Landscape Art

Landscape in pre-17th century art Click here
Landscape in 17th century art Click here
17th century landscape tastes Click here
Landscape in 18th century art Click here
Landscape in 19th century art Click here
Summary and conclusions Click here
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As an expressive medium, paintings and drawings often reflect the idealized essence of that form of the physical environment that is regarded as beautiful by the prevailing culture.

Great black bull
N. Aujoulat Great Black Bull, Lascaux Cave

The very concept of capturing in a small picture an image of the wider world is itself a staggering advance. Interest-ingly, no Palaeolithic cave paintings contain scenes of nature other than animals and some human forms; not even the ground is depicted. Certainly, landscape scenes were never included. An analysis of 2188 figures in 66 caves in Europe painted 3,000 – 8,000 BC found they all depicted animals (Leroi-Gouram, 1982, Ruspoli, 1987). These paintings were motivated by something other than an aesthetic desire; possibly they are totemic, religious, a charm to ward off spirits or represented possession of a locality.

Ab signs
Aboriginal motifs

The ancient Egyptians appeared disinterested in aesthetics – their fine sculptures and paintings were located in tombs and temples rather than being for general view. In addition, the many inscriptions praising the work of architects and builders were in terms of the durability and strength of the work, never its beauty (Beardsley, 1966).

Paintings by Australian Aborigines are depictions of Dreamtime stories representing relationships between elements that symbolize features such as streams, billabongs, rocks, snakes and meeting places. They are painted as a plan view from above and require interpretation. The Western concept of a view or a scene as a way of conceptualizing landscape was unknown to the Aborigines (Taylor, 1994).

The art historian Otto Pacht (1902 – 88) wrote, The discovery of the aesthetic value of landscape was the final outcome of a complex ripening process in which every form of imagination was involved and which concerned the entire attitude of man towards his physical environment (Shepard, 1967).

In this theme, we examine the emergence and development of landscape art, the interpretation of the landscape by the artist’s eye.


In Western culture, the first glimpse of landscapes appear as early as the thirteenth century as backgrounds to scenes of the Virgin, Nativity or other religious subjects. Giotto’s frescoes of the life of St Francis, painted at the Basilica in Assisi between 1296 and 1304, included trees as symbols. The frescoes lacked Francis’s empathy for the natural world. Fra Angelico (1387-1455) painted Noli me Tangere (literally “Don’t touch me” spoken by Jesus to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection) with flowers and trees, but they lacked any sense of reality.

GiottoGiotto, 1295. Francis preaching to the birds

Fra Angelico, 1442, Noli me tangere

The brothers de Limbourg, achieved a more realistic depiction of landscapes in France in 1416 with the paintings, Très Riches Heure (i.e. the very rich hours of the Duke of Berry), on the theme of the months in the countryside. Lord Kenneth Clark, the eminent art historian (1903 – 83), considered them significant because they lay between symbol and fact.

de Limbourg

WikimediaCommons de Limbourg brothers, 1416, Tres Riches Heure du Duc de Berry

The Flemish paintings of the Van Eyck brothers of this time portrayed realistic landscapes. Their 1432 altarpiece at Ghent accurately represented plants in a luxuriant valley with rocky vegetated walls. Other artists of the Low Countries including Dierick Bouts, Roger van der Weyden, Joachim de Patenir, Simon Bennick, Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525 – 1569) followed the lead of the Van Eycks.

BruegelThe seasons in the countryside were a popular theme; the works of Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564 – 1638) are perhaps the best known and depicted plump peasants disporting themselves in various rural and household activities, with houses and trees depicted accurately and a pleasing unity created from the various elements of the paintings.

The Flemish influence extended south to Italy and influenced Renaissance artists there. For example, Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) included glimpses of landscapes of northern Europe rather than of Italy in some paintings such as Adoration of the Magi (1481). While some Italian artists painted realistic scenes, most the landscapes were merely a “decorative and romantic” image (Hunter, 1985). An early topographical painting was the Swiss Konrad Witz’s The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (1444) which depicted Lake Geneva.


Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528), an outstanding draughtsman and water-colorist, painted scenes of Innsbruck in 1494 and later, scenes of lakes that are not unlike those of Turner in the nineteenth century.

DurerPaintings by Albrecht Durer

The paintings of Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) clearly reflected observations of actual landscapes captured in his notebooks and used in the backgrounds of paintings such as the Virgin and Child, Mona Lisa and Madonna of the Rocks. His careful scientific observations of rock formations are evident in his paintings.

LeonardoPaintings by Leonardo da Vinci

The fifteenth century saw the development of perspective by the architect Alberti. Early artists painted the foreground and the background in perspective but had problems linking through the middle ground. Sometimes they constructed paintings to avoid the problem, such as from a high viewpoint, at other times making rather botched attempts to paint the middle ground in perspective. Gradually, however they mastered this challenge. 

Renaissance artists were inspired by the classics, particularly the poems of Ovid and Virgil. The latter’s sensitive understanding of the countryside combined with the dream of the Golden Age. Virgilian landscapes, an “evocation of the antique world” (Clark, 1976), became a staple of artists from the Renaissance through Claude Lorraine and the Italianate artists of the eighteenth century to the Romantics of the nineteenth century.

Steeped in classicism, Michelangelo regarded the value of art as deriving from the moral or historical importance of the subject; realism, whether of landscapes or portraits was inferior. He rebuked the Flemish landscape painters for not dignifying their paintings with reason or art… symmetry or proportion (Rees, 1978) and his distaste of such painting influenced his contemporaries.

The Venetians created a new approach to the ancient concept of the Golden Age. Giovanni Bellini of Venice (1430-1516) predated Brueghel but painted similar landscapes. His Madonna of the Meadows and St Francis in the Desert are striking for the realism of their landscapes, inclusive of symbolic objects such as the ass in the latter painting. Near the end of his life, Bellini painted The Feast of the Gods (1514) with figures of gods, goddesses and satyrs feasting in the foreground amid tall trees and rocky outcrops, all imbued with a golden light. The painting, harking back to Arcadia and the Golden Age, is not unlike a Claude Lorraine or Nicolas Poussin of the next century (Hunter, 1985).


Paintings by Giovanni Bellini

From his childhood, the Venetian Giorgione (born Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco; c. 1477/8–1510) displayed astonishing skill in painting and rendered the perspectives of landscapes expertly. His park-like scenes were suffused with a golden light and his “flowing rhythm” displayed a natural lyricism (Clark, 1976). The structure of his paintings, looking through dark masses of trees or rock on the sides to a distant scene provided the model for Claude Lorraine

GiorgionePaintings by Giorgione

Another Venetian, Titian (Tiziano Vecelli, 1485 – 1576), was one of the first to paint nature as he saw it: the broad masses of sward and foliage, the light glinting through leaves and catching the tree trunks (Hussey, 1927). He developed the theme of Bacchanal, a favorite classical theme, with nymphs and satyrs rollicking amidst Arcadian scenes.

Another artist who painted broad-leaved deep forest scenes was the German, Albrecht Altdorfer (1480 – 1538) whose inspiration was the high dense northern forests. His painting of St George in the Forest (1511), though small (700 X 693 mm), is packed solid with leaves of trees, not light and airy but menacing, organic growth, ready to smother and strangle any intruder (Clark, 1976).


In the early seventeenth century, landscape painting was described as an Art soe new in England, and soe lately come a shore, as all the Language within our fower (four?) Seas cannot find it a Name, but a borrowed one, and that from (the Dutch) (Norgate, c1621). He was referring to the Dutch term “landskip” from whence the English “landscape” was derived.

Norgate was correct in his assessment of the newness of landscape art to England. The sixteenth century had seen virtually no interest in landscape painting until the latter decades when several books were published or translated touching on the subject. By 1600 landscape painting was only nascent, occasionally used as a backdrop to a portrait or a tapestry, but was not an identifiable genre of art.  Landscape painting was to emerge in England over the following century.


Henry and Margaret Ogden comprehensively assessed the emergence of landscape in art in English Taste in Landscape in the Seventeenth Century (1955). The growing role of landscape in art was expressed mainly in paintings but also in tapestries, book illustrations and masque scenery (i.e. backdrops for plays). Using catalogues of art collections of this period, the Ogdens established quantitative indicators of the proportion of landscapes in collections and analyzed the subjects of landscapes and the changing taste of landscape.

Peter Paul Rubens had a major influence on northern European art, out of all proportion to his output. His paintings were more realistic than anything hitherto seen in painting by his contemporaries, yet they were bursting with the glow and freshness and drama of Titian’s landscapes (Hussey, 1927). Rubens’ paintings contained exquisite detail, sensitively executed and a delicacy of atmosphere that could stand alongside Turner and Monet (Clark, 1976).


Paintings by Peter Paul Rubens

Adam Elsheimer (1578 – 1610), a German painter, created classical scenes with an enamelled quality similar to Altdorfer. His Flight into Egypt (around 1600) is a night-time campsite scene with powerful dark shapes illuminated by light from the moon and campfire.

Elsheimer, Flight into EgyptPSCWikimediaCommons            Adam Elsheimer, Flight into Egypt, 1609

Influenced by the paintings of Elsheimer, Brill and Rubens, the Dutch produced a generation of landscape painters who captured the naturalistic type of picturesque landscape complete with old gnarled trees, water and windmills, rustic bridges, hovels and shaggy animals. The Flemish and Dutch painters had differing styles, however, the Flemings caring more for perfect truth to life, the Dutch for beauty (Biese, 1905).

The Ogdens distinguished between ideal (or imaginary) landscapes and topographic (or actual) landscapes, the former being by far the more popular. Most of the topographical landscapes were associated with cities, buildings and ruins. A few were ‘prospects’ (i.e. landscapes with a long view to the horizon), and included such well known views as Greenwich over the Thames Valley, the most popular view in England (Ogden & Ogden, 1955) and described by Barclay as the best Prospect in Europe (Manwaring, 1925). Another favored location was the view from Richmond Hill where the Thames meandered through a vale of large trees, creating an Italianate-like landscape.

Although artists painting actual scenes used considerable freedom of interpretation to create the mood they sought. Side-framing trees, and/or a central clump of trees were common devices employed to highlight the foreground and to frame the central object of interest (Ogden & Ogden, 1955). Distant prospects might be included and hills enlarged. Figures were often added for variety, to fill space and to direct the eye towards the subject.

Towards the end of the century, the distinction between actual and imagined landscapes was blurred which the Ogdens considered to be of great significance for development of the appreciation of natural scenery. The aesthetic values imbued by painters in their ideal landscapes were transferred to their paintings of actual scenes, from whence:

“it was an easy step to transfer the same values to natural scenery itself, to find the same kinds of enjoyment in actual views as in ideal prospects, and to associate with external nature the moods imparted by landscapists in their canvases.”

Ideal or imagined landscapes were based mainly on European landscapes:

“The cardinal fact about seventeenth-century taste is that all the more obvious features of European scenery were admired…. The Europe depicted was mainly pastoral and unenclosed, and the terrain more suitable for grazing and hunting than for plowing and cultivating. As for the alleged dislike of barren and mountainous scenery, the paintings do not substantiate it. The liking for great rock masses in the foreground and frequent use of mountains and hills at the horizon, not to mention the Alpine landscapes, make it clear that painters and picture collectors admired mountainous scenery as much as any other kind” (Ogden & Ogden, 1955).

Given the antipathy in literature towards mountain landscape in the seventeenth century, the positive image of mountains and their frequency in paintings is surprising. The reason for this is not clear, but it is noteworthy that the literary view changed once writers began to gain first-hand experience of mountainous landscapes instead of merely writing and reading about their imaginary horrors. Whether painters were documenting an actual landscape or creating an imaginary one, they may have derived their inspiration from personal knowledge of mountainous landscapes. The mountainous landscape paintings doubtless prepared the English mind for a change in its attitude to mountains which occurred early in the following century.


During the seventeenth century, ten landscape subjects developed in painting: harbors, ruins, farms/ villages, forests, rivers, animals, mountains, waterfalls, and moonlight. Any single painting could include many of these subjects. The following summarizes features of the principal landscape types, based on the Ogden’s analysis.

Influenced by both Flemish and Italianate schools, the paintings often included as much land as water and featured mountains, cliffs, buildings and ruins as well as ships and the sea. Later paintings included promenading figures.

According to the Ogdens, the liking for an extensive and variegated view was the dominant characteristic of English taste in landscape during the first half of seventeenth century.

During the seventeenth century, Flemish artists were among the first to paint the landscapes they experienced first-hand and painted “prospects”, scenes from a high viewpoint which seemed to exude a comfortable sense of plenitude (Shepard, 1967). Dutch painters visited England and made a comfortable living painting country manors setting them amidst idealized parks and gardens which led to the English enthusiasm for the picturesque. The establishment of landscaped gardens reflected the paintings’ idealized landscapes.

In the seventeenth century, landscape painting, together with travel painting emerged. Classical themes from Greece and Rome dominated, preconditioning British eyes to wonderful and impossible notions of classical and Alpine landscapes by Gothic artists (Shepard, 1967).

The enthusiasm with which society sought to rediscover the glory of the classical worlds of Greece and Rome underlay the importance of ruins in landscapes; in America which lacked ancient structures, even a burnt-out house would attract people to ponder the remaining ruins (Shepard, 1967). America, however, had dead trees in abundance and painters sometimes used these as a substitute for a ruin (Johnson, 1979). In England on the other hand, gardeners placed a dead tree in Kensington Gardens to provide the desired effect!

The principles of variety and contrast were important in seventeenth century landscape painting. Variety was achieved through what would now be regarded as the ‘busyness’ of paintings, containing varied topographies, trees, fields, rivers, castles, ruins, livestock and figures. Contrast was achieved through the juxtaposition of the fertile and barren, the smooth and the rough, the near and the far together with contrasts of tone and color (Ogden & Ogden, 1955).

An important mood, at least in the first half of the seventeenth century, was that of an ascetic mysticism evoked by paintings of saints in wild mountainous settings. The theme was popular in the Renaissance and was extremely influential in shaping the growth of seventeenth century landscape.

“The kind of landscape regarded as conducive to religious ecstasy was mountain scenery with rocky crags and ravines, twisted trees and broken limbs. The wilder the scene, the more fitting it was thought for religious contemplation and exaltation, because the farther removed from worldly associations. … Historically, such pictures may be regarded as an important factor in creating the vogue of mountain scenery” (Ogden & Ogden, 1955).

Later in the century, these landscapes gave way to a mood of horror and drama associated with mountains, a mood the Ogdens suggest stemmed from the theologian, Thomas Burnet’s ideas about mountains and the qualities of delightful Horrour, a terrible Joy expressed by Dennis. The paintings of Salvator Rosa, a Swiss-born Italian painter who best illustrated this mood, were characterized by their wildness:

“they show sky beyond dark, windy subpromontories among the large rocky debris at the base of the upper slopes, cliffs bounding streams near their junction with the valley floor, sparse trees thrusting through rock outcrops with the flush valley soils adjacent” (Shepard, 1967)

Figures were posed at a critical moment or in a stance expressive of dramatic emotion (Ogden & Ogden, 1955). Storms among the mountains were a popular theme.

The dramatic moods of Salvator’s paintings could not be in greater contrast to the dominant mood of landscape painting during the first half of the seventeenth century, which the Ogdens termed “well being”, “prospering activity”, or “Christian optimism.” Man and nature are accomplishing their appointed tasks (Ogden & Ogden, 1955).

Claude1Typical Claude Lorraine paintings of a port scene and countryside

This mood of “diffused euphoria” continued throughout the seventeenth century and was particularly influential in the works of Northern artists. The peaceful scenes evoked a feeling of a quietly functioning cosmos ordained by God to fulfil purposes essentially benevolent, that is, the feeling of well-being (Ogden & Ogden, 1955) The physico-theologists could scarcely have said it better; such landscape paintings were a visible manifestation of their philosophy of natural theology.

Another mood, epitomized by the works of Claude Lorraine (1600 – 1682) was the classical landscape – complete with ruins and figures from classical literature. Northern painters who visited Italy “Arcadianized” the landscape. They felt the rhythms of elegiac verse in Italian scenery, and they saw in it the imagery of pastoral eclogues (Ogden & Ogden, 1955) This Italianate landscape, the ‘Italian legend’ became the most important of the latter half of the seventeenth century, although interestingly, such landscapes were largely painted by non-Italian artists – even Claude was French-born.

Claude Lorraine was born Claude Gelle in Champagne, Lorraine in France. A painting of him in 1777 is labeled “Claude le Lorrain”. The spelling of Claude Lorraine’s name varies: Claud, Claude and Lorrain, Lorraine, Lorain. He was often referred simply as Claude. The Anglicised version, Claude Lorraine is used here.

The Ogdens identified four main components of the Italianate landscape:

  • Italian climate and scenery;
  • Ruins and buildings;
  • Contemporary inhabitants; “the imagery of pastoral eclogues” (Ogden & Ogden, 1955) This Italianate landscape, the ‘Italian legend’ became the most important of the latter half of the seventeenth century, although interestingly, such landscapes were largely painted by non-Italian artists – even Claude was French-born.
  • Classical literature.

The many hundreds of paintings of this period combined strong images of light, of ruins, of classical figures disporting themselves amidst attractive landscapes, creating a mood of pathos that was evoked by the combination of images of life and of death. But such paintings were also happy. Claude’s paintings, for example, depicted a world in which Virgilian figures:

“of epic or pastoral quality move nobly amid the beauty of an Italian dawn or evening, the softness of the Italian climate, and the majesty of Italian architecture. The mood is sedately happy, dignified but easy, restrained but highly romantic” (Ogden & Ogden, 1955).

The Italianate landscape was based largely on the Campagna region that lies north and east of Rome, an area of volcanic hills and lakes.  This new Arcadia with a soft golden light suffusing the scene created a dreamlike quality. The inclusion of ruins in the scenes provided the classical cues so important to the spirit of the age.

Claude perfected the Italianate style of scenes of trees, ruins, mountains and rivers.

“He inspired the very elements with mind and feeling; his valleys, woods, and seas were just a veil through which divinity was visible. All that was ugly, painful, and confused was purified and transfigured in his hands. There is no sadness or denection (sic) in his pictures, but a spirit of serene beauty, free from ostentation, far-fetched contrast, or artificial glitter. Light breezes blow in his splendid trees, golden light quivers through them, drawing the eye to a bright misty horizon…”  (Biese, 1905).

The standard format of a Claude painting and that of his many imitators was:

“from a slightly elevated viewpoint, with mountains in the distance beyond a still body of water, a temple or ruin in the middle ground with shepherds or pagan ceremonies in a park-like clearing, and the near ground with a few identifiable plants and large trees or buildings framing the scene. Such compositions in three planes (i.e. foreground, middle distance, far distance) and muted color has in the course of three centuries so deeply etched itself on the collective memory that it unmistakably influences general ideals of beauty and scenery.” (Shepard, 1967).

Claude, like all artists of his time, did not simply “dash off” a major oil painting. His paintings were based on drawings of actual scenes, generally undertaken in the open and sometimes almost impressionistic in their appearance. This would be followed by trial studies for the painting in which the composition, balance, tone and other aspects were established. Finally, the painting would be executed. The result was what used to be called Keeping – Everything is in Keeping, there is never a false note (Clark, 1976). This approach was classicism at its best and was not broken until the Impressionists of the late nineteenth century sought to capture the immediacy of a scene.

These three moods: well-being and activity, mountain horror and drama, and the Italianate, dominated landscapes in England in the latter seventeenth century and through the eighteenth century.

The seventeenth century landscapes were largely inspired by influences from the Continent; the eighteenth century would see an indigenous English taste develop and mature.


Elizabeth Manwaring demonstrated in Italian Landscape in Eighteenth Century England (1925) the profound influence that the paintings of Claude Lorraine, Salvatore Rosa and other Italianate artists of the seventeenth century had on English taste in the eighteenth century. Many imitators of these artists, and countless engravings and prints of their works, adorned the homes the English middle class. Though few of these artists lived to see the eighteenth century, they nevertheless had an amazing far-reaching influence on art, poetry, literature and garden design in England in the eighteenth century and beyond. Their influence on gardens is examined here. In this section, their influence on English taste in art is examined.

Although the Dutch and Flemish artists were more accurate in their portrayal of scenes, the Italianate artists were favored for ‘improving’ on nature:

“On their canvases the English visitor saw a powerful representation of scenes already in his memory … the Virgilian tranquillity, the evocation of a Golden Age, had been felt with infinitely more dreamy sweetness by Claude Lorrain (while) the awe, which he called horror, that had stricken the traveler as he crossed the dizzy crags of his journey, the sense of the might and vastness of nature and the littleness of man, the thrill of the wild and untameable, Salvatore Rosa had felt more passionately” (Manwaring, 1925).

In eighteenth century England, art assumed an importance and role not hitherto present. Paintings were to be found, not only in galleries and churches, but also in the homes of all the well-to-do, original paintings in the homes of the rich, prints, engravings and imitations in the homes of the more ordinary folk. Copies were important: Diffusion of the Italian ideal of landscape came chiefly through the engravers (Manwaring, 1925). Books on painting techniques abounded, the number of amateur artists multiplied, and many painting schools were established. By 1730, collecting art had become fashionable and sales and auctions were well patronized. Italy was scoured for paintings of the Italianate artists and brought to England.

The Grand Tour to Italy provided an occasion to view and to purchase originals of the great Italianate artists. English travelers to Italy became so numerous during the first half of the eighteenth century that by 1740, Lady Hertford complained that summer in Italy was dreadful because of the hordes of English visitors! (Manwaring, 1925). The letter of a visitor in the 1790s described the Italianate paintings with exclamation marks suggesting Baedeker’s star rating of sites:

“A battle, by Salvatore Rosa!!!”; “A beautiful landscape by Claude Lorain!!!!”; “Two capital landscapes by Salvatore Rosa!!!”; “…a Claude!!!… a Claude!!!…a Claude!!!!”

The increasing travel, according to Manwaring, developed the English taste for scenery, paintings and picture galleries.

It is difficult to comprehend now the esteem with which Claude Lorraine was held in England in the eighteenth century. The top art connoisseurs of the period extolled him; comparisons with Raphael were not uncommon; a temperate hand, and color dipt in Heav’n wrote one enthusiast; Constable described him as the most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw; vast outpourings of verse referred to Claude landscapes and if imitation is the best form of compliment, Claude’s paintings were probably among the most copied of any artist.


Illustrative of his popularity was the invention of the Claude-glass or black mirror, a plano-convex, low-toned pocket mirror about 10cm across, encased in leather and used to view the scene. The darkening of the mirror created the muted tones favored by Claude and was used in sunny conditions while a second glass of silver was used for cloudy weather. Foliage and rocks were particularly Claude-like when viewed through the mirror. The convexity of the mirror miniaturized the landscape, reducing the extensive Lake Windermere, for example, to manageable proportions. Use of the Claude-glass was absolutely indispensable for viewers of landscape. Its use indicated a subtle change of attitude to viewing the landscape. For the first time in England the rugged scenery is appreciated for its own sake (Clark, 1968).

Thomas Gray’s use of the Claude-glass was typical:

“On the ascent of the hill above Appleby, the thick hanging wood and the long reaches of the Eden … winding below with views of the Castle & Town gave much employment to the mirror” (Manwaring, 1925).

Claude Lorraine’s strengths lay in depicting light, especially the rising or setting sun, water in rivers and the sea, and ruins and buildings. His weakness lay in his depiction of human figures. Richard Wilson, an eighteenth century painter of the Claude tradition, described his depth of view: you may walk in Claude’s pictures and count the miles (Barrell, 1972). His paintings allowed the eye to wander around and make discoveries. The horizon is the climax of Claude’s paintings, from which the eye is led back and forth to the foreground and across the painting. His standard became the model for English painters.

Claude’s friend, Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665) came to painting late in life and painted austerely classical works (Greenhalgh, 1978). Poussin conceived of his scenes as comprising a harmony of horizontal and vertical elements disposed of in the golden section (i.e. a line is divided into two unequal parts so that the proportion of the smaller part to the larger part is the same as the larger part is to the whole). He overcame the lack of verticals in landscapes by introducing buildings, which convey a sense of geometry and order (Clark, 1976). His later landscapes combined symbols of both pagan and Christian beliefs.


Paintings by Nicolas Poussin

The regard with which Salvatore Rosa (1615 – 1673) was held by the eighteenth century English was only slightly less than that of Claude. While Sir Joshua Reynolds described Claude’s paintings as comprising the tranquillity of Arcadian scenes and fairy-land – a sweet dream, Rosa’s were like a nightmare incarnate, asort of wild and Savage Nature. Thomas Gray described them:

“Excelled in savage uncouth places, very great and noble style; stories that have something of horror and cruelty” (Manwaring, 1925).

Like Claude, Salvatore was immortalized in verse and literature and his paintings copied and imitated. Traveling to the Continent, English travelers saw Claude and Salvatore in the landscapes of Italy. Although very different in their styles, Claude’s and Salvatore’s names were frequently linked, Claude was characteristic of the beautiful, Rosa of the sublime. The poet James Thomson summarized it in a typical fashion thus:

“Whate’er Lorrain light-touched with softening hue,
Or savage Rosa dashed, or learnèd Poussin drew.” (Monk, 1935).


Paintings by Salvatore Rosa

A quote from Thomas West’s Guide to the Lakes (1776) provided a similar description in the section on mountains:

“from the delicate touches of Claude, verified on Coniston Lake, to the noble scenes of Poussin, exhibited on Windermere-water, and from there to the stupendous romantic ideas of Salvatore Rosa, realized in the Lake of Derwent” (Hussey, 1927).

The wildness of Rosa’s paintings, filled with storms, rocks, mountains and dark forebodings appealed strongly to the eighteenth century romantics (Monk, 1935). When Horace Walpole visited Grand Chartreuse with his friend Thomas Gray in 1739, he exclaimed in a letter: Precipices, mountains, torrents, wolves, rumblings, Salvatore Rosa!

The various influences on the creation of the English landscape ideal was described by Crook:

“The English landscape tradition of the mid eighteenth century was not, of course, Grecian in origin but Italian: in its early stages, the Roman and Renaissance garden Anglicized; in its full-blown phase, the landscape of the Campagna filtered through the golden haze of Claude and the Poussins and transmuted empirically into le jardin anglais” (Crook, in Clarke, 1989).

The mid-eighteenth century period saw the demise of neo-classical art, which had sought to establish perfect balance and harmony along classical lines. The so-called Augustan Age, based on classical theories and tastes, weakened from the 1750s on, giving way to new enthusiasm fired by ideas of sublimity, imagination, original genius and Romanticism (Monk, 1935). As this occurred, the classical origins of the Arcadian landscape weakened and romanticism assumed a stronger influence.

During the latter eighteenth century, annual art exhibitions contained many paintings of sublime scenes with classical origins and romantic topographical paintings reflecting a growing taste for the natural beauty of Wales, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands.

Overlaying the concepts of the beautiful and the sublime came a new term, the “picturesque.” The term originated early in the eighteenth century, rises into frequency by 1760, is general after 1780, and ridiculously hackneyed after 1800 (Manwaring, 1925). Christopher Hussey (1927) considered that each art – poetry, painting, gardening, architecture and even travel – progressively passed through the picturesque phase between 1730 and 1830 and in each case was a prelude to Romanticism. He considered the picturesque to be an interregnum between classic and romantic art that enabled the imagination to form the habit of feeling through the eyes. Classical art involved thinking, the romantic and imaginative art of the nineteenth century involved feeling, whilst picturesque art made one see – It records without contemplating.

The Reverend William Gilpin defined the picturesque as that kind of beauty which would look well in a picture (Hussey, 1927). The meaning gradually shifted towards a landscape that ought to be pictured, a scene that was a potential subject, a source, for creation of an art work (Kroeber, 1975). At least initially, the picturesque was equated with Salvatore Rosa’s paintings, the irregular and the wild, the sublime – the combination of beauty and horror. But it was also associated with a thatched cottage, a rustic mill, a shaggy ass, indicative of the close link between the picturesque and the romantic (Manwaring, 1925). Picturesque was also used to describe a scene that was not delicate and smooth but had interesting sharp angles, variety and, often, ruins as an allusion to human ‘fall’ and the capacity of nature to regain ownership of the landscape (Selman & Swanwick, 2010).

The picturesque painting described the world as it might have been had the Creator been an Italian artist of the seventeenth century (Monk, 1935). This illustrates the paradoxes of the picturesque: firstly, it delighted in nature but then wanted to “improve” it, and, secondly, it delighted in English landscapes but represented them as imitations of Claude or Rosa (Andrews, 1989).

Thomas Gray was one of the early users of the term “picturesque,” describing scenes of Roman palaces, churches, squares and fountains as picturesque and noble as also were the cliffs of Dover.

Use of the Claude-glass converted a landscape into a picture. The extent to which the Claude-glass contributed to the emergence of the picturesque does not appear to have been addressed by writers but its influence would seem probable.

During the eighteenth century, the “blue-stocking ladies” who sought out picturesque scenes to paint and their attitudes contrasted with that of Celia Fiennes, only 50 years earlier. A picturesque picnic in 1754 at Tunbridge Wells in Kent attended by Elizabeth Montagu, William Pitt and the Wests was described thus:

“We drank tea yesterday in the most beautiful rural scene that can be imagined … (Mr. Pitt) ordered a tent to be pitched, tea to be prepared, and his French horn to breathe music like the unseen genius of the wood…. After tea we rambled about for an hour, seeing several views, some wild as Salvatore Rosa, others placid, and with the setting sun, worthy of Claude Lorraine.” (Hussey, 1927).


During the 1760s and 1770s, Gilpin visited many parts of Britain while on vacation, and a decade later he published his observations in a series of books on the picturesque beauty he observed. Gilpin’s eight books covered the following areas: River Wye & South Wales, Lakes District, Scottish Highlands, New Forest, Isle of Wight & Western parts of England, coasts of Hampshire, Sussex & Kent, the counties of Cambridge, Norfolk, Suffolk & Essex, and North Wales. They were published between 1782 and 1809. Accompanied by his aquatints, the books were greeted warmly and had a wide influence, satisfying a taste that was already extant. His influence even extended to Europe (Hipple 1957).

Gilpin laid down rules for the guidance of the landscape artist defining what he considered to be “correctly picturesque” (Manwaring, 1925). The perfect river painting had four parts: the river, two side screens composed of the opposite banks which provided perspective, and the front screen which emphasized the river’s windings. Gilpin simplified Claude’s multi-depth paintings, establishing that landscape paintings should comprise three parts – the background of mountains and lakes, the “off-skip” (middle distance) of valleys, woods and rivers, and the foreground containing rocks, cascades, ruins (Hussey, 1927).

Groupings of cows were important – two being insufficient for a group: Gilpin reproved his wife for suggesting only two cows for their domestic needs saying, Lord, my dear, two cows you know can never group (Hussey, 1927). With three, you are sure of a good group, except indeed they all stand in the same attitude at equal distances (Manwaring, 1925). He also recommended landowners place five cows in their meadows rather than four as four will not compose as a group (Rees, 1978). Following Gilpin’s formula, books appeared illustrating a range of figures for use in paintings. For example, W.H. Pyne’s Picturesque Groups for the Embellishment of Landscape which contained over 1000 subjects of figures such as bandits, ferry boats, gypsies, toll-gates, etc. much like a computer clip art package of illustrations (see Hussey, 1927).

Gilpin recognized the subjective basis for aesthetics when he wrote to a friend:

“I have had a dispute lately with Mr. Lock of Norbury Park on an absurd vulgar opinion, which he holds – that we see with our eyes: whereas I assert, that our eyes are only mere glass windows, and we see with our imagination.” (W. Gilpin, 1769. Letter to William Mason, emphasis added)

This is an excellent description of the distinction between the objective and subjective approach to aesthetics. Gilpin was reflecting the views of the philosopher, Hutcheson (1726): All beauty is relative to the sense of the mind perceiving it and also of David Hume from 1757: Beauty is no quality in things themselves; it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them… Each mind perceives a different beauty.

Following Gilpin’s example, picturesque tours became popular, informed by books on each area. Hannah More traveling down the Wye River in 1789 used Gilpin’s book as her instructor:

“sailing down the beautiful river Wye, looking at abbeys, and castles, with Mr. Gilpin in my hand to teach me to criticize, and talk of foregrounds, and distances, and perspectives, and prominences…” (Manwaring, 1925).

Tours were taken with the express purpose of discovering picturesque scenes, similar to the earlier journeys seeking experiences of the sublime. Contemplation of landscapes was regarded as a legitimate activity for those with taste and involved, as More’s description suggests, a proper procedure involving composition of the scene, analysis of its associations and meanings, rearranging objects in one’s imagination and adjusting one’s position until the scene came right (Barrell, 1972).

By the 1780s, an English school of landscape painters had become established, paralleling the picturesque poets of the time. Hussey (1927) included an appendix describing nearly 70 such painters. Heffernan (1984) considered that the arts of poetry, painting and landscape gardening together defined landscape in the eighteenth century leading to the development of the picturesque.

In 1794, the art connoisseur and critic, Uvedale Price, published his 3 volume Essays on the Picturesque (Full title of Uvedale Price’s book: Essays on the Picturesque, As Compared with the Sublime and the Beautiful; and on the Use of Studying Pictures, for the Purpose of Improving Real Landscapes. London, 1794) which sought to define the characteristics of the picturesque. He defined its origin thus:

“irregular details, rough surfaces, and coarse textures in nature that please the eye with their shadowy chiaroscuro. (Chiaroscuro is the style of pictorial art in which only the light and shade are represented; black (or sepia) and white. Shorter Oxford). The picturesque was characterized by roughness, irregularity, abruptness, variation and the broken interplay of light and shade.” 

Malcolm Andrews’ 1989 book, The Search for the Picturesque – Landscape Aesthetics and Tourism in Britain, 1760-1800, describes the tours in those years in the Wye Valley, north Wales, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands.

Price’s picturesque was thus not simply one of the bland insipid pastoral landscapes, or even the strictly classical view. His was a scene of interest, containing features such as bark, rocks, knobbly trees, ruins, old oaks, and rustic bridges. The picturesque thus diversified and made the pastoral scenes of trees and meadows more interesting. Beauty was regarded as smoothness, equality and uniformity in contrast to the roughness, irregularity and variety of the picturesque.

Price sought to be more definitive than Gilpin in his definition of the picturesque, regarding it as a distinct quality lying between the sublime and the beautiful (in Burke’s terms), between roughness and smoothness. Awe and horror, which were the hallmarks of the sublime, had no place in the picturesque. While he held that Gothic architecture was picturesque (Gothic ruins were often built in gardens as a picturesque feature), Grecian architecture was beautiful and its ruins were picturesque. Buildings, trees and even people changed gradually from things of beauty into picturesqueness with the passage of time. Curiously, nature can combine the beautiful and the picturesque – the rose is an example, a beautiful bloom surrounded by thorny twigs and jagged leaves (Hipple, 1957).

Despite the extensive debate that occurred throughout the eighteenth century over the concepts of beautiful, sublime and the picturesque, successive writers generally failed to develop the concepts of previous writers: “Intellectual history … is a record of haphazard mutation and opportunistic development.” There was “no consistent evolution” of ideas. The concept of the picturesque has, however, endured, and continues to be closely associated with the English landscape; it was among the categories of English landscape taste defined by Lowenthal & Prince (1965). They defined it as a preference for the irregular, the complex, the intricate and the ornate. The picturesque is also the basis of a “heavily anglicized” landscape taste in the United States (Hugill, 1986).



Art historian Richard Payne Knight (1750 – 1829) published An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste. In an interesting mix of the objective and subjective positions, Knight contended that the origin of the picturesque:

“was objective insofar as it had to do with the pleasure we derive from color and light, and subjective insofar as it depended on an association made between actual objects and those represented in pictures.”

Knight identified the subjective foundations of the picturesque of nature are:

“those which nature has formed in the style and manner appropriate to painting; and the eye, that has been accustomed to see these happily displayed and embellished by art, will relish them more in nature … The spectator … applies them, by the spontaneous association of ideas, to the natural objects presented to his eye, which thus acquire ideal and imaginary beauties; that is, beauties, which are not felt by the organic sense of vision; but by the intellect and imagination through that sense (emphasis added).

Interestingly, Knight defined the picturesque as merely that kind of beauty which belongs exclusively to the sense of vision; or to the imagination guided by that sense, an obviously subjective position regarding the landscape which he derived from Hume.

Price wrote with the prescience and insight of psychology about the significance of association in the mind, a theme that would be more fully explored during the later nineteenth century. Price also wrote of the importance of color in art, advocating the view that color produced emotions of its own, independent of the content of the scene. During the nineteenth century, J.M.W. Turner and the French Impressionists built on Knight’s revolutionary suggestion, painting landscapes which were abstractions of reality and in which color, along with line, mass, symmetry, balance, texture and other characteristics were the subject matter.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the picturesque had become rather hackneyed and was attacked by, among others, Wordsworth in The Prelude, Book XII wrote:

“…Even in pleasure pleased
Unworthily, disliking here, and there
Linking; by rules of mimic art transferred
To things above all art”

According to Samuel Monk, Wordsworth most effectively broke the spell that Italian landscape had woven over English taste … The result was a new ability to see and love the natural world for its own sake (Monk, 1935). Romanticism vindicated the imagination as an interpreter of experience. It was irrelevant whether a painting accurately depicted a landscape; what was important was the eye of the imagination – the inner eye. Seeing into “the heart of things” was the key difference between the picturesque and the romantic. The picturesque traveler sought scenes of Claudian beauty or Salvatorian sublimity, but Wordsworth taught one to not only see but to also interpret through one’s imagination and intuition.

Although originating in the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century saw Romanticism blossom into its full flowering. The term “Romanticism” was originally a derisive term, used to describe imaginary absurdities as from the days of chivalry. By about 1720, however, it gained standing being used to describe interesting, imaginative and even beautiful phenomena (Lister, 1973). Originating in England, Romanticism spread to France and Germany. Viewed in hindsight, Romantic characteristics are evident from virtually every period. Indeed, Clark asserts that artists of the first rank have frequently combined classicism and Romanticism (Clark, 1973). The period in which it was dominant, however, was from about 1750 to 1850. At least for the first half of this period, it paralleled the interest in the picturesque and especially the sublime, a quality with which it had much in common. This period also saw major social dislocation, including the French Revolution, war with America and the Napoleonic Wars.

Romanticism arose when art shifted its appeal from the reason to the imagination. … The Romantic movement was an awakening of sensation… (Hussey, 1927). As stated earlier, classical art involved thinking, the picturesque involved seeing, and now Romanticism involved feeling – the picturesque providing a path between the Cartesian appeal to reason and the Romantic appeal to imagination (Monk, 1935). To take it further, the Romantic uses a scene to delve into his own psyche and to analyze its effect upon his emotions (Lister, 1973).

The definition of Romanticism is difficult, indeed the one thing agreed on by authorities is its elusiveness in definitional terms. Failing to define it they tend therefore to describe what objects and activities are Romantic. It is Romantic to: build an aqueduct over a Welsh valley, revel in the sublimity of the surrounding mountains, paint in exact detail watercolors of plants growing there, travel to remote and exotic countries, to write and illustrate books about them, study the past, and paint historical subjects (Lister, 1973). A common feature is the link between the individual and the particular. In contrast with classicism, which focused on generalities, Romanticism focused on particulars.

The characteristics of the Romantic included (Lister, 1973):

  • A strong interest in the historical, a fascination of the past;
  • An anti-religious stance, particularly anti-Christian;
  • The symbol of love;
  • Interest in human madness and a preoccupation with melancholy, gloom and death;
  • Imagination, a quality regarded so important that it was regarded as the reality;
  • Delight in the inventions and machines of the industrial age;
  • Keen and detailed interest in Nature producing countless books of paintings of birds, plants and other natural phenomena, together with vast collections of natural objects such as shells and rocks.


Romantic art, whether painting, poetry or music, did not follow rigid forms; indeed, it is not so much on the outward form as on the steady flow of emotions and ideas that grow out of each other (Monk, 1935).

The key Romantic landscape painters were: Richard Wilson (1714-82), Alexander Cozens (1717-86) and John Cozens (1752-97) (father and son), Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88) who loved to paint landscapes more than his superb portraits, William Blake (1757-1827), a consummate artist and poet of the first rank, Thomas Girten (1775-1802), J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), John Constable (1776-1837), John Cotman (1782-1842), Samuel Palmer (1805 – 81), and the French artists Courbet, Géricault and Delacroix. Rosa’s savage and wild scenes were considered Romantic rather than picturesque. Lister’s book contains a checklist of 32 pages of British Romantic artists.

The English landscape gave plenty of scope for the Romantic artist:

“the landscape itself, was, and still is, more varied both in form and in atmosphere, than that of any other comparable area. It is an island landscape, swept from all directions by breezes and winds, drenched in mists and fogs, illuminated by hazy sunlight or gentle moonlight. Here, indeed, was material to inspire the cosmic vision of Turner, the dancing lights and clouds of Constable, Cotman’s solitude, the meticulousness of John Middleton, and Samuel Palmer’s paradises of moonlight” (Lister, 1973).

Based on the Romantic’s quest for the emotional content of scenes, Romantic painting was filled with emotion, sublimity and grandeur (Lister, 1973). Painters toured the British Isles and the continent in search of Romantic scenes, locations such as the Lake District, Wales, the Scottish Highlands and islands, as well as the Alps and the Pyrenees. However, while in picturesque paintings, the emphasis was on the scene, Romantic artists sought to instill something of themselves into the painting so that it reflected their own emotions and personality. Thus the artist became the subject: the Romantic Man saw himself reflected, like an image in a Claude glass (Lister, 1973).

Turner, an outstanding landscape artist, created scenes of color and light unseen before. He painted light so that: every detail, even to the tiniest nuance, is a reflection, a dance, as it were, in accompaniment to sunrays, moonbeams, prismatic raindrops, candlelight, or the glow of fireworks (Lister, 1973). Lister regarded him as the greatest English landscape painter: No other painter has been able so to convey the quality and power of light, of the terror of vastness, of the elemental force of the weather. Visiting Italy in 1819 Turner produced over 1500 drawings and watercolors in three months, but paradoxically the visit weaned him off his strong classical foundations; he had spent years copying Claude and Cozens. Returning home, he created impressionist scenes consisting of splashes of color that were called by Ruskin “nonsense pictures” (Clark, 1976).


Paintings by J.M.W. Turner

Turner painted scenes from the Lake District, Scotland, Switzerland and Italy, he specialized in maritime scenes, and throughout his paintings there is always the Romantic preoccupation with the vastness of mountain or precipice, the infinity of the sea, and, dominating everything else, the pervasiveness of light (Lister, 1973). Clark considered that in the vast range of his work Turner fulfils practically every aim that the earlier Romantics foreshadowed (Clark, 1976).

Over his lifetime, Turner shifted from the representative painter, detailing the scene before him, to an impressionist painter, capturing its essence in regard to color and light. For example, Turner first painted The Falls of Clyde in 1802; nearly 40 years later, he painted the same scene as in his 1802 painting. Although the contents and composition were identical, the latter appears as though viewed through a fog and the painting comprises marvelous transitions of color – all the way from blue to gold (Clark, 1973).


Constable belonged more to the rustic landscape tradition than Turner, his landscapes are closer to the earth. While his finished paintings lacked immediacy and appeared rather contrived, his rapidly painted watercolors, with sparing strokes, were delights of observation and sparkling light. Constable’s specialty was clouds, a dominant feature of his East Anglia plains, and he painted them as they had never been painted before (apart from some of the Dutch painters). In a letter Constable exclaimed, I can hardly write for looking at the silvery clouds (Pevsner, 1956). Clouds were a Romantic favorite for Constable who saw in them his own transient but aspiring spirit buffeted, shaped and sometimes left floating in peace, but always changing at the whim of exterior forces (Lister, 1973).

Like Wordsworth, Constable loved nature. He said, I never saw an ugly thing in my life. (Clark, 1976). His strong objective view was evident: You never enjoy the world aright, till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars. Large landscape paintings, known as “six-footers”, established Constable’s reputation as a landscape painter. The subject of these paintings was a four-mile stretch of the canalized Stour River, and included The White Horse, Stratford Mills, A View on the Stour, The Leaping Horse, A Boat Passing Lock and most famously, The Hay Wain. These were mostly painted in the 1820s.


Paintings by John Constable

Samuel Palmer was the last painter of Arcadian myth, the Golden Age and the Virgilian landscape, which in nineteenth century England was fast disappearing under the stamp of industrialization.

PalmerPaintings by Samuel Palmer

Clark described how Palmer ended the era:

“Virgil remained his source of inspiration, but his images grew fainter and his style more commonplace. And with him there ended that beautiful episode in European art, which from Giorgione’s day till the nineteenth century had been a source of enchantment and consolation. … by 1850 Malthus and Darwin had made them into moonshine” (Clark, 1976).

With the end of the image of Arcadia to inspire painters, there vanished the concept of the ideal landscape and with it the feeling that some God is in this place.

Eventually, Romanticism descended into sentimentalism, and painting became photographic realism. Pretty and bucolic scenes replaced the power and insights of Turner, Constable and a host of other Romantic artists. Industrialization was transforming the countryside and the English landscape. Yet the Romantic spirit lived on in the delight in natural beauty and in the quest to conserve nature and preserve the historical.

Monet Renoir

Paintings by Monet and Renoir

By the mid-nineteenth century, the schools of art ruled and required that nature be improved – it was considered vulgar to paint what one saw (Clark, 1976). There were artists such as Courbet in France, who rejected the official line and expressed themselves. Another was Daubigny, the grandfather of Impressionism, who had a great influence on painters such as Monet. His paintings were of plain common subjects requiring no effort and thus establishing the approach from then on to the present day.

Monet, Sisley and Pissarro, the early Impressionists, painted scenes of utter naturalism in the 1860s, but with a unity which is lacking where the artist makes no attempt to relate the parts to each other. From the combination of Renoir’s skill and sense of color, together with Monet’s perception of nature and tone, Impressionism was born. The sparkle and reflection of light on water was the subject that united them (Clark, 1976). Impressionism was the painting of happiness.

Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919) were joined by other artists including Manet, Pissaro and Sisley. During the 1870s, Impressionism blossomed to its full flowering but by the mid-1880s was on the decline. Monet continued exploring the sensation of light, virtually ignoring the subject and concentrating on the effect of light on it. Cathedrals and haystacks were favorite subjects, the former not a good choice because they lacked sparkle. He discovered the waterlilies in his garden pond and responding to nature afresh, he transposed it, without any loss of truth, into sweeps and scrawls and blots of paint that express his deepest emotions (Clark, 1976).

Two outstanding Impressionist painters were George Pierre Seurat (1859 – 1891) and Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906), vastly different in styles from each other but profoundly influential in their own unique ways.

Seurat integrated all the influences of his time as he sought to create timeless paintings of the scale of Renaissance frescoes. Working carefully from small field paintings, he built up the scene, establishing its tonality and composition, and with his pointillism technique created paintings of authority. His landscapes, whether of the seaside, a river scene or a park, convey a feeling of stillness, as though all the figures are frozen in time. The pale tonality gives a sense of lightness but not of joy, the quietness of a hospital ward. This is not to suggest that they were without color, Seurat had developed a pseudo-scientific theory of color and placed complementary flecks of color together – orange and purple, green and red, yellow and blue, juxtaposing them carefully to achieve the effect sought.Seurat

In contrast to the cool scientific approach of Seurat, Cézanne was a more ebullient and rich personality. Painting the landscapes of Provence, he gave them the eternal harmonies of a classical landscape (Clark, 1976), establishing their pictorial qualities in the way that Claude had established Campagna as the definitive landscape. Cézanne’s paintings of Provence over thirty years had a worldwide influence of landscape painters. His paintings of the mountains of L’Estaque or of farmhouses illustrate his desire to capture the solidity of objects by painting them in small facets, each with its unique color, creating a prismatic quality to his landscapes. Like Monet with his haystacks, Cézanne’s model was Mont Sainte Victoire of which he made innumerable studies in a process of development and self-realization.

Overall, Impressionism enlarged our range of vision (Clark, 1976) and it brought color into art in a way not previously apparent. It also concentrated on the effect of the object on our senses, the subjective approach. This may explain why Impressionism continues to hold a profound appeal and influence. Paintings of scenes painted in an objective way are seen once, and their full message is gained. Impressionist paintings, however, speak to the senses and to our emotions and we can continue to gain from repeated viewings of them.


Table 1 summarizes the major findings in the development of landscape art.

Table 1 Summary of Significant Findings: Development of Landscape Art Conclusions

Lord Clark considered that landscape painting was the chief artistic creation of the nineteenth century, a tribute to the contributions of Turner, Constable, Wilson and the many other artists of the Romantic period together with those of the Impressionist era. Its dominance was the culmination of the emergence of landscape painting from its tentative beginnings following the Renaissance with the contributions of the Dutch, French and Italian artists and finally the English landscapists. By the seventeenth century, landscape painting emerged for its own sake, and by the nineteenth century was the dominant art form.

Over these centuries, landscape changed from objective fact to subjective Impressionism. Nature was treated symbolically throughout this period. The artists painted as they interpreted what they saw, and their interpretation has influenced society to see landscape as the artist saw it. So the culture was affected by their contribution. As Clark said, Almost every Englishman, if asked what he meant by ‘beauty’, would begin to describe a landscape.

Emerging from its subservient role, as backgrounds to paintings of religious and other subjects, landscape painting developed as a subject in its own right through the Dutch, Flemish and other European schools of the seventeenth century. Claude Lorraine and Salvatore Rosa of the seventeenth century had an immense influence in shaping aesthetic sensibilities in England in the eighteenth century. The eighteenth century saw the sublime, the beautiful and the picturesque defined and distinguished as distinct aesthetic concepts. Romanticism, which appealed to the emotion more than the eye, developed and was followed in France in the later nineteenth century by Impressionism, which further sought to convey feeling rather than the objective fact.

The development of landscape painting has been marked by a progressive shift, or evolution, from the objectivism of the early painters and of Claude’s school to the greater emotional content and subjectivism of the Romantic and Impressionist schools.


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