Research Point: Part 3: Project 2.1: Artists from Different Eras Using Landscape as Their Main Subject

History of Landscape in Art

Before the 17th century, landscapes were used simply to fill the backgrounds of paintings depicting historical settings, religious or mythological (notably Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman) stories, such as is seen in Fig.1.  It was only in the 17th century that this was realised as a category all of its own and was given the fourth spot out of the five stages of genre hierarchy.  Claude Lorrain’s work (Fig. 2.) was very classical, as discussed below.

In the 18th century, landscape as a genre increased in popularity and was used to create the then-preferred classical style of pieces, carrying on the use for historical, religious and mythological purposes.

The 19th century saw an increase once again in this genre, but a change in preference as artists were now choosing to create pieces in a more naturalistic way, seeing nature as a direct manifestation of God and trying to put that across in their pieces due to man’s distancing from nature due to the development of cities and towns and the reduction of rural living.  Later, artists stretched the boundaries of the genre and began depicting the beauty that industrialism (as seen in Fig.3) and urbanism held. 

Modern art was revolutionary in this century thanks to the French impressionists and the traditional hierarchy was broken down, paving the way for artists to have more freedom to as they pleased.

The 20th century saw works from such artists as Richard Long who ‘broke the mould’ and began creating art directly in landscapes.

Comparison of Artists

I decided to compare five different artists and my results are as below:

Traditional Artists

Fig. 1. Dürer, A (1494) View of Trento Fig. 2. Lorrain, C (1682) Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia
Albrecht Durer was a German painter, printmaker and theorist born in 1471.  He was one of the first European landscape artists and favoured watercolours.  He was a very important part of the northern renaissance.  Dürer died in 1528. Claude Lorrain (real name Claude Gellee) was a French painter, printmaker and theorist during the Baroque era who was most active in Italy as opposed to his native land.  He was born around the turn of 1600AD and died in 1682.
The View of Trento is a painting depicting a river bending and flowing around a village, which is set in a valley with mountains in the background.  The overall atmosphere within this piece is of a serene, peaceful place. This work depicts several archers who appear to be hunting a deer.  The two are separated by a river.  There are ancient intact pillars in the piece, setting it in a specific time in history.  There are several trees bending inwards almost as though trying to touch the clouds to the right and framing the piece.
This piece was created in the 15th century which saw the early Renaissance take shape. The 17th century saw the rise of the Baroque ere and also the Dutch Golden Age.  Italian artists ventured into new places in respect of paintings. 
This piece shows architecture in the form of a city or village on the edge of a rural piece of land, trees, mountains, a mode of transport (boat), clouds, water in the form of a river and indistinguishable figures in different parts of the piece.  This piece is set from a distance as a tourist would look at the scene through binoculars. Again, we see architecture within a rural setting, a sky with clouds, water in what appears to be in the form of a lake.  However, there are no modes of transport to this piece. There are several figures who can be distinguished, as well as including an animal in the form of a deer.  Again, this piece is set as though looking through binoculars and watching the scene unfold before you.
The movement in this piece comes from the water seemingly flowing off the page.  The mountains appear to lead the viewer’s eye downwards towards the centre of the piece, whereas the buildings lead the eye around the bend of the river.  The boat appears to be moving, as do some of the figures on the paths. The movement in this piece can be found in the deer turning to look at the hunters, the hunters and their hounds and the wind blowing the trees inwards towards the clouds which are moving off the page.  The water in this piece appears to be still, so as not to distract the viewer from the main points of focus, but to help emphasis the space between them.
The main points of interest in this piece are the purples used for the trees and the brightness of the natural elements of the piece, whilst the figures and anything man-made are all dull and subdued, inviting the viewer to appreciate the landscape more than the man-made objects. Here the sky is made of several beautifully mixed colours, as is the water.  The deer is also rather highlighted, probably because it is the main focus of the piece, as noted in the title.
I think I can take from this piece the change in shape and size of the buildings to improve my skills in the use of perspective.  I also like the movement of the water, so I think I will try and recreate these parts of the piece quickly in my sketchbook and take this information forward in my course. I really like the clouds and the colours in the sky in this piece, so I think I will try and recreate this in my sketchbook also since I will be working on clouds further on in this Part of the course.

Contemporary Artists

Fig. 3. Lowry, L S (1955) Industrial Landscape Fig. 4. Shaw, G (2013) The Wrong Place Fig. 5. Woodfine, S (2005) Newfoundland
Lawrence Stephen Lowry was born in 1887 in Salford – my home city!  Lowry painted industrial districts within Salford, Pendlebury and surrounding areas.  He is famous for not only his industrial landscapes, but also for the figures he depicted within his pieces due to their ‘matchstick’ appearance.  Lowry died in 1976. George Shaw was born in 1966 in Britain and is famous for his use of contemporary suburbs, graffiti, litter and architecture. Sarah Woodfine is a British artist, born in 1968.  She is known for her post-war and contemporary work, creating imaginary worlds in drawings, sculpture, landscape, architecture and optical illusions.
This piece is a landscape view of an imagined industrial city.  Factories and their smoking chimneys, a train on its line puffing out smoke, houses and people going about their daily business are all visible within the piece. This piece is the view of a woods with trees on either side, drawing the viewers’ eyes down the path in the middle of the piece and off into the distance. This is a piece depicting a tepee during the night, with a boat pulled up to the shore.  The pieces of this artwork appear to be within a perspex box and placed one in front of the other to create depth within the piece.
The 20th century saw artists begin experimenting with reality in a new way to that of the artists pre-17th century; whilst before it was merely for historical, religious or mythological in terms of Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman stories, now artists were beginning to depict images from their own imaginations and their own interpretations of the landscape before them. The 21st century has seen the removal of all limitations on artists, with them being able to express themselves in any way, shape or form they choose.  Due to the constant invention of things, ideas already out in the world and the easy access to this, artists are now easily able to build on the techniques of the traditional artists, those of contemporary artists and even create their own techniques and methods of creating masterpieces within this genre.
This piece also shows architecture in the form of an industrial city.  Whilst there are figures in this piece, they are indiscernible and are almost ant-like in their appearance, making one think of how ants go about their work with no bigger knowledge of the wider world, their sole purpose in life to work.  There is no greenery within this piece.  The colours in this piece are very subdued, portraying the drabness of an industry, however, it does still hold some beauty regardless of the lack of a rural presence.  The piece is seen from a bird’s eye view, almost as though one was a bird or a higher being. This piece uses a very limited palette with rather ominous trees.  The colours are deep and bold.  There is no method of transport within this piece, with no buildings or sky to be seen.  The viewpoint of this piece is to make you feel you are walking down the path in front of you.  The scene looks as though no other human has been through here. In this piece it feels as though we are studying the inhabitant of its sole piece of architecture, the tepee, through a cage or enclosure, just as one would observe a pet mouse.  Whilst no greenery can be seen fully, there are hints of partial flowers shown purely by a few simple shapes in white, contrasting against the black hill surrounding them.  The time of day is very confusing; the black and the shadows of the ground makes you imagine the piece is set at night-time, as does the tepee and lack of figures, as though the inhabitants are asleep inside, whereas the white of the sky implies the piece represents the day time, with the circle implying it is a moon, but could also be a sun.
The forefront houses are rather bright in colour, even though the piece as a whole is rather subdued.  As the landscape recedes, the brightness of the colour does also, however, the chimneys and bridges remain somewhat brighter than the rest. In this piece, the background seems to be brighter and the forefront darker.  I can only presume this is because beyond the trees we can see, the forest is dispersing and more light is able to seep through.  The fallen leaves on the ground are also rather bright and the green of the leaves is rather bold and striking in places adding a sense of warmth and almost the feel of moisture, as though it is a rainforest. The sky and ground are in strong contrast with each other due to their block colours, whereas the tepee and boat seem to have depth with their tonal values and white outlines. 
Again, the use of perspective in this piece is fantastic, so I will definitely be recreating the houses in the centre of the piece receding into the middle of the piece. In this piece, I see what my tutor has said about creating layers to create depth within the piece, so I think I will try and recreate this using layers of ink within my sketchbook. Whilst I appreciate the contrast in this piece and its depth, for some reason I just cannot connect with it.  It just does not really draw me in as much as George Shaw’s piece, for example.  Whilst I really enjoy black and white pieces, I just cannot connect here.  I think I will recreate this piece by making layers with pieces of card in my sketchbook.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Dürer, A (1494) View of Trento [Watercolour and Gouache] At: (Accessed on 21 May 2019)

Fig. 2. Lorrain, C (1682) Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia [oil on canvas] At: (Accessed on 21 May 2019)

Fig. 3. Lowry, L S (1955) Industrial Landscape [Oil paint on canvas] At: (Accessed on 21 May 2019)

Fig. 4. Shaw, G (2013) The Wrong Place I [watercolour on paper] At: (Accessed on 21 May 2019)

Fig. 5. Woodfine, S (2005) Newfoundland [pencil on paper in perspex box] At: (Accessed on 21 May 2019)


Albrect-Durer. (Unknown) ‘Albrecht Durer’ [online] At: (Accessed on 21 May 2019)

ArtNet. (Unknown) ‘George Shaw’ [online] At: (Accessed on 21 May 2019)

ClaudeLorrain. (Unknown) ‘Claude Lorrain’ [online] At: (Accessed on 21 May 2019)

MutualArt. (Unknown) ‘Sarah Woodfine Biography’ [online] At: (Accessed on 22 May 2019)

Tate. (Unknown) ‘L. S. Lowry’ [online] At: (Accessed on 21 May 2019)

University Arts London. (Unknown) ‘Sarah Woodfine’ [online] At: (Accessed on 22 May 2019)

Victoria and Albert Museum. (Unknown) ”Newfoundland’ by Sarah Woodfine, 2005′ [online] At: (Accessed on 22 May 2019)

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