For thousands of years, the human race has been hooked by landscape art whatever the medium, although it only become a recognised genre of art in the late 15th century. There’s something special about landscape paintings; they somehow provide us with an emotional experience that is different to other subject matter. Why is this? And what is it about the landscape that has some kind of almost-otherworldly hold on us? Why is this subject matter so powerful that it continues to attract artists and viewers regardless of age, race, gender and nationality?
‘Landscape art’ is the depiction of natural landscape usually with a focus on mountains, trees, rivers, forests, valleys, coastline and other scenic areas. Often, it does not contain a humanistic element, which is why it is so interesting that it has such an effect on us as the viewer; having said that, there are many depictions that do show boats, ruined castles, bridges etc.
Henri Jaques Delpy – Evening on the River
Realistic depictions of the landscape are usually arranged in coherent compositions; however the landscape has also inspired abstract painters, most famously Henri Matisse, Cezanne and, of course, Turner whose work is admittedly not entirely abstract but more avant-garde and expressive.
J.M.W Turner – Rain, Steam and Speed – National Gallery London
Mood & Emotion
Landscape paintings often construe a certain mood or emotion – they are incredible tools for creating anatmosphere. For example, when viewing a painting with a sunset, you often feel that warming feeling and a sense of wonder: why? Well, the fact is we have all experienced that moment in reality, which is why we have such a strong emotional connection to landscape art – we can all understand it.
Terry Watts – Winter Afternoon Lyme Regis
The weather is a huge factor as well; for example, moody atmospheres with a rough sea will create a dark, dramatic and frantic atmosphere. As humans the weather affects our lives daily so it certainly has an intense effect on our mood or emotions. In our previous blog The Connotations of Weather in Art, we explore this in depth.
Powerful Subject Matter
The landscape is a powerful subject matter which can embody a wide spectrum of emotions, however it is also used a purely decorative genre where artists can display their skills. Landscape art can also be all about capturing a beautiful moment and documenting natural events that others may never get to see – especially when it comes to photography.
We can all access the external environment, which is one of the reasons why it is one of the most accessible and universal forms of art. Examples of landscape art can be found from Britain, to Paris to China and the fact that it is still exceptionally popular today; for both artists and viewers just shows that landscape as a subject matter will always be relevant.