Landscape paintings- as the name suggests, are paintings with a wide view giving a feel of distance. An outdoor scene that evokes a sense of depth can be qualified as a landscape painting. It includes natural subjects like rivers, mountains, foliage etc. or even manmade structures such as buildings and monuments. Dr. James Fox, an art historian, beautifully imagines different landscapes around the world and believes that ‘landscape painting’ is our relationship to the natural world.
Landscape painting has been governing the art industry since the 1800s as a response to societal structures and political hierarchy. Despite portraying an array of nature’s beauty, there’s an unspoken assumption about landscape paintings that they are ‘old-fashioned.’
The roots of landscape paintings can be traced back to the genre of Chinese art of fourth century CE, but in Western history, the significance of landscape painting was only recognized until after sixteen century when England, France and the rest of the Europe starting enhancing its beauty.
The problem with landscape painting is it ranked too low in the hierarchy of genres. Set by Andre Felibien, secretary to the French Academy in 1669, this hierarchy that bloomed during the Renaissance period goes as follows:
- History painting
- Portrait painting
- Genre painting
- Still life.
Thus, there was little to no importance given to landscape painting compared to the historical works, portraits and genre paintings made in that era.
However, the second half of the eighteenth century was an eventful era for landscapes because art connoisseurs understood the beauty of it and started adapting their imagination into paintings.
The recognition of a spiritual element in landscape art has been present form its beginnings especially in East Asian art, derived from Daoism and other philosophical traditions, but in the West it only became noticeable with Romanticism. The Romantic Movement intensified the existing interest in landscape art, and remote and wild landscapes, which had been one recurring element in earlier landscape art, now became more prominent.
Landscape art ranges from elements like mountains, skies and greenery whilst the colors range from light hues and brighter shades. Oil paintings have been the most dominant form of landscape paintings. Over time, artists became more known of landscape painting and started experimenting with colors, settings and scenic wonders. That’s when highly detailed and realistic to impressionistic paintings came into picture. Also, this led to the emergence of romantic and idealized themes.