Landscape painting- brief history

Here  I want to take a brief look at the history, or rather a lineage, of landscape painters chronologically, without going to much into detail or biography of the artists, to gain a better understanding of the development of the genre.

ALBRECH DURER (1471-1528)

Albrecht Durer was a painter and printmaker of the German Renaissance. He is found to be the first painter to paint Landscape as a subject.


I find it quite fascinating how contemporary these watercolor landscapes from the 15 th century look. I like that the houses in the foreground are left in pencil and the unfinished style of the top left painting.

 Albrecht Durer was one of the Northern European artists that had the most contact to the Italian Renaissance artists. He was corresponding with Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael and visited Italy twice as well. Influenced by this, he was the first Northern European artist to introduce nudes and perspective drawing into his work.


He got famous already in his twenties for his incredibly detailed and high quality woodcut prints and elevated this medium to become its own art form.


He also painted many simple motives from nature in watercolor , like this one- Young Hare,  still on of the most reproduced motives in the world:


Another of his most well known works today  is “Praying hands”, a pen and ink drawing, also still one of the most reproduced motives of art history:


These watercolours were revolutionary in the choice of simple subjects- a piece of turf and simple field flowers :


CLAUDE LORRAIN (1604/5- 1682)

Claudie Lorrain although originated from Lorraine, later part of France,  was mainly living and painting in Italy. He is a painter of the Baroque era, where landscape was a major subject, but very idealized and staged. He often included small figures in his paintings, also to elevate the subject to the more prestigious history or mythos painting, but they were never his main focus or strength as a painter. He was the first known artist to include the sun as the source of light in the painting itself. He often sketched at dawn or dusk, and many of his sketches are still available today as well.

These paintings are perfect for studying foreground/ middleground and background. They are layered and built up like a carefully framed stage with clear although dark foreground and then successively smaller,less sharp and detailed objects receding into a lighter background, giving a great sense of depth.


The German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich’s works do not have that surrounding carefully arranged frame. The landscapes seem to continue beyond the frames of the painting endlessly, we just see a small piece. Here too, if there is a human figure, it is very small and often alone. The nature is dominant and often with an overwhelming, powerful and sometimes fear inducing grandeur. The painter was a very religious man and here God manifests through nature, this is a look of awe to nature. The lonely monk or lonely tree is very small. Caspar David Friedrich often painted edges- the edge of a cliff, of a forest, the edge of light of the day.


Wwwbcedu. 2016. Wwwbcedu. [Online]. [2 December 2016]. Available from:

 William Turner ( 1775 –  1851)

William Turner was a British Romanticist painter , contemporary to Caspar David Friedrich. He painted in oil, but also many watercolor works. Here too nature is shown as grand and awe inspiring. Especially in the later works, colours are claiming a life and meaning of their own, the mood of the painting becomes more important than a precise rendition. This is a precursor to the Impressionist movement emerging.

Nationalgalleryorguk. 2016. Nationalgalleryorguk. [Online]. [2 December 2016]. Available from:

James Abbott McNeill WHISTLER (1834 –  1903)

The American born but Britain based artist Whistler is known for portraits and etchings as well, but what interests me most for this chapter about landscape are his “Nocturne” paintings, or  “moonlights” as he also called them- landscape paintings in a misty nighttime. He painted the first three of these night time landscape paintings during a trip to Chile, but then developed the theme in London and Venice during the next ten years, always in a misty blue and green palette.

It is interesting to see the unsharp lack of details the night light allows. The top right painting is a firework and is paint flicked on the canvas. There is a lot of atmosphere in these paintings. A new idea to develop for this chapter- landscape in the night.

Jamesabbottmcneillwhistlerorg. 2016. Jamesabbottmcneillwhistlerorg. [Online]. [27 November 2016].


CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

Claude Monet was one of the founders of the Impressionist movement. Here landscape painting is focused on the light, on the changing of the seasons and moods of the landscape, giving an impression, a feeling rather than a precise description.

I grew up in Paris and remember visiting Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny that are now a museum and being very impressed by the paintings . They are so easy to love, with the beauty of the motives, and the incredible light. For me a good reminder not to get too hang up on details and focus on the mood of drawings instead.


PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)

I already took a closer look at the French Post- Impressionist artist Paul Cezanne for the last chapter on still life, but it is worth mentioning him here again in a lineage of influential landscape painters. He painted his home region of Provence in every light , season and mood. He painted an incredible amount of paintings of the mountain Mont St Victoire alone. His analytical approach to painting , building up the image with patches of color and light, paved the way for modern art, greatly influencing Picasso and Braque , the Cubist movement. Picasso is famously known to have said about Cezanne, that “he is the father of us all”

Author: james voorhies. 2016. The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. [Online]. [2 December 2016]. Available from:

L.S LOWRY (1887-1976)

The British artist Laurence Stephen Lowry painted mainly industrial or urban landscapes as well as some seascapes and fantasy landscapes. He grew up in an industrial area where factory chimneys were a part of the landscape. Here too, the human figures are not detailed, they appear almost as stickfigures at times and although there are often a lot of figures, the surrounding landscape is always the dominating feature.

Tateorguk. 2016. Tate. [Online]. [27 November 2016]. Available from:

So this became a very short overview from what is called the beginning of landscape painting as a genre, with Albrecht Duerer, with a glimpse of Baroque with Claude Lorrain, Romanticism in Germany with Caspar David Friedrich and in England with William Turner. Colour and form slowly take over as we move into the Impressionist movement with Claude Monet and Post- Impressionism with Paul Cezanne to arrive at industrial landscapes with L.S Lowry. I will continue looking at contemporary landscape painting in a separate post.






Contemporary landscape

When starting on the exercises for this part of the course, I realized how very clicheed my view of landscape art is. It seems like any other subject gives more space to creativity and experimentation. Here I will research some artists with the aim to challenge that idea.


I already wrote about Georgia O’Keeffe for Part 1, but drawing clouds, I want to take a closer look at her series “Sky above Clouds” from 1962-65, inspired by her looking at clouds from an airplane.8222_3885747

Articedu. 2016. Articedu. [Online]. [14 October 2016]. Available from:

This painting is monumental in size and I can imagine the effect it would have to see it real. But even looking at it on the screen gives me a sense of expansion and infinity, also of enthusiasm. There is something childlike happy and hopeful in these gentle colours and simple forms fading to the pink horizon.It gives me the feeling of lightness and fluffy feelings even if there is nothing fluffy about these clear shapes.


The Latvian – American artist Vija Celmins has a very different approach. Her drawings of the sky or ocean are in grey with meticulous detail, reminding me of photographs.

Tateorguk. 2016. Tate. [Online]. [14 October 2016]. Available from:

None of her drawings have an horizon. I would have called her works realistic, but reading about it and watching various videos where she explains her work, I realize the meticulous detail leads the viewer to another reality.

“The intention is to make a fat, full form. Between the paper surface and the volume of all those things like memory and actual three-dimensional space, and how we experience the world, is where the chance to build the form comes. It looks like a narrow space from the outside, but once you get in there and start to work it gets bigger … I’ve found a way of building the space, letting in light, keeping the image close to the surface, moving the eye along, with small strokes that keep their integrity. ”
(Quoted in Drawing as Thinking, [pp.1-2].)



I could not believe that these drawings are with chalk on blackboard- it is magnificent! What an idea! I am amazed by the variety of tone she manages to draw and how realistic it looks.

Here the mountain range is reduced to its geometrical shape, but there is still enough detail and variety of tone to make it look almost like a black and white photograph. I would love to see this in real.

Dramatic clouds on a chalkboard:



Here I like how Tacita Dean has divided the subject in many smaller portions, the frames adding  an element of composition.  Again a fascinating play of tones and shapes with so many layers and depth.

Mariangoodmancom. 2016. Marian Goodman Gallery Website. [Online]. [9 November 2016]. Available from:


Wayne Ashton is an Australian contemporary writer and artist. I came across his landscape drawings while looking for something more scribbled and less realistic.

Some of these drawings remind me of the exercises in expressing an emotion at the beginning of this course. I like this combination of “careless” scribble and storytelling. I am still not at the point of being able to accept a drawing like this from myself, as I feel I have to learn to draw “right”, but I keep looking for more lightness and spontaneity and feel attracted to this.

His “Pinski series” is a series of paintings about a traveling dog.

It is like a storybook for adults in paintings. I would see this rather as huge illustrations I believe, but I still like the happy colors and fantasy surroundings. The Black and white drawings are what I find more interesting though.


I was more familiar with Gerhard Richters abstract work, but he has also painted incredible more realistic works with the Alps, water and clouds .

These abstract paintings carry the title “Wald”,  forest:

I am not sure that these paintings evoke a forest for me, I would rather feel some city chaos, with billboards and rain and some blurred vision through a window or carwindow, but they certainly draw in my attention and awaken my curiosity to look deeper and further into them.

These works from the series “Alps” are very much more realistic in comparison.

Very different this graphite sketch on canvas mountain


In contrast these older ink prints from the series “Elbe”, the river, are abstract paperworks, evoking the dull and grey flow of the river through an industrial landscape.

Gerhard-richtercom. 2016. Gerhard-richtercom. [Online]. [21 November 2016]. Available from:

It is quite amazing to see how Gerhard Richter has explored so many media and various ways of painting. He says that everything he does is unconscious, he doesn’t plan a subject matter beforehand and does not know what it means. It is the work of others to find the right words to describe it afterwards.


Nicolas Herbert is a British abstract landscape artist, that I have seen mentioned in many of my co students blogs. He mainly paints the Chiltern Hills in mixed media.


Although I have never visited the Chiltern Hills, it feels like I can feel this dreamlike soft but somewhat mysterious landscape through these paintings and I definitely like the mood.


Lars Möllers approach to landscape is in fact very much in line with the landscapes I imagined -not very surprising: realistically rendered beaches, waves, stones. But although not so thrilling, I still find myself attracted to the incredibly tactile and physical way he paints water. It is very much alive and not boring at all.

Alphabetade. 2016. Lars Möller. [Online]. [21 November 2016]. Available from:


Geroge Shaw paints a suburbian landscape , in Humbrol enamel on MDF. The views are of ordinary everyday suburbian subjects but interestingly cropped, leaving a curiosity for what is just outside the picture frame. There is an intriguing story in the paintings, with human presence just there outside the border of the painting, a feeling that something is just about to happen, or that it just did.


This potential story is even clearer in Shaws new series “My back to Nature”, with a cloth, or some paint or broken twigs in the woods surrounding a city. There is a dark tone in the paintings, but also something so familiar.



Seeing George Shaws work really opened up some new ideas for landscape drawing for me. It inspires me to take a new look at my immediate surroundings here, instead of searching for more pure nature for the landscape assignment.

Images from George Shaws facebook page


Simon Hopkinson explores his urban landscape around Bristol, often painting underground tunnels with graffiti. His style is brighter, less realistic too.

“I think that unpopular features like concrete and decay are often beautiful, despite representing modern malaise”.

In some of the paintings there is a person, mostly walking away from the spectator, or a car or the light shining, showing that a person is around. The atmosphere here is not so gloomy, you can feel the beauty in the concrete and in the unassuming features of the buildings. Again these paintings open up new ideas for landscape drawing.

Simonhopkinsonartcouk. 2016. Simon Hopkinson Art. [Online]. [21 November 2016]. Available from:

I realize my research has brought me mainly to the UK and also to Germany (see separate blog post about German lanscape art as well), so now I will broaden the geography somewhat.


Matthew Metzger is a young American artist painting clouds and sea. There is a huge leap from the suburbian landscapes we were just looking at to these perfect idealized clouds- both is landscape and both is beautiful, but if I could paint one thing it would be the beauty in everyday concrete. This research is right now helping me to clarify the unsatisfaction I have been feeling while drawing idyllic cork and olivetrees 🙂

“Matthew Metzger is an artist, designer and furniture maker. In his most recent series of paintings he mixes his own paints using natural materials such as limestone, marble, slate, iron, titanium, clays and minerals combined with oils and egg, transforming them into sensorial, abstract images of light, atmosphere and landscape. This combination of natural materials with the ethereality of a soft atmosphere presents a tension between materiality and illusion”

Metzgerfineartscom. 2016. Metzgerfineartscom. [Online]. [21 November 2016]. Available from:


Michael Ward is an American artist painting the ordinary in his southern California surroundings.

“I am most interested in depicting what Alan Watts called the mystery of the ordinary; the workaday world we live in without seeing until we are forced to focus upon it, as in a painting.”


These paintings seem so realistic, they almost look like photographs, but they are painted from a series of photographs and often don’t quite fit- it is still a fantasy landscape made up of small pieces of realism.

Tmichaelwardcom. 2016. Tmichaelwardcom. [Online]. [21 November 2016]. Available from:


Robert Bubels is  Polish artist painting his often snowy surroundings, again searching for the beauty in the every day encounter,  like  a snap shot of persons he cares for. (

I really like the somewhat awkward poses of the persons. The often strong diagonal lines and directions in the landscapes add dynamic and movement.


John Rydberg is a Swedish artist painting suburban landscapes as well, but with a dark humor and naive approach.


The title of this painting is ” the cleaning ladies”.

There is something “off” with the geometry here, and also a gloomy slightly threatening atmosphere, despite the celebratory flags.

Johnrydbergse. 2016. Johnrydbergse. [Online]. [21 November 2016]. Available from:


I discovered the young South Corean artist Gyunghwa Roh through Saatchi Galleries website, and found her work very different from most other artists represented. She paints her dreams, often landscapes, in a “drawing” style.

It has something of illustrations for a children’s book, but then there is some dark  atmosphere to the work. (pictures from the artists Facebookaccount)


The Indian artist Samiran Sarkar has a long list of exhibitions and international awards , but I found many of his works very simple and kitchy- postcard beautiful pretty flowers and sunsets. Some of the paintings have a deeper quality to them though, and I especially like his city scapes that are less prone to being overly “pretty”.

Fineartamericacom. 2016. Fine Art America. [Online]. [22 November 2016]. Available from:


The Russian artis Marat Cherni draws with gouache on vintage bookpages that he collages together. His style seems urban, street art inspired, it is a different way of scribbling. The drawings sometimes have a sticker or print character. I loved his old books backgrounds and want to explore more drawing on old newspapers, maps, books.

Saatchiartcom. 2016. Saatchi Art. [Online]. [22 November 2016]. Available from:

This research has given me the chance to find a lot of new artists that I enjoyed exploring, and find many great inspiring ideas of how to continue with this chapter. It has also defined more clearly how I do NOT want to explore landscape. I have already started on a too boring, traditional,realistic path and find all the more experimental approaches more interesting. Also my idea of “landscape” was definitely connected to pure nature, trees and clouds, but now includes suburbian and city scapes. I feel drawn to look for some concrete and graffitti with some cracks where plants emerge, rather than stunning fields and trees 🙂



German contemporary landscape

Researching contemporary lanscape has brought me to discover a whole new range of artists that I had not heard about before, but whose art I find really inspiring.

I am in Germany right now, so I start by exploring what is happening in German contemporary landscape art.


I am fascinated by Gisela Krohn’s huge format oil paintings of trees. I have just been busy drawing trees in a rather boring way, and seeing how she explores the subject in an explosion of life and colour definitely opens up new paths.

The paintings are like a close up of a part of the forest that is continuing over the edges of the canvas. I love the play of light with the depth that adds, and how such a quiet still scene comes alive with dynamism and movement through vibrant colours. I also find that  although beautiful, it is not overly sweet or romantic, there is a wide range of emotions here.

Gisela Krohn mainly paints trees and forest, but some water and waterfalls too recently. They remind me more of an impressionist approach and I feel less touched than by the tree paintings.


Giselakrohnde. 2016. Giselakrohnde. [Online]. [5 November 2016]. Available from:


I was not immediately charmed by the landscape paintings by Hans Jorg Holubitschka. They seem rather straightforward and kitschy, with light blue sky and rivers and green grass. But then I read and realized that they are fantasy landscapes, montages between several places at once and playing with our preconceived ideas about how a landscape should look. There is this strong feeling of deja-vu, of already having seen that precise landscape on a postcard, but then that falls apart upon closer inspection.

This is not a way I would like to draw, but I like the idea of the fantasy landscape and will play with that for the landscape exercises.

Galeriewittenbrinkde. 2016. Galeriewittenbrinkde. [Online]. [5 November 2016]. Available from:


Kim Reuter’s drawings and paintings are maybe not strictly lansdcapes-most often they contain persons or signs of persons like bicycles or a boat, and in many works these are the main subjects rather than the landscape. Her current exhibition that will be traveling through many German towns over the next months is called “Quiet time”, and that is really the feeling I get from her beautiful art work- quiet, peace, harmony. There is a simplicity in the scenes, in the colours and in the stories she tells that is very quietly beautiful.

From discovering this artist I carry with me the idea to incorporate humans and more storytelling in the landscape drawings.

Kimreuterde. 2016. Kimreuterde. [Online]. [5 November 2016]. Available from:


Peter Thol extends the concept of landscape to urban landscapes as well, and sometimes to details like a red roof. I like that surprising choice of subject most of all, a random crossing with cars, a roof that attracts your attention. I also really liked discovering his still life paintings with objects placed plainly on a neutral background, like blouses on hangers, cutlery or here, a red paperbag closely cropped. His more traditional landscape paintings are very calm and beautiful , but I find them less interesting.

Copyright by peter thol. 2016. Petertholde. [Online]. [7 November 2016]. Available from: