Project Two – Research point: Landscape

Landscape means mainly the depiction of a natural scenery. The depiction of a landscape in art goes back to the hellenistic period around 300 B.C. But only later it became a more selfstanding type of art. Especially the landscape painting from the early flemish masters of the 15th century. One example if the work of Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) of the Ghent altarpiece (retabel) ‘Het lam Gods’. with quite realistic depiction of a landscape and visual depth. However, landscape played still more a role to support the religious meaning of the work. Only in the 16th century the landscape became a more standalone theme.

The watercolor works of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) are not only one of the earlier landscape works but also helped to raise the status of watercolor as a medium.

Duerer, Albrecht 'View of the Arco Valley' Circa 1495

Duerer, Albrecht ‘View of the Arco Valley’ Circa 1495

Italy became at that time a vast inspiring environment attracting many other artist from Europe to paint there in the context of the italian renaissance. One other example is Claude Lorrain (1604/5-1682) who was specialized in landscape theme only. He used widely his outdoor experience with plenty of sketches in pen and ink, wash and chalk as studies and reference for his larger works back in his studio. Lorrain is also know as one of the first artist who used the sun as the main light source in his paintings. The visual effect is such that the foreground looks rather like a slihouette. His landscape works are rather an idealized vision of the view.

  • ‘An extensive Mediterranean landscape with a tower and a herd of goats’
    [online image] Available from: [Accessed 24 April 2015]
LORRAIN, CLAUDE 'An extensive Mediterranean landscape with a tower and a herd of goats'

Lorrain, Claude ‘An extensive Mediterranean landscape with a tower and a herd of goats’

During the ‘Gouden Eeuw’ (Golden Age) in the Netherlands natural landscape painting became a dominant theme for many artists. One example is Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/1629 – 1682) with his monumental depiction of a wide landscape in his country with a vast visual depth, variations of light and shadow and a variety of cloud depictions. The horizon is rather low.

RUISDAEL, JACOB van (1670-75) 'View of Haarlem'

RUISDAEL, JACOB van (1670-75) ‘View of Haarlem’

Landscape continued to be an important theme. In the 19th century the Barbizon school (Theodore Rousseau, J.B.C. Corot) in France embraced the truly plein air painting (not only studies like Claude Lorrain). In the same century the Haag school (Jacob Maris, Anton Mauve) combined the plein air from them together with monumental deep visual depth paintings of the dutch coutry side. At that time of the industrialization landscape painting became also a more romantic touch as it showed more an untouched natural view without the modern technological developments.

Industrial or urban landscapes become more a theme for the artists in the 20th century. One example is L.S.Lowry (1887-1976). His drawings and paintings are depicting the urban landscape in his neighborhood of Pendlebury and Salford. Lowry’s intention was to depict the reality of the urban landscape in the context of the Industrial life of its population. The following two works are quite differen in the technique. ‘River scene’ a rather darker depiction of a seemingly dusty Industrial areas without any humans. ‘The Pond’  showing in contrast in simple drawn shapes het life of the people around the factories. The latter is rather in a kind of ‘naive’ style telling a whole story about the life. His works are clearly structured in foreground, middle ground and background.

L.S.Lowry 'River Scene'  (Industrial Landscape) , 1935

L.S.Lowry ‘River Scene’ (Industrial Landscape) , 1935

L.S.Lowry ' The Pond', 1950

L.S.Lowry ‘ The Pond’, 1950

George Shaw (b.1966) who exposed in his childhood to paintings of L.S.Lowry hanging on the wall, depicts in his works the everyday mysterious, the ruins for our time. In his colored eerie works Shaw is using Humbrol enamel in order to create a special visual glow effect. The works have a narrative meaning, although never people are shown, but rather the remains or icons of today’s life. I like to strong contrast and the way he depicts light and shadow.

SHAW, GEORGE 'The Beginning of 2000AD (II)', 2008

SHAW, GEORGE ‘The Beginning of 2000AD (II)’, 2008

SHAW, GEORGE_'Scenes from the Passion Ten Shilling Wood', 2002

SHAW, GEORGE ‘Scenes from the Passion Ten Shilling Wood’, 2002

Sarah Woodfine (b.1968) is an educated sculptor and she is putting the landscape as a theme into the sculptural sphere. Her fine drawn objects (‘Newfoundland’) are encapsulated into a protective dome forming together a landscape. It seems to be rather a stage where actors can perform a play, a fantasy.

Woodfine, Sarah 'Newfoundland', 2004

Woodfine, Sarah ‘Newfoundland’, 2004

Woodfine goes a different approach in her work ‘How to grow an apple’. Here it is a delicate drawing on a rolled paper presented in a pot. This triggers imaginations, and she is taking many concepts from her own childhood dreams and perceptions.

Woodfine, Sarah 'How to grow an apple', 2014

Woodfine, Sarah ‘How to grow an apple’, 2014


  • Landscape as a theme can be depicted rather traditional as a realistic or romantic view of the beauty of the nature  (like in the works of Claude Lorrain and Jacob van Ruisdael).
  • It also can express daily realities like in the works of L.S.Lowry and George Shaw.
  • A landscape can be used as a theme for a narrative or to express rather a mood and atmosphere.
  • With a combined approach of different fine art techniques e.g. drawing and sculpture new ways to present an idea can be achieved like in the work of Sarah Woodfine.
  • Overall I think that landscape is a vast topic to be explored. Mood, atmopshere, narratives, presentation – all can be put in place and mixed together. I feel that I would need to be quite selective in what I want to express with a landscape drawing.


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