The History of Landscape

A História da Paisagem

Storm , by Giorgione - 1508

The landscape theme was constantly related to the affirmation of the main artistic movements, especially from the Renaissance onwards. Over time, this genre, which portrays mountains, rivers, bridges or architectural spaces, underwent changes in terms of artistic means and languages. Currently, its relevance in the field of fine arts is remarkable; however, for several centuries, for the academy it was considered inferior in relation to other genres. In order to understand how artists represent this theme in contemporary times, we will approach the artistic idea of landscape, from the Renaissance, through baroque, romanticism and post-war.

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Landscape with Hagar and the Angel, by Claude Lorrain - 1649


The Emergence of the Pictorial Genre Landscape

The term landscape is ambiguous: it means, simultaneously, the observed territory and its artistic representation. In the plastic arts, until the Renaissance, the landscape was present in a secondary way, serving as an ornament to a mythological or religious narrative. These roles are reversed with the work Tempestade , by Giorgione (1470-1510), in which the landscape conquers the foreground. Although there are figures in this painting — a woman with her child and a soldier — the spectator is absorbed by the natural landscape: the bridge, the trees, the sky and the fortified city. During this historical period, the exploration of the idea of disinterested contemplation of nature and the discovery of the conical perspective grew, giving rise to the artistic theme of landscape as we understand it today. The idea of the ideal and harmonious landscape with the sky, river and land is defined by the French painter Claude Lorrain.

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View of Haarlem and the Haarlemmer Merr, by Jan van Goyen - 1646

Landscape growth: the Dutch case

The landscape has always been seen as inferior, in relation to religious, mythological or portrait paintings, however, in Holland, during the 17th century, there is an increase in commissions of this kind. Due to the recent formation of this country, there is a great need to portray the entire territory in an act of affirmation about its independence. In this republican and protestant state, artists, freed from religious representations, look for new themes in painting, such as landscape and still life, in order to satisfy the taste of the bourgeois. In these works, they explore the landscape in plastic terms, with the effects of light and shadow, simultaneously, representing the land, cities and towns of this country with great fidelity.

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Walker on the Sea of Mist , by Caspar David Friedrich - 1818

Landscape in Romanticism

With the political, social and artistic transformations of the 19th century, this artistic genre acquires growing importance. In a new society governed by the principles of equality, fraternity and freedom and with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the church and royalty lost their power. As in the Netherlands, traditional religious representations become secondary due to new themes and concerns in art.

In the romantic period, artists represent nature as dominant and absolute before the small human being. An example of this are the paintings by artist Caspar David Friedrich, which usually present a human figure, in order to convey to the spectator the sensation of the grandeur of nature in relation to the little Man.

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Spiral Jetty , by Robert Smithson - 1970

Landscape in Post-War Art

In the avant-gardes of the 20th century, the theme of landscape is recurrent; however, it is in postwar art that this motto gains new power. With the emergence of Land Art , with artists such as Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, the landscape is no longer a representation of nature to become a process of artistic intervention in an ephemeral way. Due to these new transformations, there was a growing question regarding the limits between art, landscape and architecture. Rosalind Krauss deals with this problem of understanding these terms in the article Sculpture in thee expanded field.

The landscape | P55 Magazine | P55 - The platform of Art

A field after harvest for the aesthetic delight of our body , by Alberto Carneiro

In Portugal, Alberto Carneiro, aware of international artistic productions,

works from a reflection on the landscape, in a sense of experimentation and research. This artist inspired a whole future generation in terms of artistic production. It is necessary to emphasize the ambiguity of his works and the way in which he manifested the presence of the landscape both in the exterior and the interior spaces (museum or art gallery). Through works such as A field after the harvest for the aesthetic delight of our body , The cane field: memory-metamorphosis of an absent body or A forest for your dreams , the artist transposed a natural or rural situation into a cultural universe.

The landscape | P55 Magazine | P55 - The platform of Art

Noronha da Costa

In postwar art, the pictorial idea of landscape - sky, land and river - is practically non-existent. Still, we continue to see many artists working on this motto in different ways. This is the case of Noronha da Costa , who developed her landscapes through the use of photography and her spray gun technique. This method, invented by the Portuguese artist himself, creates the perception of a vision, in the end, unattainable.

The landscape | P55 Magazine | P55 - The platform of Art

Volta do Duche - Feel , by Mota Urgeiro

Currently, artists such as António Neves , Mota Urgeiro and Júlio Capela have portrayed this pictorial genre, returning to the fundamental ideas of the ideal representation of the landscape, incorporating the influences of the artistic movements of the 20th century. From Coimbra to Lisbon, passing through the Alentejo, these painters portray the spaces around them in a peculiar way, warning of their own aesthetic concerns.

Investing in the architectural representation of urbanizations, Júlio Capela has been exploring its aesthetics from geometry, abstraction and expressionism in various methods, from watercolors and acrylic, as well as printing techniques such as lithography. With subtlety and serenity, António Neves and Mota Urgeiro trace Portuguese customs and peculiarities in vibrant and breathtaking colors.

Through the P55 you will be able to discover more artists who have developed works of art on the theme of landscape in different techniques and movements. This is the case of Mário Cesariny , Maria Fernanda Amado , Cruzeiro Seixas , María Ortega Estepa , Rafa Fernández , Tomás Serrano , among others.

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