in Bassano in Teverina. Appropriately for the season, the colours in this painting are the richest in the group. The title is painted in irregular, dripping brown capitals near the top of the painting. Patches of deep greens, reds and browns blend with smears of dark blue, violet and yellow. On the left, stalks tipped with berries drawn with dark crayon emerge from clusters of muddy brown paint smeared with the artist’s finger tips. Placed in a vertical line above a thickly painted green area, the clusters of brown paint and their long drips form a dark margin on the side of the painting. Other finger smears and prints in red and green appear near a central formation of mixed, smeared colours. Near this, round patches of red extend towards the right with long, horizontal projections, echoing the direction of the stalks and suggesting movement. This appearance of sideways movement across the canvas dramatically counterbalances the sense of verticality created by the long drips. White paint, used to cover marks and text, has been applied more sparingly than in other paintings in the cycle. The words ‘your blood’ may be distinguished, half concealed by streaks and dribbles. Other text is too fragmented to be legible.
Inverno, or winter, represents the fourth season of the year. In this painting, the jagged forms made up of horizontal and vertical strokes which produced curved ‘boats’ in parts I and II of the cycle, Primavera (Tate T07887) and Estate (Tate T07888), are depicted in an altered state in black. Heavily painted over and blended with one another, they are virtually indistinguishable as discrete forms. On the right side of the painting, black boat shapes beginning at the centre expand upwards into a large black patch. This is balanced by a smaller black patch at the bottom left of the painting. Swathes of white and daubs of yellow have been mixed over the areas of black, breaking it up so that it evokes pine branches buffeted by rain. Marks made by the movement of the artist’s fingers and brush across the canvas in horizontal streaks has created a sense of sideways motion, echoing that made by horizontal strokes of red in Autunno (Tate T07889). Fragments of text and other marks on the cream canvas are covered by white paint. Several layers of this have been smeared over a large proportion of the canvas in a thin wash resulting in dribbles over much of the central area. Minimal blobs of light green in the centre and a patch of pale yellow on the right soften the harsh atmosphere of the image, which conveys a strong sense of winter’s harsh winds and bleak cold
Quattro Stagioni is a cycle of four paintings representing the four seasons. Tate’s version is the second of two cycles; the first is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Both cycles were begun in 1993 at Twombly’s studio in Bassano in Teverina (north of Rome) and completed in 1994 at another house owned by the artist in Gaeta on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Twombly’s representations of the four seasons are typical to his production of the late 1980s and 1990s in which light has become a principal theme. His prominent use of white echoes that of French Impressionists such as Claude Monet (1840-1926) for whom it was an important ingredient in the depiction of light. A series of nine paintings, Untitled 1988 (Cy Twombly Gallery, Houston), portraying the green reflective surfaces of a watery pool, recalls Monet’s celebrated paintings of his water garden at Giverny, France created between 1899 and 1926. Plant life and the sea also recur in Twombly’s imagery of this period. A single work is frequently made up of several parts, as in Quattro Stagioni which is subtitled A Painting in Four Parts.
The four seasons as symbols of the natural cycles of birth and death are a classical theme in poetry, music and painting. In Twombly’s Quattro Stagioni strong colours evoking the brilliance of the Mediterranean light are combined with scrawled poetic fragments from several sources. After pre-priming the canvases with cream-coloured gesso, the artist pinned them to the wall and applied individual colours, allowing the paint to dribble down in long, vertical lines.
Estate, or summer, represents the second season of the year. Predominantly white and yellow, the painting is dominated by the blinding light of mid-summer in a hot country. The canvas is covered with many layers of paint and text in pencil and red crayon. Echoes of the red boat-shapes, which form a central column in part I, Primavera (Tate T07887), cross the centre of this painting in a diagonal line. Originally painted in black, they have been covered by patches of bright yellow, onto which the artist has made vertical and horizontal pencil lines repeating the basic form of the boat. This relates to traditional Egyptian rowing boats which, it has been suggested, symbolise the journey through the underworld in the Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ (Bastian, p.37, note 15). Twombly lived for several months in Egypt in the mid 1980s and began to use the symbol of the boat in 1992. On the right side of Estate, passages of a poem by the Greek poet George Seferis (1900-71) are partially legible. Referring to the transience of youth and the passage of time, it evokes the vanitas tradition, in which symbols of mutability and mortality undercut symbols of beauty and fertility. At the top of the painting, the name Baia de Gaeta is superimposed over the words ‘Say goodbye Catullus to the shores of Asia Minor’. Twombly subsequently used these words as the subtitle for a painting in three parts begun in 1972 and finally completed in 1994. This work, Untitled Painting 1994 (Cy Twombly Gallery, Houston) shares much of the imagery of Quattro Stagioni, including the journeying boats and the focus on white light. The Roman lyric poet Catullus (84-54 BC) died soon after returning to Rome from the neighbouring province of Bithynia, Asia Minor, reputedly of a broken heart.
Heiner Bastian: Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, volume IV 1972-1995, Munich 1995, pp.34-5 and 178, reproduced p.180 in colour
Demosthenes Davvetas, Roberta Smith and Harald Szeemann, Cy Twombly: Paintings, Works on Paper, Sculpture, exhibition catalogue, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London and Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf 1987
Kirk Varnedoe, Cy Twombly: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1994, pp.162-5
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Claude Monet also known as Oscar-Claude Monet or Claude Oscar Monet (November 14, 1840 – December 5, 1926) was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement’s philosophy of expressing one’s perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise.
Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 on the fifth floor of 45 rue Laffitte, in the ninth arrondissement of Paris. He was the second son of Claude-Adolphe and Louise-Justine Aubrée Monet, both of them second-generation Parisians. On May 20, 1841, he was baptized into the local church parish, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette as Oscar-Claude. In 1845, his family moved to Le Havre in Normandy. His father wanted him to go into the family grocery store business, but Claude Monet wanted to become an artist. His mother was a singer.
On the first of April 1851, Monet entered the Le Havre secondary school of the arts. He first became known locally for his charcoal caricatures, which he would sell for ten to twenty francs. Monet also undertook his first drawing lessons from Jacques-François Ochard, a former student of Jacques-Louis David. On the beaches of Normandy in about 1856/1857 he met fellow artist Eugène Boudin who became his mentor and taught him to use oil paints. Boudin taught Monet “en plein air” (outdoor) techniques for painting.
On 28 January 1857 his mother died. He was 16 years old when he left school, and went to live with his widowed childless aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre.
When Monet traveled to Paris to visit The Louvre, he witnessed painters copying from the old masters. Monet, having brought his paints and other tools with him, would instead go and sit by a window and paint what he saw. Monet was in Paris for several years and met several painters who would become friends and fellow impressionists. One of those friends was Édouard Manet.
In June 1861 Monet joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria for two years of a seven-year commitment, but upon his contracting typhoid his aunt Marie-Jeanne Lecadre intervened to get him out of the army if he agreed to complete an art course at a university. It is possible that the Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind, whom Monet knew, may have prompted his aunt on this matter. Disillusioned with the traditional art taught at universities, in 1862 Monet became a student of Charles Gleyre in Paris, where he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and Alfred Sisley. Together they shared new approaches to art, painting the effects of light en plein air with broken color and rapid brushstrokes, in what later came to be known as Impressionism.
Monet’s Camille or The Woman in the Green Dress (La Femme à la Robe Verte), painted in 1866, brought him recognition, and was one of many works featuring his future wife, Camille Doncieux; she was the model for the figures in The Woman in the Garden of the following year, as well as for On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt, 1868, pictured here. Shortly thereafter Doncieux became pregnant and gave birth to their first child, Jean. In 1868, due to financial reasons, Monet attempted suicide by throwing himself into the Seine.
Franco-Prussian War, Impressionism, and Argenteuil
After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (July 19, 1870), Monet took refuge in England in September 1870. While there, he studied the works of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner, both of whose landscapes would serve to inspire Monet’s innovations in the study of color. In the Spring of 1871, Monet’s works were refused authorisation to be included in the Royal Academy exhibition.
In May 1871 he left London to live in Zaandam, where he made 25 paintings (and the police suspected him of revolutionary activities). He also paid a first visit to nearby Amsterdam. In October or November 1871 he returned to France. Monet lived from December 1871 to 1878 at Argenteuil, a village on the Seine near Paris, and here he painted some of his best known works. In 1874, he briefly returned to Holland.
In 1872 (or 1873), he painted Impression, Sunrise (Impression: soleil levant) depicting a Le Havre landscape. It hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and is now displayed in the Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris. From the painting’s title, art critic Louis Leroy coined the term “Impressionism”, which he intended as disparagement but which the Impressionists appropriated for themselves.
Monet and Camille Doncieux had married just before the war (June 28, 1870) and, after their excursion to London and Zaandam, they had moved into a house in Argenteuil near the Seine River in December 1871. She became ill in 1876. They had a second son, Michel, on March 17, 1878, (Jean was born in 1867). This second child weakened her already fading health. In that same year, he moved to the village of Vétheuil. At the age of thirty-two, Madame Monet died on 5 September 1879 of tuberculosis; Monet painted her on her death bed.
After several difficult months following the death of Camille on 5 September 1879, a grief-stricken Monet (resolving never to be mired in poverty again) began in earnest to create some of his best paintings of the 19th century. During the early 1880s Monet painted several groups of landscapes and seascapes in what he considered to be campaigns to document the French countryside. His extensive campaigns evolved into his series’ paintings.
In 1878 the Monets temporarily moved into the home of Ernest Hoschedé, (1837-1891), a wealthy department store owner and patron of the arts. Both families then shared a house in Vétheuil during the summer. After her husband (Ernest Hoschedé) became bankrupt, and left in 1878 for Belgium, in September 1879, and while Monet continued to live in the house in Vétheuil; Alice Hoschedé helped Monet to raise his two sons, Jean and Michel, by taking them to Paris to live alongside her own six children. They were Blanche, Germaine, Suzanne, Marthe, Jean-Pierre, and Jacques. In the spring of 1880 Alice Hoschedé and all the children left Paris and rejoined Monet still living in the house in Vétheuil. In 1881 all of them moved to Poissy which Monet hated. From the doorway of the little train between Vernon and Gasny he discovered Giverny. In April 1883 they moved to Vernon, then to a house in Giverny, Eure, in Upper Normandy, where he planted a large garden where he painted for much of the rest of his life. Following the death of her estranged husband, Alice Hoschedé married Claude Monet in 1892.
At the beginning of May 1883, Monet and his large family rented a house and two acres from a local landowner. The house was situated near the main road between the towns of Vernon and Gasny at Giverny. There was a barn that doubled as a painting studio, orchards and a small garden. The house was close enough to the local schools for the children to attend and the surrounding landscape offered an endless array of suitable motifs for Monet’s work. The family worked and built up the gardens and Monet’s fortunes began to change for the better as his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel had increasing success in selling his paintings. By November 1890 Monet was prosperous enough to buy the house, the surrounding buildings and the land for his gardens. Within a few years by 1899 Monet built a greenhouse and a second studio, a spacious building, well lit with skylights. Beginning in the 1880s and 1890s, through the end of his life in 1926, Monet worked on “series” paintings, in which a subject was depicted in varying light and weather conditions. His first series exhibited as such was of Haystacks, painted from different points of view and at different times of the day. Fifteen of the paintings were exhibited at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1891. He later produced several series of paintings including: Rouen Cathedral, Poplars, the Houses of Parliament, Mornings on the Seine, and the Water Lilies that were painted on his property at Giverny.
Monet was exceptionally fond of painting controlled nature: his own gardens in Giverny, with its water lilies, pond, and bridge. He also painted up and down the banks of the Seine.
Between 1883 and 1908, Monet traveled to the Mediterranean, where he painted landmarks, landscapes, and seascapes, such as Bordighera. He painted an important series of paintings in Venice, Italy, and in London he painted two important series — views of Parliament and views of Charing Cross Bridge. His second wife Alice died in 1911 and his oldest son Jean, who had married Alice’s daughter Blanche, Monet’s particular favourite, died in 1914. After his wife died, Blanche looked after and cared for him. It was during this time that Monet began to develop the first signs of cataracts.
During World War I, in which his younger son Michel served and his friend and admirer Clemenceau led the French nation, Monet painted a series of Weeping Willow trees as homage to the French fallen soldiers. Cataracts formed on Monet’s eyes, for which he underwent two operations in 1923. The paintings done while the cataracts affected his vision have a general reddish tone, which is characteristic of the vision of cataract victims. It may also be that after surgery he was able to see certain ultraviolet wavelengths of light that are normally excluded by the lens of the eye, this may have had an effect on the colors he perceived. After his operations he even repainted some of these paintings, with bluer water lilies than before the operation.
Monet died of lung cancer on December 5, 1926 at the age of 86 and is buried in the Giverny church cemetery. Monet had insisted that the occasion be simple; thus about fifty people attended the ceremony.
Danish painter, sculptor and writer. In 1962 he entered the Eksperimenterende Kunst-skole (Experimental Art School) in Copenhagen.His first important one-man exhibition abroad was at the Museum Folkwang, Essen, in 1977. He later exhibited widely at public and commercial galleries throughout Europe and the USA.
A prolific artist, Kirkeby used a range of different media. He was a member of the Fluxus group and was influenced by Pop art in the 1960s. Later he was influenced by Tachism and Abstract Expressionism. The vigorous brushwork and chromatic beauty of his, mostly untitled, paintings and the sensuous modelling of his rough black bronzes have earned him the title ‘lyric expressionist’. The paintings, which tend towards the abstract, bear veiled iconographic reference, largely to the Danish landscape and the female figure.
In contrast to the poetic and dramatic character of his paintings and black bronzes Kirkeby’s brick sculptures display an unusual clarity. They make strong reference to traditional Danish housing and are inspired by Mayan architecture, as in the house-like, symmetrical form (1973) at Ikast, Denmark. In 1981 Kirkeby completed a group of such sculptures for the County Council building in Ålborg. His concern with experiment and conceptual art led him to execute a series of works in chalk on blackboard, and he regularly published poetry, essays and travel books, as well as making television and full-length documentary films. He also produced many artist’s books, such as the ‘picture novel’ Landskaberne (‘Landscapes’; Copenhagen, 1969).
Per Kirkeby: Übermalungen, 1964–84 (exh. cat., Munich, Kstraum, 1984)
Per Kirkeby: Skulpturen und Bilder (exh. cat., Zurich, Gal. Knoedler, 1985)
Per Kirkeby: Retrospektive (exh. cat., Cologne, Mus. Ludwig, 1987)
Per Kirkeby: Pinturas, esculturas, grabados y escritos (exh. cat., Valencia, IVAM Cent. Julio Gonzalez, 1989–90)
‘Per Kirkeby’, Louisiana Revue, xxx/3 (1990) [whole issue]
JENS PETER MUNK
Paul Cezanne (January 19, 1839 – October 22, 1906) was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cezanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism and the early 20th century’s new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. The line attributed to both Matisse and Picasso that Cezanne “is the father of us all” cannot be easily dismissed.
Cezanne’s work demonstrates a mastery of design, colour, composition and draftsmanship. His often repetitive, sensitive and exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognisable. He used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields, at once both a direct expression of the sensations of the observing eye and an abstraction from observed nature. The paintings convey Cezanne’s intense study of his subjects, a searching gaze and a dogged struggle to deal with the complexity of human visual perception.
Paul Cezanne was a French painter, often called the father of modern art, who strove to develop an ideal synthesis of naturalistic representation, personal expression, and abstract pictorial order.
Cezanne was born in the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence, January 19, 1839, the son of a wealthy banker. His boyhood companion was Emile Zola, who later gained fame as a novelist and man of letters. As did Zola, Cezanne developed artistic interests at an early age, much to the dismay of his father. In 1862, after a number of bitter family disputes, the aspiring artist was given a small allowance and sent to study art in Paris, where Zola had already gone. From the start he was drawn to the more radical elements of the Parisian art world. He especially admired the romantic painter Eugene Delacroix and, among the younger masters, Gustave Courbet and the notorious Edouard Manet, who exhibited realist paintings that were shocking in both style and subject matter to most of their contemporaries.
Many of Cezanne’s early works were painted in dark tones applied with heavy, fluid pigment, suggesting the moody, romantic expressionism of previous generations. Just as Zola pursued his interest in the realist novel, however, Cezanne also gradually developed a commitment to the representation of contemporary life, painting the world he observed without concern for thematic idealization or stylistic affectation.
The most significant influence on the work of his early maturity proved to be Camille Pissarro, an older but as yet unrecognized painter who lived with his large family in a rural area outside Paris. Pissarro not only provided the moral encouragement that the insecure Cezanne required, but he also introduced him to the new impressionist technique for rendering outdoor light.
Along with the painters Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and a few others, Pissarro had developed a painting style that involved working outdoors (en plein air) rapidly and on a reduced scale, employing small touches of pure color, generally without the use of preparatory sketches or linear outlines. In such a manner Pissarro and the others hoped to capture the most transient natural effects as well as their own passing emotional states as the artists stood before nature. Under Pissarro’s tutelage, and within a very short time during 1872-73, Cezanne shifted from dark tones to bright hues and began to concentrate on scenes of farmland and rural villages.
Although he seemed less technically accomplished than the other impressionists, Cezanne was accepted by the group and exhibited with them in 1874 and 1877. In general the impressionists did not have much commercial success, and Cezanne’s works received the harshest critical commentary. He drifted away from many of his Parisian contacts during the late 1870s and ’80s and spent much of his time in his native Aix. After 1882, he did not work closely again with Pissarro. In 1886, Cezanne became embittered over what he took to be thinly disguised references to his own failures in one of Zola’s novels. As a result he broke off relations with his oldest supporter. In the same year, he inherited his father’s wealth and finally, at the age of 47, became financially independent, but socially he remained quite isolated.
Cezanne’s goal was, in his own mind, never fully attained. He left most of his works unfinished and destroyed many others. He complained of his failure at rendering the human figure, and indeed the great figural works of his last years-such as the Large Bathers(circa 1899-1906, Museum of Art, Philadelphia) – reveal curious distortions that seem to have been dictated by the rigor of the system of color modulation he imposed on his own representations. The succeeding generation of painters, however, eventually came to be receptive to nearly all of Cezanne’s idiosyncrasies. Cezanne’s heirs felt that the naturalistic painting of impressionism had become formularized, and a new and original style, however difficult it might be, was needed to return a sense of sincerity and commitment to modern art.
For many years Cezanne was known only to his old impressionist colleagues and to a few younger radical postimpressionist artists, including the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and the French painter Paul Gauguin. In 1895, however, Ambroise Vollard, an ambitious Paris art dealer, arranged a show of Cezanne’s works and over the next few years promoted them successfully. By 1904, Cezanne was featured in a major official exhibition, and by the time of his death (in Aix on October 22, 1906) he had attained the status of a legendary figure. During his last years many younger artists traveled to Aix to observe him at work and to receive any words of wisdom he might offer. Both his style and his theory remained mysterious and cryptic; he seemed to some a naive primitive, while to others he was a sophisticated master of technical procedure. The intensity of his color, coupled with the apparent rigor of his compositional organization, signaled to most that, despite the artist’s own frequent despair, he had synthesized the basic expressive and representational elements of painting in a highly original manner. (From www.repropaint.com)
Cezanne’s approach to watercolour YouTube
Cézanne’s watercolours are studies preparatory to painting in oil, notes of strong sensations before nature afterwards to be rendered in the more permanent and solid seeming medium. They are also solutions of those problems of picture making which were his lifelong obsession, and which, at a certain period of his life, could be more easily settled in watercolour than in oil.
In about 1883 Cézanne’s struggle to achieve the greatest possible modelling through colour had led to a density of texture which the passage of time has made most beautiful to us, but which Cézanne felt to be too congested. He wished to attain the same effect with far greater simplicity of means.
He therefore limited his palette to green, blue and a few warm earth colours and adopted as an exercise in economy a spare and delicate technique of watercolour. What began as a discipline became a delight; and some of the paintings here exhibited were clearly executed for their own sakes. But they retain the evidence of their origin. No attempt is made at a full continuous description of appearances; the white paper predominates and the eye leaps form on complex of colour to another, forgetting that in between is nothing but whiteness.
Why is it that in spite of this lack of finish Cézanne’s watercolours give such a satisfying sense of completeness? For one thing because he knew how to concentrate all his resources on the essentials of a composition.
In this, as in other ways, Cézanne’s watercolours are a key to the understanding of his oils, and, in fact, greatly influenced his oil technique. They show, for example, his uneasy relation with the contour which, he is reputed to have said, escaped him, but which, in fact, gave him the dreaded sense of imprisonment.
Text edited and elaborated from Wikipedia ‘Landscape Art’. For ongoing update.
Landscape painting, also known as landscape art, is the depiction in art of landscapes, natural scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, and forests, and especially art where the main subject is a wide view, with its elements arranged into a coherent composition. In other works landscape backgrounds for figures can still form an important part of the work. Sky is almost always included in the view, and weather is often an element of the composition. Detailed landscapes as a distinct subject are not found in all artistic traditions, and develop when there is already a sophisticated tradition of representing other subjects. The two main traditions spring from Western painting and Chinese art, going back well over a thousand years in both cases. The recognition of a spiritual element in landscape art is present form its beginnings in East Asian art, drawing on Daoism and other philosophical traditions, but in the West only becomes explicit with Romanticism.
The word “landscape” entered the modern English language as landskip (variously spelt), an anglicization of the Dutch landschap, around the start of the 17th century, purely as a term for works of art, with its first use as a word for a painting in 1598. Within a few decades it was used to describe vistas in poetry, and eventually as a term for real views. However the cognate term landscaef or landskipe for a cleared patch of land had existed in Old English, though it is not recorded from Middle English. Landscape views in art may be entirely imaginary, or copied from reality with varying degrees of accuracy. If the primary purpose of a picture is to depict an actual, specific place, especially including buildings prominently, it is called a topographical view. Such views, extremely common as prints in the West, are often seen as inferior to fine art landscapes, although the distinction is not always meaningful; similar prejudices existed in Chinese art, where literati painting usually depicted imaginary views, while professional court artists painted real views, often including palaces and cities.
The earliest forms of art around the world depict little that could really be called landscape, although ground-lines and sometimes indications of mountains, trees or other natural features are included. The earliest “pure landscapes” with no human figures are frescos from Minoan Greece of around 1500 BCE. Hunting scenes, especially those set in the enclosed vista of the reed beds of the Nile Delta from Ancient Egypt, can give a strong sense of place, but the emphasis is on individual plant forms and human and animal figures rather than the overall landscape setting. For a coherent depiction of a whole landscape, some rough system of perspective, or scaling for distance, is needed, and this seems from literary evidence to have first been developed in Ancient Greece in the Hellenistic period, although no large-scale examples survive. More ancient Roman landscapes survive, from the 1st century BCE onwards, especially frescos of landscapes decorating rooms that have been preserved at archaeological sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum and elsewhere, and mosaics.
The Chinese ink painting tradition of shan shui (“mountain-water”), or “pure” landscape, in which the only sign of human life is usually a sage, or a glimpse of his hut, uses sophisticated landscape backgrounds to figure subjects, and landscape art of this period retains a classic and much-imitated status within the Chinese tradition.
Both the Roman and Chinese traditions typically show grand panoramas of imaginary landscapes, generally backed with a range of spectacular mountains – in China often with waterfalls and in Rome often including sea, lakes or rivers. These were frequently used, as in the example illustrated, to bridge the gap between a foreground scene with figures and a distant panoramic vista, a persistent problem for landscape artists. The Chinese style generally showed only a distant view, or used dead ground or mist to avoid that difficulty.
A major contrast between landscape painting in the West and East Asia has been that while in the West until the 19th century it occupied a low position in the accepted hierarchy of genres, in East Asia the classic Chinese mountain-water ink painting was traditionally the most prestigious form of visual art. Aesthetic theories in both regions gave the highest status to the works seen to require the most imagination from the artist. In the West this was history painting, but in East Asia it was the imaginary landscape, where famous practitioners were, at least in theory, amateur literati, including several Emperors of both China and Japan. They were often also poets whose lines and images illustrated each other. However in the West, history painting came to require an extensive landscape background where appropriate, so the theory did not entirely work against the development of landscape painting – for several centuries landscapes were regularly promoted to the status of history painting by the addition of small figures to make a narrative scene, typically religious or mythological.
In early Western medieval art interest in landscape disappears almost entirely, kept alive only in copies of Late Antique works such as the Utrecht Psalter; the last reworking of this source, in an early Gothic version, reduces the previously extensive landscapes to a few trees filling gaps in the composition, with no sense of overall space. A revival in interest in nature initially mainly manifested itself in depictions of small gardens such as the Hortus Conclusus or those in millefleur tapestries. The frescos of figures at work or play in front of a background of dense trees in the Palace of the Popes, Avignon are probably a unique survival of what was a common subject. Several frescos of gardens have survived from Roman houses like the Villa of Livia.
During the 14th century Giotto di Bondone and his followers began to acknowledge nature in their work, increasingly introducing elements of the landscape as the background setting for the action of the figures in their paintings. Early in the 15th century, landscape painting was established as a genre in Europe, as a setting for human activity, often expressed in a religious subject, such as the themes of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, the Journey of the Magi, or Saint Jerome in the Desert. Luxury illuminated manuscripts were very important in the early development of landscape, especially series of the Labours of the Months such as those in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, which conventionally showed small genre figures in increasingly large landscape settings. A particular advance is shown in the less well-knownTurin-Milan Hours, now largely destroyed by fire, whose developments were reflected in Early Netherlandish painting for the rest of the century. The artist known as “Hand G”, probably one of the Van Eyck brothers, was especially successful in reproducing effects of light and in a natural-seeming progression from the foreground to the distant view. This was something other artists were to find difficult for a century or more, often solving the problem by showing a landscape background from over the top of a parapet or window-sill, as if from a considerable height.
Landscape backgrounds for various types of painting became increasingly prominent and skilful during the century. The period around the end of the 15th century saw pure landscape drawings and watercolours from Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Fra Bartolomeo and others, but pure landscape subjects in painting and printmaking, still small, were first produced by Albrecht Altdorfer and others of the German Danube School in the early 16th century. At the same time Joachim Patinir in the Netherlands developed the “world landscape” a style of panoramic landscape with small figures and using a high aerial viewpoint, that remained influential for a century, being used and perfected by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. The Italian development of a thorough system of graphical perspective was now known all over Europe, which allowed large and complex views to be painted very effectively.
Landscapes were idealized, mostly reflecting a pastoral ideal drawn from classical poetry which was first fully expressed by Giorgione and the young Titian, and remained associated above all with hilly wooded Italian landscape, which was depicted by artists from Northern Europe who had never visited Italy, just as plain-dwelling literati in China and Japan painted vertiginous mountains. Though often young artists were encouraged to visit Italy to experience Italian light, many Northern European artists could make their living selling Italianate landscapes without ever bothering to make the trip. Indeed, certain styles were so popular that they became formulas that could be copied again and again.
The publication in Antwerp in 1559 and 1561 of two series of a total of 48 prints (the Small Landscapes) after drawings by an anonymous artist referred to as the Master of the Small Landscapes signalled a shift away from the imaginary, distant landscapes with religious content of the world landscape towards close-up renderings at eye-level of identifiable country estates and villages populated with figures engaged in daily activities. By abandoning the panoramic viewpoint of the world landscape and focusing on the humble, rural and even topographical, the Small Landscapes set the stage for Netherlandish landscape painting in the 17th century. After the publication of the Small Landscapes, landscape artists in the Low Countries either continued with the world landscape or followed the new mode presented by the Small Landscapes.
The popularity of exotic landscape scenes can be seen in the success of the painter Frans Post, who spent the rest of his life painting Brazilian landscapes after a trip there in 1636-1644. Other painters who never crossed the Alps could make money selling Rhineland landscapes, and still others for constructing fantasy scenes for a particular commission such as Cornelis de Man‘s view of Smeerenburg in 1639.
Compositional formulae using elements like the repoussoir were evolved which remain influential in modern photography and painting, notably by Poussin and Claude Lorrain, both French artists living in 17th century Rome and painting largely classical subject-matter, or Biblical scenes set in the same landscapes. Unlike their Dutch contemporaries, Italian and French landscape artists still most often wanted to keep their classification within the hierarchy of genres as history painting by including small figures to represent a scene from classical mythology or the Bible. Salvator Rosa gave picturesque excitement to his landscapes by showing wilder Southern Italian country, often populated by banditi.
Dutch Golden Age painting of the 17th century saw the dramatic growth of landscape painting, in which many artists specialized, and the development of extremely subtle realist techniques for depicting light and weather. There are different styles and periods, and sub-genres of marine and animal painting, as well as a distinct style of Italianate landscape. Most Dutch landscapes were relatively small, but landscapes in Flemish Baroque painting, still usually peopled, were often very large, above all in the series of works that Peter Paul Rubens painted for his own houses. Landscape prints were also popular, with those of Rembrandt and the experimental works of Hercules Seghers usually considered the finest.
The Dutch tended to make smaller paintings for smaller houses. Some Dutch landscape specialties named in period inventories include the Batalje, or battle-scene; theManeschijntje, or moonlight scene; the Bosjes, or woodland scene; the Boederijtje, or farm scene,and the Dorpje or village scene.Though not named at the time as a specific genre, the popularity of Roman ruins inspired many Dutch landscape painters of the period to paint the ruins of their own region, such as monasteries and churches ruined after the Beeldenstorm.The popularity of landscapes in the Netherlands was in part a reflection of the virtual disappearance of religious painting in a Calvinist society, and the decline of religious painting in the 18th and 19th centuries all over Europe combined with Romanticism to give landscapes a much greater and more prestigious place in 19th-century art than they had assumed before.
In England, landscapes had initially been mostly backgrounds to portraits, typically suggesting the parks or estates of a landowner, though mostly painted in London by an artist who had never visited his sitter’s rolling acres; the English tradition was founded by Anthony van Dyck and other mostly Flemish artists working in England. In the 18th century,watercolour painting, mostly of landscapes, became an English speciality, with both a buoyant market for professional works, and a large number of amateur painters, many following the popular systems found in the books of Alexander Cozens and others. By the beginning of the 19th century the English artists with the highest modern reputations were mostly dedicated landscapists, showing the wide range of Romantic interpretations of the English landscape found in the works of John Constable, J.M.W. Turner and Samuel Palmer. However all these had difficulty establishing themselves in the contemporary art market, which still preferred history paintings and portraits.
In Europe, as John Ruskin said, and Sir Kenneth Clark confirmed, landscape painting was the “chief artistic creation of the nineteenth century”, and “the dominant art”, 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” In Clark’s analysis, underlying European ways to convert the complexity of landscape to an idea were four fundamental approaches: the acceptance of descriptive symbols, a curiosity about the facts of nature, the creation of fantasy to allay deep-rooted fears of nature, and the belief in a Golden Age of harmony and order, which might be retrieved.
The 18th century was also a great age for the topographical print, depicting more or less accurately a real view in a way that landscape painting rarely did. Initially these were mostly centred on a building, but over the course of the century, with the growth of the Romantic movement pure landscapes became more common. The topographical print, often intended to be framed and hung on a wall, remained a very popular medium into the 20th century, but was often classed as a lower form of art than an imagined landscape. Landscapes in watercolour became a distinct specialism, above all in England, where a particular tradition of talented artists who only, or almost entirely, painted landscape watercolours developed, as it did not in other countries. The paintings sold relatively cheaply, but were far quicker to produce. These professionals could augment their income by training the “armies of amateurs” who also pained.
The Romantic movement intensified the existing interest in landscape art, and remote and wild landscapes, which had been one recurring element in earlier landscape art, now became more prominent. The German Caspar David Friedrich had a distinctive style, influenced by his Danish training, where a distinct national style, drawing on the Dutch 17th-century example, had developed. To this he added a quasi-mystical Romanticism. French painters were slower to develop landscape painting, but from about the 1830sJean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and other painters in the Barbizon School established a French landscape tradition that would become the most influential in Europe for a century, with the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists for the first time making landscape painting the main source of general stylistic innovation across all types of painting.
The nationalism of the new United Provinces had been a factor in the popularity of Dutch 17th-century landscape painting and in the 19th century, as other nations attempted to develop distinctive national schools of painting, the attempt to express the special nature of the landscape of the homeland became a general tendency. In Russia, as in America, the gigantic size of paintings was itself a nationalist statement.
In the United States, the Hudson River School, prominent in the middle to late 19th century, is probably the best-known native development in landscape art. These painters created works of mammoth scale that attempted to capture the epic scope of the landscapes that inspired them. The work of Thomas Cole, the school’s generally acknowledged founder, has much in common with the philosophical ideals of European landscape paintings — a kind of secular faith in the spiritual benefits to be gained from the contemplation of natural beauty. Some of the later Hudson River School artists, such as Albert Bierstadt, created less comforting works that placed a greater emphasis (with a great deal of Romantic exaggeration) on the raw, even terrifying power of nature. The best examples of Canadian landscape art can be found in the works of the Group of Seven, prominent in the 1920s.
Although certainly less dominant in the period after World War I, many significant artists still painted landscapes in the wide variety of styles exemplified by Neil Welliver, Alex Katz, Milton Avery, Peter Doig, Andrew Wyeth, David Hockney and Sidney Nolan.
To be updated and continued
See discussion on my Landscape Photography blog: http://photography.zemniimages.info/portfolio/1-3-establishing-conventions/
Using search engines and any other resources, find at least 12 examples of 18 and 19th century landscape paintings. List all of the commonalities. Try to find out why the examples were painted (eg private or public commission.) your research should provide some examples of the visual language and conventions known to the early photographers.
Notes here to be updated from visits to exhibitions at:
Tate Britain: Late Turner and Turner galleries
Horizon lines, framing devices, division between foreground, middle ground and background planes. Aerial perspective.
Storm at Sea, 1865
Diagonal lines of rain point to solid horizontal horizon.
Souvenir du Pont de Mantes
Framing device and aerial perspective.
Hampstead heath with a rainbow
Turner tends to have his horizons lower, or non-existent. And makes lots of use of dramatic swirls for storms, and brilliant sunsets. But still positions vertical elements and objects around the thirds line.
The Fighting ‘Téméraire’ tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, National Gallery
Snow Storm, Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps 1812, Tate Gallery
Snow Storm- Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth c. 1842
distinctive style, influenced by his Danish training, where a distinct national style, drawing on the Dutch 17th-century example, had developed. To this he added a quasi-mystical Romanticism.
The Wanderer above the Mists 1817-18
Strong contrast in colours and between foreground and background with dramatic silhouette. Quasi symmetrical balance between right and left side of the image. Diagonals leading to the centre figure.
Trees in the Moonlight
Use of diagonals and muted colours.
Two Men by the Sea at Moonrise
Use of strong horizontals with central horizon line. Silhouettes against an oval pool of light. ‘High Dynamic Range’.
from Tate.org search
mists, high horizons. Strong horizontals and verticals.
Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Cremorne Lights 1872
Then try to find examples of landscape photographs from any era that conform to these conventions.
See analysis in posts on:
This image has horizon on top thirds line with leading line of rocks from, between and to vertical thirds lines. The original image though breaks with conventions on aerial perspective in that the rocks in that although there is a progression in sharpness from fore to middle to background, the equal haze of water and sky add the feeling of mystery. In a painting probably there would have been an attempt to use various devices to de-emphasise the sharpness on the rock at the front to more effectively lead the eye into the picture to the triangular rock at the middleground and back again. In the photograph this is achieved to some extent by the changes in tonal contrast from relatively equal tones between the foreground rock and sea to the sharper contrast between the dark triangular rock and the sea. Then back to the sharp dark/white contrast lines on the foreground rock.
See posts on:
Fay Godwin (reading still to be written up )
Most landscape photographs on sites like Flickr, photographs submitted to landscape photography magazines and camera club competitions also conform to:
– conventions of rule of thirds (reflected in grids in Lightroom and Photoshop),
– contrast between fore/middle/background to include near and far objects
– use of leading lines/implied lines to link the elements.
They also generally:
– blur motion on water through slow shutter speed
– increase tonal contrast in cloud and sky areas, and often enhance colours
– have a deep depth of field through small apertures – both these done through using a tripod.
– simplify the image, cloning or removing distractions in digital processing.
– simplify the image, cloning or removing distractions in digital processing.
Does very colourful multicolour screenprints.