In the press release for the Exhibition Before Photography: Painting and the Invention of Photography MOMA (1981) Peter Galassi refers to the paintings and drawings on view being landscapes primarily from European collections and by artists such as Constable and Coret and some talented but less well-known contemporaries – many of whom had never been seen before in the United States. Remembering that Galassi’s aim was to show that photography was “a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition”, I wondered if he would have chosen paintings to ‘prove’ his view, plus paintings which were well-known or viewed as similarly talented might also be likely to follow styles of painting deemed by critics to be ‘Art”. Although, of course, I could well be doing him an injustice there.
With those thoughts in mind, I decided to throw caution to the winds and just do an internet search on 18th and 19thCentury Landscape paintings which lead me to Wikimedia, apart from one painting which I discovered by another route when I was looking for information on Woking in a separate search. I allowed my eyes and responses to be ‘in charge’ of choices which means that I have followed my own tastes in choosing paintings as opposed to being lead by ones which are well-known and I’ve had some surprises as a result!
All images are Copyright free except the one by Arthur Bellin, the painter from Woking, but the Manager of Huddersfield Museums has given permission for me to use the image.
My observations are in note form and in chronological order according to the date of the painting as I wanted to see what changes might have occurred through the century.
Eighteenth Century Landscape Artists
These are all male and European. I looked for female landscape artists but could only find portrait painters at this juncture.
- “Illustration of the Fable about the lapdog and the donkey” Unknown. Around 1700
2. Franz Anton von Steinberg(1684-1765) “Fishing on Lake Cerknica” 1714
3. Antoine Watteau(1684-1721) “La Perspective (View through the Trees in the Park of Pierre Crozat) c 1715
4. George Lambert (1700-1765) “Box Hill, Surrey, with Dorking in the distance” 1733. Also a scene painter.
5. Canaletto(1697-1768) “The Thames from the Terrace of Somerset House, looking towards St. Paul’s” c.1750
6. Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) “Returning from Market” c. 1771-72. Preferred landscapes, painted portraits for economic reasons. Influenced by French rococo style learned from Gravelot. Learned the language of landscape. Probably never painted directly from nature. Later was influenced by Peter Paul Rubens.
7. Johan George Müller Detail of a prospect by Johan George Muller of farmers from Fana entering the city gate Stadsporten, Bergen, Norway (1796)
The colours are muted, with a sense of being painted from a distance. I noticed the layering of landscape in (2) and (4) through use of different tones. Any people depicted are in the foreground and quite small in the frame (to scale?) apart from No. 7 which is a detail from a larger painting. The painters appear to be emphasising the grandeur of the landscape (or building) whilst drawing the eyes to the small figures through use of light colours and placement in the frame – usually in one of the bottom corners. There is an order and formality about them even in No. 7. One of the reasons I was attracted to No. 7 was due to its larger figures, architectural composition and leading lines of perspective. I’ve been unable to find any information online of any Johan George Müller living at that datethough apart from an entry on the University of Bergen website which refers to a prospectus.
Having failed to find women landscape painters of the 18thCentury I was pleased to discover them in the 19thand have included four of them.
8. John Constable (1776-1837) “Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds” c. 1825. Commissioned by John Fisher, the Bishop of Salisbury and as gesture of appreciation Constable included the Bishop and his wife in the canvas. Entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1799. Inspired by Thomas Gainsborough, Peter Paul Rubens, Annibale Carracci. Took up portraiture to make ends meet.
9. Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) “The Fighting Temeraire” Oil painting. 1839. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1839 but kept in his studio until his death.
10. Julie Hart Beers (1835-1913) “Hudson River at Croton Point” 1869. One of very few professional women landscape painters in C19th America and the only one to achieve renown. Born Julie Hart, daughter of Scottish immigrants. Two older brothers were both painters.
11. Arthur Bellin (1852-1925) “The Lobsterers Landing Place, Sark 1887. Kirklees Museums and Galleries. In adulthood Bellin was living in Woking in The House in Wood (1911 census).
12 Helen Allingham (nee Paterson) (1848-1926) English watercolourist and illustrator. Born in Swadlincote, died in Surrey. Illustrator first and then turned to watercolour after getting married in 1874. She became famous for her picturesque farmhouses and cottages of Surrey and Sussex as well as rural scenes in other parts of the country. Helen Allingham’s scene from Venice is unlike her more well-known watercolour paintings in terms of subject and composition.
13. Elisabeth von Eicken(1862-194) “Deutsch” 1890.
14. Lucy Bacon (1857-1932) “Garden Landscape, 1894-1896” (1895). Californian artist known for her California Impressionist paintings of florals, landscapes and still lifes. Studied under the Impressionist Camile Pissarro. The only one known to have studied under any of the great French Impressionists.
What struck me most was the use of more intense colour which adds a sense of drama even to the more intimate/domestic scenes by Elisabeth von Eicken and Lucy Bacon plus giving the sense of a lushness of vegetation. Skies appear to have a lighter hue compared with the paintings from the previous century. Turner’s painting creates a raging, hot effect, whilst the acqua of Bellin’s sea and misty background adds a haunting quality to the lobsterer’s rocky climb from his boat. Again there is use of a triangular composition to draw attention to the Cathedral (8), ship (9), lobsterer (11) and walking people (12). Overall there is more sense of a freedom of expression and the influence of the imrpessionists is noticeable in the paintings by Elisabeth von Bicken and Lucy Bacon.
Having made my own selection and thought about the differences, I then briefly researched the history of landscape painting to get an overall sense of the way in which it was impacted by cultural changes and events and to check whether my choices were in line with these.
Landscape painting as such did not begin until after the era of Renaissance art in the 16thCentury as scenery was merely background for human activity, and it ranked low in the hierarchy of painting genres which were set out in 1669 by Andre Felibien, the secretary to the French Academy. This hierarchy constituted history painting; Portraits; genre (scenes of everyday life); still life and landscapes
By the 18thCentury new topological traditions had appeared in England reflecting the practice of landscape gardening and the reordering of nature to suit aristocratic patrons, with order not drama being the dominant motif. Landscape painting became one of the most popular types of art after the French Rvolution (c.1789-93) and two major traditions emerged – English and French, both of which influenced landscape painters throughout Europe and North America.
In the early 19thCentury the Norwich School of landscape painters extended the Dutch Luminist tradition, producing scenes from around Norfolk and preferring outdoor painting to studio easel work. The Suffolk artist John Constable portrayed man and Nature existing in perfect harmony at a time when agriculture was in depression and there were countryside riots.
Joseph Mallard William Turner became the youngest ever full member of London’s Royal Academy in 1802 and his scenic views became much more dramatic and romantic. His landscape and seascape art became increasingly free, focussing primarily on atmospheric effect, and his paintings had become almost abstract in composition by the early 1840s. He anticipated Impressionism in his treatment of colour and light, with his dramatic artworks being in contrast to the pastoral, often religious-based landscapes of his contemporaries . The Newlyn School became established in Cornwall from 1884 onwards, specializing in landscape and rural/fishing genre scenes.
In the early 20thCentury artists used the medium of photography to create interpretations of the land through pictorialist effects and, later, through formal compositions of close-up, cropped views of the landscape.
Landscape photographs from any era that conformed to 18thand 19thCentury conventions.
A few examples:-
Ansel Adams : triangular composition and use of leading lines in perspective as in “Yosemite Valley: Thunderstorm
Edward Weston: His series of the Dunes of Oceano layering of landscape through use of different tones and his aim to “present objectively the texture, rhythm, form in nature without subterfuge or evasion in technique or spirit…”
Jem Southam and his series, “The Shape of time: Rockfalls, Rivermouths and Ponds (2010) and the use of triangular perspective
John Gossage ”The Pond” (1985) There is an impressionist feel to some of his photographs of the pond as here and he talks in this interview of wanting to reference Thoreau’s vision in “Walden Pond” of nature being a respite from the city
Helen Sear “Pond” (2011) . Again an impressionistic approach.
Jem Southam “The Painter’s Pool” (2002) again with an impressionist feel.