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Monthly Archives: August 2013
Brief History of Landscape in Art
To understand different artists’ depictions of landscape, I think I need to start by researching the history of landscape painting.
The appearance of landscape as a subject for art appears to start in Greek and Roman times, when images of landscapes and gardens were painted on villa walls. However, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the depiction of pure landscape seems to have stopped, consigned to the background when depicting portraits or religious scenes.
It was not until the Renaissance period that landscapes were once again depicted in their own right, although it appears that it was mainly in the Netherlands where it was considered a worthy subject.
1471 to 1528
Dürer is becoming a common theme in this course, so I won’t bother looking into his history again.
On the subject of his landscapes, he is acknowledged as one of the first European landscape artists, with his watercolour work in particular showing his skill in depicting nature.
I have picked out four of his images here:
A very flat looking watercolour image of a fortified castle, which is all on one plane having no foreground or background to give it depth
This image is acknowledged as one of Durer’s most sensitive portrayals of nature (British museum). It is always difficult to scrutinise a picture very well when viewing it on a computer screen rather than in the flesh, but this also seems to be a flat image. The pool all appears to be the same from front to back and so doesn’t appear to recede into the distance. There also appears to be a uniformity of detail across the image.
Not a landscape image in its own right, but it does show the use of landscape in the background which would be the more common way landscape was depicted in his era. Again it is hard to see very clearly, but it does look like there might be some aerial perspective in the mountains in the far background. Certainly the blue colours give some feeling of depth, although the rest of the image all appears to be a single flat plane.
Another image with landscape as a setting, but one which shows some incredible detail in the depiction of the land. Again, this image shows a uniformity of line and detail across the image.
This was when the ‘classical’ landscape was born, whose aim was “to illustrate an ideal landscape recalling Arcadia, a legendary place in ancient Greece known for its quiet pastoral beauty” (Getty). The aim was to provide an image of perfection, rather than a depiction of reality.
1594 – 1665
Poussin’s work often carries a moral or philosophical message (Met museum), often depicting religious scenes of various faiths. Because of this, the majority of his paintings appear to contain people and be telling a story about them.
The four images I have picked below are some where people play a smaller part:
There appears to be some depth to this image, although the majority of the image is on the same plane. Adam and Eve are very centrally placed, but the line from the figures, along the edge of the trees up to god on his cloud, does give quite a strong diagonal line.
The track in the foreground leads nicely into this image, although again it does seem to be a mostly single plane image, with just a bit of aerial perspective to the left hand side where the landscape disappears off into the distance.
A great example of single point perspective
The only image of his that I could find with no people featured at all. I like this sketchy style, although there could be more of a tonal range in the background.
In the 18th century, landscape finally achieved a recognisable status as a worthy subject for art across Europe. The ‘Grand Tour’ was popular with many rich people, with Italy being popular with many landscape artists. In France, the ‘classical’ landscape was expanded by Watteau to include people enjoying the countryside.
Jean Antoine Watteau
Watteau’s paintings mainly feature aristocratic people enjoying the landscape, although not in a way intended to tell a story as those painted by Poussin were.
This image shows great skill and detail, although the child on the right hand side does not seem to be in proportion to the other figures in the picture.
The people seem to glow in this image and don’t seem to be real. They also look as if they have been painted onto the landscape afterwards.
I think Watteau had a distorted view of what shepherds looked like and did all day! Again, some of the figures don’t appear to be correct in their perspective, with the woman further back on the swing appearing to be the same size as the woman in the foreground.
It could just be me, but the perspective doesn’t seem to be quite right to me in this image. The lines all lead off to the right, but don’t seem to converge at the same point?
The Industrial Revolution altered perceptions of the outdoors and started a trend of ‘plein air’ (or outdoor) painting, depicting real life landscapes rather than the idealized ‘clasical’ views.
The birth of photography then changed landscape again, as artists then had to move away from faithful depiction of the scene, to a greater freedom of expression, into Impressionism.
Courbet definitely shows a move to a more realistic depiction of landscapes with the following three images:
Again, this looks a bit flat to me, but given that is becoming a theme in my assessments of these pictures, it could well be as a result of viewing these images on screen.
This shows aerial perspective in the distance, but the foreground looks like it might not have been completed?
This seems to show the most depth out of the three images.
In Courbet’s seascapes, he moves from realism to portrayal of the mood in this image:
Urban landscapes feature more often, as well as the plight of the countryside from industrialisation. In terms of styles, anything goes!
Lowry went to Art School when he was 15 and was still attending art classes 15 years later. In the 1920s he worked as a rent collector which exposed him to the industrial scenes for which he is famous for painting.
His paintings started as quick sketches on the spot and were developed later at home. They are very distinctive images, often showing masses of people walking the streets with an industrial scene in the background, showing the effect of industrialisation on the world.
The first two images I looked at are “classic” Lowry oil paintings of lots of people in front of industrial buildings belching smoke. They use a very simple colour palette, fading the colours in the background, and make good use of the white of the background. Overall they have great energy and you could spend hours exploring different areas of the images:
I also picked out a couple of images which were different from what I associate as a Lowry image:
This still has Lowry’s distinctive style, but the image is much more sketchy and quick. Presumably this is one of his on the spot sketches which would be taken to work up to a painting in the future. It is impressive how he can record so much of the scene in so few marks on the paper.
This shows single point perspective (but in a curvy way), with subtle colouring giving a very simple and clean image.
The Museum Network: http://www.museumnetworkuk.org/landscapes/history/historyindex.htm
The J.Paul Getty Museum: http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/curricula/landscapes/background1.html
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com/
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: http://www.metmuseum.org
The Lowry: http://www.thelowry.com
Exercise – A sketchbook walk
The weather was good for these sketches, although midges were a problem which meant I didn’t sit around for too long to do them.
Overall I found it tricky to depict both the water, and the mass of tree foliage, both of which feature in most of these images.
Sketch walk 1 – first image which didn’t go very well
Sketch walk 2 – better proportioned image
Sketch walk 3 – didn’t get any detail into the foreground
Sketch walk 4 – too similar tone across the image
I didn’t make any of the notes requested by the exercise, so tried another go, this time working in drawing pens as well as pencils (and avoiding water!):
Sketch walk 5 – I like the way I did the trees in this image, although outlining the different types of ground in pen has given too defined a boundary to these areas
Sketch walk 6 – I rushed this image to escape from the midges and failed to get any good tonal range
Sketch walk 7 – working in just pen, I have achieved even less tonal range in this image!
Sketch walk 8 – another quick sketch, this time cut short because it was too uncomfortable a position to sit in (stool now on order!)
I failed to make notes again, so will try to remember to do this in the next exercise instead.
Looking back at these drawings after my tutors comments on my last assignment I can see that I am still failing to get the light and dark tones from the pencils and they are all a fairly uniform line and tone. I will try to consciously work on this in the next exercises.
Exercise – 360o Studies
I found it hard to identify a location which would be suitable for a 360o study as there always seemed to be a lack of interest in at least one direction. Maybe it was just a reason to procrastinate though which I seem to be very good at with this course, so I set out on a walk determined to find a location and complete the sketches.
I didn’t take a compass with me, so just rotated 90 degrees for each sketch. Unfortunately I forgot to take a camera out with me on this occasion to record the views.
I was planning to pay more attention to tone in this image and started to do this, but ran out of time in the 15 minute ‘window’.
I changed to charcoal in the hope of drawing more quickly. I still ran out of time though!
Again working in charcoal, I managed to complete the sketch this time. I like the trees and using the putty rubber on the sky worked reasonably well, but the foreground lines didn’t work out quite so well.
For the least inspiring view of the four, I changed to Tria Letraset pens, but again ran out of time and didn’t complete the sketch.
Artists working in series
1840 to 1926
Monet is famous for his close observation of the variation in colour and light throughout the days and months. This was achieved through “series” painting, where the same subject was depicted throughout the day and in a variety of different conditions by painting a number of canvases at once. This meant that Monet could work on the canvas which most closely resembled the conditions at any point during the day. The Haystack series for instance, resulted in a series of 25 paintings painted from the end of one summer to the following spring. For an artist who worked mostly ‘plein air’, this approach must have been essential to be able to continue to work when the conditions changed. It must however have been difficult to transport all the canvases around and to know at what point to stop work on one of them and start on another.
1830 to 1903
Near the end of his life, Pissarro painted city views from hotel or apartment windows. The images below are all of the Boulevard Montmartre at different times of the day and seasons, in a similar series painting to Monet. He completed 14 paintings in this series.
Using a hotel or apartment to complete these painting must have been easier logistically than Monet’s ‘plein air’ series paintings, although the inclusion of people and carriages must have added a different complication in the capturing of these within a short space of time.
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com/
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: http://www.metmuseum.org
The National Gallery: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk
National Gallery of Australia: http://nga.gov.au/exhibition/turnertomonet/Detail.cfm?IRN=4701
Exercise – Drawing cloud formations
Small sketches of cloud formations in monochrome and colour.
My initial attempts at clouds were terrible!
On a cloudless day, I resorted to my image library. Changing medium to oil pastels, I produced another child like drawing of clouds!
A slightly improved version came next:
Changing image produced a reasonable likeness of the clouds:
Not quite as successful was a sunset image:
The same image in coloursoft pencils worked better:
A different image again, in chalk this time which I think worked quite well:
Finally another image in charcoal, drawn mainly with a putty rubber which gave a very moody image:
Exercise – Plotting space through composition and structure
A3 cartridge paper, drawing from a photograph.
The photograph I chose to draw from was this view of Ingleborough from Moughton Scar:
I divided up the image into Foreground, middle-ground and background like this:
I decided to use Inktense pencils for this exercise. For the background I sketched in the colours and painted them with water to give flat areas of colour. I did the same for the middle ground, but then used dry pencils to add some tone and texture. For the foreground, I used masking fluid to keep selected areas white, painted some flat areas of colour and then used the pencils when the paper was wet to give brighter and denser colours, finally adding some more detail and texture with dry pencils.
Write notes on how these artists divide their landscape into foreground, middle ground and background.
1600 to 1682
Lorrain painted idealized landscapes, where everything is perfect and beautiful. His images have an incredible brightness to them and I love the strong lighting in the images where the sun is rising or setting over the sea. He divides his images into a detailed and bright foreground, often with the foreground features framing the image, the middle ground where the colours are more muted and there is less detail, then the background with very muted colours and hardly any detail.
Joseph Mallord William Turner
1775 to 1851
Turner is considered to be one of the greatest masters of watercolour landscape painting, although he also worked in other mediums. He was known as “the painter of light” due to his use of bright colours in his paintings.
This image is very reminiscent of Lorrain, although the foreground colours are not as bold and bright, and the transition between the foreground, middle ground and background is more gradual.
These all show a similar representation of the foreground, middle ground and background, with the colours becoming more muted and the amount of detail decreasing.
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com/
National Gallery: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk
Check and Log
In what way did you simplify and select in your study? Were you able to focus on simple shapes and patterns amid all the visual information available to you?
- I simplified the background by just using washes of flat colours, and for the grasses in the foreground I concentrated on the texture and colour rather than a detailed representation. Other than that it was actually quite a simple image I chose which I didn’t need to simplify much.
How did you create a sense of distance and form in your sketches?
- I used decreasing levels of detail and tone to create the sense of distance. I think this worked between the foreground and the middle ground, but I don’t think the middle ground was quite as successful.
How did you use light and shade? Was it successful?
- It was moderately successful. I think it worked in some areas of the foreground, but there actually wasn’t that much shade in the image I chose.
What additional preliminary work would have been helpful toward the larger study?
- I can’t think of any more preliminary work which would have been useful for this image, other that gaining greater skills in the use of the pencils to achieve the colours and textures I was aiming for.
Preparing a test linocut
The starting point for linocut was to make a test piece of 24 5cm squares, working on each square with a different tool or approach to get an idea of the textures and patterns each blade can produce.
After building my bench peg, I set about cutting the lino:
And my notes about the tools and techniques used:
Proofing the lino on tracing paper:
This indicated that the lines in two of the squares in the centre made by tool 5 might not show up as the lines are very fine. I re-cut some of these lines, angling the tool to cut either edge of the line in the same way as I had used the craft knife, resulting in deeper lines. The craft knife had greater control in cutting lines though, so I am not sure I would use tool 5 in this way. I left the wire brush marks in the other square which showed nothing on the proofing sheet to see if anything printed.
First test print:
The wire brush square did not print anything, and the two squares using tool 5 printed only a few lines (the ones which were re-cut), due to the cuts used being too light. After cleaning the lino, I re-cut these squares using different methods and tools, to test out cutting bigger white areas, and reprinted the test piece:
Good for detail, cross hatching, speckles, grass patterns?
Wobbling the tool makes a pattern like tree branches (or monkey puzzle tree depending how much you wobble!). Short stabbed lines like grass again?
Wider lines, good for removing more lino.
Only works to cut either side of a line, which gets fine lines, but without the control of a craft knife. Unless I’m missing something, I won’t be using this tool.
Seems to be the best tool for wobbling the blade and getting rough edges.
Nice wide lines, in a “sketchy” style when used lightly. Wobbling the tool produces lines like tyre tracks. Also good for removing a lot of lino, although the tool seems to go down too quickly and try to exit from the bottom of the lino.
Good for wider hatching, or tree branches with wobbling the tool.
Very light lines. Good for depicting grass.
Using a stiff metal brush didn’t work
A craft knife angles from both sides of the line gave clean accurate lines.