Landscape Painting
Definition, History, Development, Movements of Landscape Art.

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The Hay Wain (1821). John Constable,
A good example of English naturalism
and one of the most famous pictures
in English Landscape Painting.
The greatest landscapes were executed
in the late 18th and 19th century.
See: Famous landscape paintings.

Landscape Painting (1500-present)


Landscape Art: Its Position in the Hierarchy of Genres
History and Development of Landscape Painting
16th Century (Joachim Patenir, Albrecht Durer, Pieter Bruegel)
17th Century (Aelbert Cuyp, Jacob Van Ruisdael, Poussin, Claude-Lorrain)
18th Century (England & Europe)
19th Century (English School, Barbizon, Impressionism, Hudson River School)
English Landscape Painting in Perspective (Article)
20th Century (Fauvist, Cubist, Expressionist landscapes, abstract scenes)

In fine art, the term 'landscape' - from the Dutch word 'landschap', a patch of ground - describes any painting or drawing whose "principal subject" is the portrayal of a scenic view. Such scenery encompasses meadows, hills, mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, forests, coastal views and seascapes. The view depicted may be that of a real place, or it may be an imaginary or idealized scene.

The Grand Canal, Venice (1835) (Detail)
By JMW Turner.

For the greatest view painters, see:
Best Landcape Artists.

By the Whirlpool (1892)
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
By the great Russian landscape
painter Isaac Levitan.

Autumn Landscape (c.1460)
Japanese ink and wash painting.
By Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506).

Poppy Field, Argenteuil (1873)
Musee d'Orsay, Paris.
By Claude Monet.

Landscape Art: Its Position in the Hierarchy of Genres

Landscape was an established genre in Chinese art by the fourth century CE, but in Western art, landscape painting doesn't really begin until after the era of Renaissance art in the sixteenth century. Of course many painters, from Roman times onwards, had included scenic views in their paintings, but these were ancilliary to the main theme of the painting. The main problem with landscape was that it ranked very low in the academic hierarchy of the genres (types of painting). This hierarchy, which crystallized during the Renaissance, ran as follows: (1) History painting; (2) Portrait art; (3) Genre Painting, that is scenes from everyday life; (4) Landscape; (5) Still Life. These rankings were definitively set out in 1669 by Andre Felibien, the secretary to the French Academy, in his Preface to a series of published lectures which he delivered to the Academy. Thus, the art world - including its patrons, teachers and artists - did not take landscape painting seriously, and attributed greater value to historical works, portraits and genre pictures. In addition, the Renaissance (and later 'neo-classical' and academic schools) followed Greek Art in giving primacy to the human body, especially the nude. By comparison, landscape was a non-event.

History and Development of Landscape Painting

In simple terms, until the early/mid-sixteenth century, landscape was included in pictures purely as a setting for human activity. The painting might have an historical or religious message, for which the scenery was merely background. Examples include: The Annunciation (1472) by Leonardo Da Vinci; Ecstasy of St Francis (1480) by Giovanni Bellini; Birth of Venus (1482), by Botticelli; Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1597) by Caravaggio; The Tempest (1508) by Giorgione. See also Albrecht Altdorfer whose Landscape with Footbridge (1517-20, National Galley, London) is supposedly the first "pure" landscape.

See also: Chinese Painting.

Sixteenth Century Landscape Painting

At this point, certain Northern artists like Joachim Patenier (1485-1524), Albrecht Altdorfer of the Danube School of landscape art, as well as Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) and Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-69), began painting landscapes with greater independence. An example of this is Hunters in the Snow (1565) by Bruegel. But even Bruegel maintained the classical traditions with his picture - Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (1558) - which includes beautiful scenery purely as background to the mythological message. The only unequivocal landscape of the 16th century is probably View of Toledo (1595), by El Greco (1541-1614).


Seventeenth Century Landscape Painting

Despite the number and high quality of landscape paintings during the sixteenth century, view painting did not really come into it's own until the seventeenth century with the rise of the Dutch and Flemish schools: including artists such as the Italianate style Aelbert Cuyp and the realist-style Jacob Van Ruisdael and Rubens. See also The Little Street (Street in Delft) (c.1658, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) by Jan Vermeer. The French artist, the Rome-based Nicolas Poussin was another influential contributor to the genre, as was the popular artist Claude-Lorrain whose 'Claudean' compositions (eg. Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, 1648) comprised exquisite pastoral landscapes as the settings for religious themes.

Before entering the eighteenth century, it's worth emphasizing that the real distinction between landscape as ornament and landscape as an automous genre, is not the presence of absence of human figures, but rather their size and function. When foreground figures take up most of the picture surface the landscape is mere background, which is why Leonardo da Vinci, despite his interest in landscape, did not produce true landscape paintings. In true landscape painting, human figures - whether dispersed or foreground - exist merely to indicate scale and evoke the viewers empathy.

Eighteenth Century Landscape Painting

Landscape painting in the eighteenth century continued to develop in response to the general social and political climate engered by the ancien regimes in England, France and the rest of Europe. New attitudes to the natural environment emerged, and in England distinctive new topological traditions appeared, reflecting the practice of landscape gardening - the reordering of nature to suit aristocratic patrons. Scenic paintings were still not regarded as ends in themselves. Rather they portrayed the divine harmony of nature, and a calm confidence in the current climate of prosperity.


Order, not drama, was the dominant motif, in eighteenth century English landscape. This is exemplified in works by the first major British landscape artist Richard Wilson (eg. The Destruction of Niobe's Children, 1760), Thomas Gainsborough (eg. Mr and Mrs Andrews, 1749), William Marlowe (eg. The Pont du Gard Nimes, 1767), John Robert Cozens (eg. London From Greenwich Hill, 1791), and by the tragic consumptive Thomas Girtin (eg. The White House Chelsea, 1799) of whom Turner said: "Had Tom Girtin lived, I would have starved." Girtin's works exemplified in the English school of landscape painting, which witnesed some of the greatest landscapes ever produced.


In France, Jean-Antoine Watteau combined beautiful scenery with outdoor conviviality (fete galantes) - see Famous Paintings Analyzed - while artists like Jean-Honore Fragonard produced frothy foliage and clouds (eg. The Swing, 1767). In Italy, Giovanni Panini was a highly successful contemplative landscape artist (eg. Ruins with Figures), being a contemporary of Giovanni Canaletto, the greatest of all view-painters (vedutisti) in Venetian painting, known for his precise topographical views (vedute) of Venice and its waterways, and his pioneering work on linear perspective. Other eighteenth century Italian landscape masters included: Francesco Guardi (eg. Landscape with Ruins, 1775), Francesco Zuccarelli (eg. An Italianate River Landscape), and Bernardo Bellotto (eg. View of Warsaw from the Royal Castle, 1772).

In summary, during this period view painting attracted growing interest from artists and patrons alike, and was becoming a much more respected genre. Even so, the eighteenth century saw a relatively ordered rise in landscape appreciation and practice, compared to the dramatic artistic events of the nineteenth century.

Nineteenth Century Landscape Painting

After the cataclysmic events of the French Revolution (c.1789-93) and the Napoleonic Wars (c.1795-1815), landscape painting became one of the most popular types of art and rapidly blossomed into a major pictorial genre for artists, patrons and collectors. In fact the 19th century produced many of the greatest landscapes ever seen. Two major traditions emerged: English and French, both of which influenced landscape painters throughout Europe and North America, and had a huge impact on the art of the period. In Russia, the landscape genre found its expression in the Wanderers movement, founded in 1863, while in America the Hudson River School dominated.

NOTE: To see the role that landscape painting played in the stylistic development of 19th century art, see: Realism to Impressionism (1830-1900).

19th Century English School: Chrome, Cotman, Constable, Turner

The Norwich School of landscape painters (active c.1803-1830s), founded by John Crome (1768-1821) and John Sell Cotman (1782-1842), extended the Dutch Luminist tradition and produced landscapes, coastal and marine scenes from around Norfolk, preferring outdoor painting to studio easel work. Then came the Suffolk artist John Constable (1776-1837) with masterpieces like The Hay Wain (1821), portraying man and Nature existing in perfect harmony. Its nostalgic quality (nostalgia for a departing world of innocent rustic life) stems from the fact that agriculture was then in depression and there were riots in the countryside.

Meanwhile, JMW Turner (1775-1851), England's greatest and most original landscape painter, had arrived on the scene. A watercolourist until 1796, he became in 1802 the youngest ever full member of London's Royal Academy. In the 1800s, his scenic views became much more dramatic and Romantic, both in their subject matter and sense of movement. This was a totally revolutionary approach to landscape painting. He began elevating landscape to the status of historical painting by seeding pictures with historical actions (eg. Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps, 1812) and natural forces (eg. The Burning of The Houses of Lords and Commons, 1835). From the 1830s, his landscape and seascape art became increasingly free, focusing primarily on atmospheric effect. By the early 1840s some of his paintings were almost abstract in composition, dissolving into a haze of colour and light (eg. The Dawn of Christianity). In his treatment of colour and light, Turner anticipated Impressionism.

Turner's dramatic artworks were in contrast to the pastoral, often religious-based, landscapes of his contemporaries. The latter included: the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), whose small-scale scenic works (eg. Winter Landscape, 1811) were full of religious symbolism; Samuel Palmer (1805-1881) and his intense Christian view of nature; and John Martin (1789-1854) whose paintings included dramatic scenes from the Bible in sweeping panoramic landscape settings.

Later in the century, (1884 on), the Newlyn School became established in Cornwall. This artist colony, specializing in landscape and rural/fishing genre scenes, was led by Stanhope Forbes, Frank Bramley and Norman Garstin.


English Landscape Painting in Perspective

Before the arrival of John Constable (1776-1837) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), the English School of Landscape Painting was greatly undervalued. In 1761, for instance, the critic Horace Walpole (1717-97) wrote (in his Anecdotes of Painting): "In a country so profusely beautified with the amenities of nature it is extraordinary that we have produced so few good painters of landscape." He could not understand why "our ever verdant lawns, rich-vales, fields of haycocks and hop-grounds are neglected as subjects'. The comment was not entirely justified. Gainsborough had painted his Cornard Wood and View of Dedham a long time before Walpole wrote. A topographical tradition already existed in the first half of the century. Samuel Scott (c.1702-72) began to paint his views of London and the Thames in the 1730s, a decade before Canaletto (1697-1768) came to the city to exchange for a while the Grand Canal at Venice for the river at Westminster. NOTE: For an explanation of 19th century landscape paintings, like those produced by Turner and Constable, see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).

The Classical Influence

It is true, however, that the second half of the century was the more fruitful and that it took time for the connoisseurs of the period to get used to the notion that artists in Britain had an original contribution to make. The European traditions of the north and south were both admired though for different reasons. The 'classical' landscape that had grown up in Italy had its irresistible appeal for the cultured Englishman on the Grand Tour. 'Classical' is an ambiguous word but it indicates the respect for antiquity that was especially strong in artists who had come to Italy from Northern Europe, manifest in their paintings of Roman ruins and regions to which there was classical reference. Paul Bril, Adam Elsheimer and the painters of the Bolognese School such as Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) and Domenichino (1581-1641) added to elaborately decorative arrangements of trees and lakes the suggestion of classical subject in the small figures they introduced. Yet another implication of the word 'classical' may be found in the sense of order and measure conveyed by the landscapes of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665).

It is evident that there was much poetic and romantic feeling in this kind of landscape, delightfully rendered in the landscapes of Claude Lorrain (1600-82), who combined dream-like visions of an ancient past with beautifully observed effects of dawn and sunset. Poetry of another kind was to be found in the wild and rugged scenes inspired by Calabria that were painted by Salvator Rosa (1615-73). Claude, Poussin and Salvator were venerated names to English connoisseurs of the 18th-century. Also much admired was Gaspard Dughet (1615-75), Nicolas Poussin's brother-in-law and admirable pupil, who adopted the name 'Poussin'. But Claude in particular was the British idol; his carefully irregular disposition of trees and architectural features being copied by the cultivated owners of estates and their gardeners in actual trees, stretches of water and classical accessories: English parkland interpreted Claude in three dimensions.

Influence of the Dutch School

The other tradition was that of Netherlandish painting in its more domestic aspect. Pride of possession mingled with feelings of affection. For Rubens the region round his own country house, the Chateau de Steen, near Malines, had a personal interest, leading him to paint every detail with loving care. The Dutch painters of the seventeenth century had their patriotic attachment to the land that had been wrested from foreign domination. The levels seamed with waterways, the horizontals picturesquely broken here and there by windmills and patches of woodland, the whole low-lying scene canopied by the moving panorama of cloud were as intimate and homely as the Arcadia of the painters in Rome was idealized fancy, and the Calabria of Salvator romantically savage.

There were connoisseurs in England as devoted to the Dutch school of landscape as to the classical, to Jacob van Ruisdael (1628-82) and Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709) as to Claude and Poussin. A certain geographical similarity between Holland and the East Anglian counties may account in part for the number of Dutch pictures acquired by those families of wealth with houses in the region. English landscapists were for a long time treated with less respect. A George Lambert (1700-65) might be employed to portray a mansion in the same way as a minor portrait painter might be called in to paint a member of the family, but a Lambert's imitation of Gaspard could obviously not be treated with the same respect as the work of Dughet himself.

The beautiful pictures of Suffolk landscape painted by Gainsborough in his early years were a phase of his art that faded away in the compulsion that caused him to move to Bath and become a fashionable portrait painter. The landscape of his later years - a townsman's escape - had no sense of locality, though it had the corresponding advantage of light and mass in themselves.

Richard Wilson

The career of Richard Wilson (1714-82) is an example of the fate of a hugely gifted artist who could only superficially be regarded as an imitator of the masters of classical landscape in Italy. Wilson did well enough as a portrait painter until at the age of 36 he went to Italy. He worked at Rome and Naples, where he had several pupils and was encouraged to concentrate on landscape by fellow artists such as Francesco Zuccarelli (1704-88), the painter of decorative pastorals. Returning to London after six years, professedly as a landscape painter, he found that the qualities of breadth and simplicity which made his glowing Italian landscapes truly original were disregarded by those who wished for more glamorous souvenirs of classical ground. The connoisseurs no doubt took the view of Joshua Reynolds that Wilson's landscapes were 'too near common nature' to admit the inclusion of gods and goddesses. The mythological flavouring was what they valued. It was the next generation - and more especially the next generation of artists - that was to appreciate Wilson's greatness.

Constable and Turner

Born within a year of each other, Constable and Turner were equally responsive to the outstanding masters of the tradition outlined above. What remains of Constable's lectures on landscape painting shows in what proportion he saw the past. It was a spectacle of greatness, decline and revival. He praised the 'tranquil, penetrating and studious' art of Poussin, 'the lofty energy' of the Caracci, the 'sentiment and romantic grandeur' of Domenichino, the 'serene beauty' of the 'inimitable' Claude, the 'wild and terrific' conceptions of Salvator Rosa, and the 'freshness and dewy light' of Rubens.

For Constable, Rembrandt's Mill was an epoch in itself though he did not omit praise of Ruisdael and Aelbert Cuyp (1620-91). The decline was that of men who 'had lost sight of nature', among them the rococo painter Francois Boucher (1703-70) whose 'scenery', said Constable, was 'a bewildered dream of the picturesque'. He had little good to say of John Wootton (c.1686-1765) or George Lambert. From these depths, landscape painting was rescued by Wilson and Gainsborough to whose names Constable, recognizing no distinction of merit between oil painting and watercolour, added those of the watercolourists J.R. Cozens (1752-97) and Thomas Girtin (1775-1802).

If Turner had likewise set out what he valued in the past, his selection of masters would not have differed greatly from Constable's. He studied Claude as intently as Constable studied the works by him in Sir George Beaumont's collection. He would have concurred in giving an honourable place to the watercolourists alongside the oil painters. Had he not worked with Girtin at Dr.Monro's and admired Cozens when copying his finely austere Alpine views?

Return to Nature

Constable and Turner may be considered alike not only in their view of the landscape tradition, but in reflecting consciously or unconsciously the idea of a return to nature - so much in the air as the end of the century approached and its earlier urbanities and conventions palled. Jean-Jacques Rousseau had advanced the idea philosophically, and even Boucher's 'pastoral of the Opera house', as Constable contemptuously described it, indicates the half-serious though also frivolous way in which the French court was impressed. Wordsworth gave the idea poetical exposition in England, with his preface on the principles of poetry in the 1800 edition of the Lyrical Ballads. However, the poetic feeling for nature had been gaining impetus since James Thompson had published his collected The Seasons fifty years before. How his descriptions of landscape stimulated Turner is made evident by the quotations appended to the titles of his pictures in the Royal Academy catalogues.

The English Countryside

In spite of their equal regard for nature and many points of similarity in taste it is surprising to realize what a vast difference there was between the two nearly contemporary painters. Constable, the countryman born, was an artist of local attachments, to his native Suffolk, to the flat lands and their great arch of sky in preference to the mountains that stirred the romantic imagination; and he had no wish to go outside England for theme or stimulus.

East Anglia had a special capacity for holding the affections of artists born in the region. John Crome (1768-1821), who spent nearly the whole of his life in his native city of Norwich and as the founder of the Norwich Society of Artists in 1803 became the leader of England's only local school, was even more of a regionalist than Constable. Unlike either, Turner, born in west central London, amid dusky brick and under smoke-laden sky had to travel to gain his first experience of rural landscape. The topographical drawing which brought him early success caused him to make frequent expeditions about the country, and the romantic restlessness as well as the demand for albums with illustrations of places abroad, which arose at the end of the Napoleonic wars, impelled him regularly about Europe.

As a romantic he may be contrasted with Constable, the realist. The latter habitually worked direct from nature in oil-sketches and studies designed to capture as authentically and spontaneously as possible the light and atmosphere of the scene before him. The romanticism of Turner read into the Claudesque accessories of ancient ruins the whole tragedy of the decline and fall of civilizations, and exulted in the foaming torrents and vertiginous chasms of Alpine routes. Constable was content with placid canals and smiling cornfields; Turner destroyed reality in order to extract from it a new release of energies, of chromatic vibrations. Constable came to the seaside at Brighton for the benefit of sea air for his ailing wife and marvellously conveyed the freshness of the atmosphere. Turner had to cross the sea, his favoured element, to experience and convey its power and rage.

Legacy of English Landscape Art

Neither of these two supreme masters of landscape had any immediate influence in their own country, though the electric shock of truth was immediately felt in France when The Hay Wain was shown in Paris. Its acclaim was, said Constable (with a notable absence of that respect which other insular painters have shown for the French), due to the fact that vivacity and freshness were 'things unknown to their own pictures... they neglect the look of nature altogether, under its various changes'. Any shortcoming in this respect was to be made good by the Impressionists - whom Constable (as well as his younger compatriot Richard Parkes Bonington) certainly anticipated - in the second half of the 19th-century. Turner's conjunction of the elements was a more revolutionary adventure. The expressionist and abstract art of recent times, if not directly influenced by him, can at least refer to his great example and point to the fact that he called in a new world of art to redress the balance of the old.

Major Developments in 19th Century France

The same winds of change that helped Turner to revolutionize English landscape art, were also sweeping over France. Plein-air landscape painting was greatly developed at the Barbizon School, at Fontainebleau near Paris, under Theodore Rousseau and the Romantic Camille Corot. It was enormously influential throughout Europe and the United States, and paved the way for the world famous Impressionism movement. Beautiful examples of plein air Impressionist landscape painting include: The Beach at Trouville (1870, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford CT), Water Lilies (Nymphéas) (1897-1926) and The Water Lily Pond: Green Harmony (1899, Musee d'Orsay) by Claude Monet (1840-1926); Snow at Louveciennes (1878, Musee d'Orsay) by Sisley (1839-99); Path Leading Through Tall Grass (1877, Musee d'Orsay) by Renoir (1841-1919); and The Red Roofs (1877, Musee d'Orsay) by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). See also: Characteristics of Impressionist Painting 1870-1910.

Note: new paint manufacturing techniques - such as the invention of the collapsible tin paint tube in 1841 by the American artist John Rand - enabled oil paints to be packaged in tubes, thus allowing artists to paint outdoors. This led to a significant increase in plein-air landscape painting in the milder French climate.

In Melbourne Australia, plein air landscape painting was the speciality of the Heidelberg School of Australian Impressionism, led by Tom Roberts, whose other leading members included Arthur Streeton (1867-1943), Walter Withers (1854-1914), Charles Conder (1868-1909) and Fred McCubbin (1855-1917).

Landscape was also a very important genre in Post-Impressionism. Beautiful compositions by some of the best Post-Impressionist painters include: Nocturne in Blue and Green: Chelsea (1871, Tate Gallery, London) by Whistler (1834-1903); Lac d'Annecy (1896, Courtauld Gallery, London) by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906); Tahitian Landscape (1893, Minneapolis Institute of Arts) by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903); Wheatfield with Crows (1890, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890); Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grange Jatte (1886, Art Institute Of Chicago) and Bathers at Asnieres (1884, National Gallery, London) by Georges Seurat (1859-1891); The Talisman (1888, Musee d'Orsay, Paris) by Paul Serusier (1864-1927); Moulin de la Galette in Snow (1923, Private Collection) by Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955).

American Landscape Painting

In America, the Hudson River School of landscape painting was the first significant grouping of artists, led by painters such as Thomas Cole (1801-48) and Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), whose paintings portrayed unspoilt reaches of the new continent as parables of God's power and benevolence. Later in the century it gave rise to an offshoot, known as Luminism, as exemplified by the Missouri frontier landscapes of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879). Another brilliant and highly influential American landscape painter was George Inness (1825-1894) who helped to define the Impressionistic soft-focus style of Tonalism.

Russian Landscapes

The greatest Russian traditionalist landscape painter - at least of woodland and forest - was Ivan Shishkin (1832-98), whose works included Winter (1890, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg), Rye (1878, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), Oak Grove (1887, Museum of Russian Art, Kiev), Morning in a Pine Forest (1889, Tretyakov) and Countess Mordvinova's Forest at Peterhof (1891, Tretyakov). Other scenic painters from Russia, most of whom belonged to the Wanderers landscape movement, include: Isaac Levitan (1860-1900), noted for Secluded Monastery (1890, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), and Vladimirka (The Road to Vladimir) (1892, Tretyakov), Golden Autumn (1895, Tretyakov), Spring Flood (1897, Tretyakov), and Birch Grove (1889, Tretyakov); Vasily Polenov (1844-1927), responsible for Moscow Courtyard (1878, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), and Overgrown Pond (1879, Tretyakov Gallery); Vasily Perov (1833-82), whose most famous landscape was The Last Tavern at the Town Gate (1868, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow); and Valentin Serov (1865-1911) noted for Colts at a Watering Place, Domotkanovo (1904, Tretyakov).

Twentieth Century Landscape Art

Landscape art of the twentieth century has been redefined as a genre, by a number of 20th century movements. In America, these include: Precisionism (1920s) an idiom developed by Charles Demuth (1883-1935) and Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) which focused on urban landscapes with industrial buildings; American Scene Painting and Regionalism both of which focused on the urban landscapes of small town America - see also the motionless structures of Edward Hopper, as in House by the Railroad (1925, Museum of Modern Art) and Lighthouse at Two Lights (1929, Metropolitan Museum); and Photorealism (1960s/70s), whose urban landscapes were done by painters such as Ricard Estes (b.1932).

Meanwhile, land art/earth works and other forms of environmental art have permitted artists to express their feelings for nature's grandeur and immensities. Thus, while landscape painting remains popular and continues to attract interest from artists and collectors alike, it has developed in diverse directions without maintaining the status it achieved during the nineteenth century. This is not surprising. Most artistic traditions were totally redefined, if not swept away by Cubism, two world wars and the atomic bomb.


Although talented painters and numerous art movements were springing up across Germany, Russia and Switzerland, Paris was still the centre of modern visual art, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Nearly all important Western artists visited Paris, worked there, or were aware of its fashions in composition and painting technique. Landscape continued to develop as a genre in Europe, but all painters were strongly affected by the new political as well as artistic climate of change, and reacted in different ways.

Fauvist Landscapes

Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958), the racing cyclist and orchestral violinist, actively explored Fauvism in the early 1900s, with colourful thickly painted landscapes. Later these degenerated into formulaic compositions based on a palette of red, blue, yellow and green. His landscapes include: Tugboat at Chatou (1906); View of the Seine (1906), as well as several wintry countrysides. Parisian art in the 1900s also influenced the American John Marin (1870-1953), known for his crystalline seascapes and his lyrical depiction of New York. Other Fauvist painters who contributed to the landscape genre included Andre Derain, Albert Marquet, and Othon Friesz.

Cubist Landscapes (1908)

Inspired by Cezanne's geometric-style landscapes of in Aix-en-Provence (Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1904-6, Kunstsammlung, Basel), Georges Braque began to include Cubist imagery in his landscapes at L'Estaque (Houses at L'Estaque, 1908, Kunstmuseum, Bern). Picasso was also emulating Cezanne in his views of Horta del Ebro in Spain (Houses on the Hill, 1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York). It was elements in this style of early Cubist painting to which the French art critic Louis Vauxcelles was referring in 1909, when he first used the expression 'bizarreries cubiques' - which led to the word Cubism.

German Expressionist Landscapes

Die Brucke was a raw but talented group of Dresden-based German Expressionist painters - including, Ernst Kirchner (1880-1838), Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Karl Schmidt-Rotluff (1884-1976), Max Pechstein (1881-1955), Otto Mueller (1874-1930) - who were influenced by the Fauvists, Gauguin and primitive art in general. Using bright colours and bold outlines, they expressed their radical politics in modern people landscapes (c.1908) and, from 1911 onwards, urban townscapes. Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), founder of Der Blaue Reiter, a German pioneer of modern art, developed a form of landscape painting, but from 1912 onwards moved towards complete abstraction. Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980), the Austrian artist, was known for his colourful cities and rivers. In contrast, Max Ernst (1891-1976), the Dada/Surrealist painter produced metaphysical landscapes and cityscapes in mixed media including oils and frottage. His landscapes were a strong influence on Salvador Dali, the flamboyant self-styled leader of the Surrealist movement in the Inter-War years.


The English tradition of innovative landscape art was continued by Paul Nash (1889-1946) who personalized his naturalistic idiom to lend his landscapes a transcendant sometimes apocalyptic quality. Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) added dramatic notes to his Welsh landscapes of the late 1930's, whilst Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979) portrayed the scenery of the south of England in semi-abstract free-hand terms.


The history of Irish art reveals a number of talented Irish landscape artists. Two masters from the first half of the twentieth century include Paul Henry (1876-1958), who built his reputation on the sky, bog, sea and countryside of the west of Ireland, and Jack B Yeats (1871-1957) whose Expressionist canvases included moody landscapes of Ireland's west coast. The primitive Tory Island painter James Dixon was another unique exponent of the genre. See also: Plein-Air Painting in Ireland.

St Ives School

Like Newlyn before it, the West Cornish town of St Ives became a beacon for landscape painters, sculptors and other artists after the completion of the Great Western Railway, in 1877. On a visit to St Ives in 1928, the painter Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) was struck by the primitive work of the local artist Alfred Wallis. At the outbreak of World War II, Nicholson returned and settled near St Ives, along with his wife Barbara Hepworth and the Russian Constructivist sculptor Naum Gabo. After the war, the town became a centre of avant-garde painting and sculpture. Members of the St Ives School included, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, and Bryan Wynter, as well as the modern potter, Bernard Leach. In 1993, the art gallery Tate St Ives opened to show the works of the St Ives School. Important artworks include: Green, Black and White Movement (1951) by Terry Frost, Horizontal Stripe Painting (1958) by Patrick Heron, and Porthleven (1951) by Peter Lanyon.

Post-War Landscapes

If anything, art after the Second World War was even more confused and disjointed. New movements like Abstract Expressionism, Neo-Dada, Pop-Art, New Realism, Mimimalism, Op Art sprang up to reflect changing values and creative priorities.

In Australia, a group of young expressionist artists, led by Russell Drysdale (1912-81) and Sidney Nolan (1917-92), produced a range of exceptional landscape paintings in the 1940s and 1950s. Examples include: Sofala (1947, Art Gallery of New South Wales) by Drysdale; and Burke and Wills Expedition (1948, Sidney Nolan Trust) by Nolan.

The English landscape artist Ben Nicholson moved to Switzerland and based his abstract landscapes on views from his windows and his travels. The underrated Russian aristocrat Nicolas de Stael (1914-1955) produced simple landscape-style forms with thick coloured paint, before committing suicide in 1955. The American Matisse, Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993) became known for his innovative semi-abstract coastlines, while Pop artists resorted to formulae and signs associated with landscape and the open road. Works by David Hockney (b.1937), the brilliant Yorkshire daughtsman and observer, included Californian landscapes synthesized from scenes viewed successively from his car. Photorealist artists have also been turning their attention to landscape painting with interesting and evocative results.

Landscape Art in the Twenty-First Century

It remains unclear how landscape will develop in the new century. Will the demands and disciplines of Academic art stimulate a return to traditional, naturalistic canvases, or will the fashion for abstract and discursive art - involving figures and actions, as well as modern delivery methods like video - continue to dominate? One wonders what type of landscapes Turner and Monet would be painting, if they were alive today.


• For more about the different types of painting (portraits, landscapes, still-lifes etc) see: Painting Genres.
• For more about landscape painting, see: Visual Arts Encyclopedia.

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