Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) German painter, print maker and theorist. A prolific artist of the Northern Renaissance era. He was the first to realise the importance of the printing press. He was an excellent oil painter. He travelled abroad to collect watercolour sketches and paintings. He drew ‘plein air’ (working outside) and added colour to his sketches too. Durer created a vast amount of art, engravings, alter pieces, woodcuts, self-portraits, portraits and watercolours. He theorised about mathematics, human proportion and perspective. Durer documented many places he visited and later in his life wrote books about his art findings.
The Willow Mill near Nuremberg. Watercolour with body colour by Albrecht Durer c1495. (From Durer the artist and his drawings by Christohper White, Phiadon. 1971)
Claude Lorrain (1604-165?) A French landscape artist who lived in the Duchy of Lorraine, but he left to live in Germany then moved to Rome. He was known for his big romantic landscapes and seascapes. He was influenced by Nicholas Poussin and mostly worked outdoors. Lorrain’s was know to walk in open green spaces, stroll through the evening sunsets and stayed to see the sun rise too. He was committed to ‘plein air’ painting, so he could experience nature, he would lie in the fields to examine the sky. His art was dominated by big skies, he used the ‘rule of thirds’ to help with composition, adding trees to frame the scene, in fact his paintings were of a ‘classical’ visual balance. Lorrain was known for using his imagination in his oil landscapes, to give the viewer an ‘easy time’ or leisurely feel. Lorrain influenced painters such as J M W Turner.
Pastoral Landscape with Mill. Oil on canvas 1634. 59.1 x 82.9 cm. (From https://www.britannica.com/biography/Claude-Lorrain)
Utagawa Hiroshige, also known as Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) A Japanese Ukiyo-e artist, a master woodblock printer. He is well know for his horizontal format landscapes, ‘The Fifty-three Stations of Tokaido’ and his vertical landscape series of ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’. Hiroshige was influenced by Hokusai, but his use of colour was subtle and labour intensive, as he used a ‘graduation’ technique called bokashi. The impressionist painters, such as Monet and Manet collected his work as they wanted to study his compositions. Van Gogh painted from his ‘One Hundred Views of Edo’ series. Over his life time Hiroshige produced thousands of prints from his many travels. He dominated landscape printing, making smaller and more intimate pictures, which expressed the snow, rain and all weathers. He pioneered the vertical composition using striking view points, bold colour and his documentation of famous Japanese landmarks, of which the tourists loved. The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford has some of his original wood block prints, which I went to see in September.
(Postcards from The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford Sept 2018)
L.S Lowry (1887-1976) English artist know for his drawings and paintings of North West England, including Pendlebury and Salford. Lowry is famous for painting industrial landscapes of where he lived and worked. His urban landscapes included ‘matchstick men’ and he painted open moody landscapes too. His work is often referred to as ‘naive art’ because it’s so stylised. Many of his canvases are large works, that express a working knowledge of perspective in buildings. His early works are rather dark and somber, but after the war he seemed to add more colour and light. He was a prolific artist and many of his works are in collections and museums. And there is now a museum dedicated to him in Manchester https://www.thelowry.com/events/ls-lowry/the-art/landscapes.
Landscape in Wigan, 1925, oil on canvas, 34.3 x 34.3 cm. (from The Paintings of LS Lowry, oils and watercolours by Mervyn Levy, Jupiter Books 1975, plate 23)
George Shaw (b.1966) an English artist who grew up in Coventry. Short listed for the Turner Prize 2011. He paints naturalistic English urban landscapes in Humbrol enamel paints on hard surfaces such as MDF. Titles of his work are important as he takes them from famous writings, the bible and books, ones he does not often read. His painting is landscape with references to the history of art. His landscapes of where he grew up are quite stark and disturbing. After a recent residency at The National Gallery he has been painting more woodlands and trees, but they too have a modern twist with some very ‘dark’ themes.
Scences from the Passion , late 2002 by George Shaw. (from https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/george-shaw-5253)
The study of landscape painting is a big subject. But I love it. I have only chosen a few artists that see their landscapes in different ways. Durer, who surprisingly work with watercolours and made sketches as he travelled, documenting the land as it was in his time. Seeing that the printing press would change the world, offering endless ways of reproducing pictures for all to see. Claude Lorrain who offered ‘leisure’ feelings through his art, using his imagination to paint large atmospheric paintings. Paintings that may be described as ‘chocolate box’ pictures. Lorrain influenced J M W Turner who explored painting the landscape as an ‘abstract’ concept. Hiroshige, who was a prolific woodblock printer, depicting Japanese life from it’s people to the landscape, with intimate views and unusual compositions of the land and sea. Lowry offered a gritty and muddy view of his native Manchester, even the surface of his paintings were very textured and marked. Finally George Shaw who uses a modern medium, Humbrol enamel paints, normally used for model making. His art may not be seen as landscape, but it is. He has painted, in detail his homeland, making it a viable landscape scene, whether we like it or not.
The artists I have chosen have either made landscape look beautiful or ugly, or for leisure and documentation. And artists like Durer and Hiroshige have seen the value of printing and reproducing art, that the world can buy.