MAKING A MARK: The “Landscape Artist” Conundrum.
I decided to investigate the concept of the “landscape artist” after making some rather critical remarks about a certain landscape art competition.
What is a “landscape artist”?
Google is fascinating – for all the wrong reasons – on the topic of “landscape artist”. Search query results are influenced by its understanding of
- what is a landscape? – a lot of waxing lyrical about nature and the natural landscape – AND fixing your garden!
- what is landscape art? – very focused on the depiction of natural scenes. Urban scenes and cityscapes don’t often get a mention but there is some recognition of the fact it might be more than just the natural landscapes; and
- what is an artist? – really interesting – but not the topic of this blog post! (Maybe another one?)
According to many of the definitions which come up Capability Brown would have definitely qualified as a landscape artist!
This is because Google apparently has no concept of differentiating between landscape art, landscape architecture or horticultural design.
So I kept looking….
Landscape painting, also known as landscape art, is the depiction of natural scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, and forests, especially where the main subject is a wide view—with its elements arranged into a coherent composition. Wikipedia
So absolutely nothing to do with any of the landscapes recently presented to artists in Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year!
It’s amazing how little in the way of decent definitions have found their way to the Google search queries. My search was art terms glossary “landscape artist”.
The glossary of the National Society for Education in Art and Design provides the following definition in its glossary of various terms
An artist who is inspired by the natural world and the countryside and makes works that express interest, interrogation, despair or enjoyment of these elements
There’s a fair few articles which want to tell you about “the most famous landscape artists” or “landscape artists you should know”
One such is an article on the Invaluable (auction records) website
Landscape artists are those that portray the outdoors in their works, such as scenes of rolling hills or meadows, fields, mountains, lakes, the seaside, and beyond. As shown in landscape paintings by famous artists, elements of the natural world take precedent over people as the focus in this genre. If depicted at all, humans typically serve as minor elements in the composition.
While that might well describe the past, I’m not sure it’s an accurate depiction of contemporary landscape art.
I took a look at the Tate Glossary of Art Terms which is often quoted by others.
It has a definition for landscape – but curiously not for landscape artist – which starts
The appreciation of nature for its own sake, and its choice as a specific subject for art, is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until the seventeenth century landscape was confined to the background of portraits or paintings dealing principally with religious, mythological or historical subjects (History painting).
Today, landscape continues to be a major theme in art with many artists using documentary techniques such as video, photography and classification processes to explore the ways we relate to the places we live in and to record the impact we have on the land and our environment.
In general and in conclusion, there are very few definitions of a landscape artist.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the definition of landscape was challenged. The genre expanded to include urban and industrial landscapes, and artists began to use less traditional media in the creation of landscape works. For example in the 1960s land artists such as Richard Long radically changed the relationship between landscape and art by creating artworks directly within the landscape.
The Art of the Landscape Project
Some years ago I started a blog called The Art of the Landscape as a project.
In it I tried to develop a compendium of information about landscape art – using the Pages function to create a compendium listing.
One of the reasons for this was that there was an amazing paucity of well organised information about landscape art available for free online. Lots of learned books to buy – but very little between articles for amateur watercolour painters of nice places and some very expensive books!
It’s not often updated now – but still has a lot of resources about landscape art.