Landscape  

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"Imaginary gardens with real toads in them" --Marianne Moore, [...]


"Every landscape is a state of the soul" --Amiel

In the Wild North[1] (1891) is a painting by Ivan Shishkin, in the collection of the Kiev Museum of Russian Art.
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In the Wild North[1] (1891) is a painting by Ivan Shishkin, in the collection of the Kiev Museum of Russian Art.

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Landscape comprises the visible features of an area of land, including the physical elements of landforms such as (ice-capped) mountains, hills, water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, living elements of land cover including indigenous vegetation, human elements including different forms of land use, buildings and structures, and transitory elements such as lighting and weather conditions.

Combining both their physical origins and the cultural overlay of human presence, often created over millennia, landscapes reflect the living synthesis of people and place vital to local and national identity. Landscapes, their character and quality, help define the self image of a region, its sense of place that differentiates it from other regions. It is the dynamic backdrop to people’s lives.

The Earth has a vast range of landscapes including the icy landscapes of polar regions, mountainous landscapes, vast arid desert landscapes, islands and coastal landscapes, densely forested or wooded landscapes including past boreal forests and tropical rainforests, and agricultural landscapes of temperate and tropical regions.

Landscape may be further reviewed under the following specific categories: cultural landscape, landscape ecology, landscape planning, landscape assessment and landscape design.

Contents

Landscape art

Landscape photography

Many landscape photographs show little or no human activity and are created in the pursuit of a pure, unsullied depiction of nature devoid of human influence, instead featuring subjects such as strongly defined landforms, weather, and ambient light. As with most forms of art, the definition of a landscape photograph is broad, and may include urban settings, industrial areas, and nature photography. Notable landscape photographers include Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

Landscape painting

The earliest forms of art around the world depict little that could really be called landscape, although ground-lines and sometimes indications of mountains, trees or other natural features are included. The earliest "pure landscapes" with no human figures are frescos from Minoan Greece of around 1500 BCE. Hunting scenes, especially those set in the enclosed vista of the reed beds of the Nile Delta from Ancient Egypt, can give a strong sense of place, but the emphasis is on individual plant forms and human and animal figures rather than the overall landscape setting. For a coherent depiction of a whole landscape, some rough system of perspective, or scaling for distance, is needed, and this seems from literary evidence to have first been developed in Ancient Greece in the Hellenistic period, although no large-scale examples survive. More ancient Roman landscapes survive, from the 1st century BCE onwards, especially frescos of landscapes decorating rooms that have been preserved at archaeological sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum and elsewhere, and mosaics.

The Chinese ink painting tradition of shan shui ("mountain-water"), or "pure" landscape, in which the only sign of human life is usually a sage, or a glimpse of his hut, uses sophisticated landscape backgrounds to figure subjects, and landscape art of this period retains a classic and much-imitated status within the Chinese tradition.

Both the Roman and Chinese traditions typically show grand panoramas of imaginary landscapes, generally backed with a range of spectacular mountains – in China often with waterfalls and in Rome often including sea, lakes or rivers. These were frequently used to bridge the gap between a foreground scene with figures and a distant panoramic vista, a persistent problem for landscape artists.

A major contrast between landscape painting in the West and East Asia has been that while in the West until the 19th century it occupied a low position in the accepted hierarchy of genres, in East Asia the classic Chinese mountain-water ink painting was traditionally the most prestigious form of visual art. However, in the West, history painting came to require an extensive landscape background where appropriate, so the theory did not entirely work against the development of landscape painting – for several centuries landscapes were regularly promoted to the status of history painting by the addition of small figures to make a narrative scene, typically religious or mythological.

Dutch Golden Age painting of the 17th century saw the dramatic growth of landscape painting, in which many artists specialized, and the development of extremely subtle realist techniques for depicting light and weather. The popularity of landscapes in the Netherlands was in part a reflection of the virtual disappearance of religious painting in a Calvinist society, and the decline of religious painting in the 18th and 19th centuries all over Europe combined with Romanticism to give landscapes a much greater and more prestigious place in 19th-century art than they had assumed before.

In England, landscapes had initially been mostly backgrounds to portraits, typically suggesting the parks or estates of a landowner, though mostly painted in London by an artist who had never visited the site. the English tradition was founded by Anthony van Dyck and other, mostly Flemish, artists working in England. By the beginning of the 19th century the English artists with the highest modern reputations were mostly dedicated landscapists, showing the wide range of Romantic interpretations of the English landscape found in the works of John Constable, J.M.W. Turner and Samuel Palmer. However all these had difficulty establishing themselves in the contemporary art market, which still preferred history paintings and portraits.

In Europe, as John Ruskin said, and Sir Kenneth Clark confirmed, landscape painting was the "chief artistic creation of the nineteenth century", and "the dominant art", with the result that in the following period people were "apt to assume that the appreciation of natural beauty and the painting of landscape is a normal and enduring part of our spiritual activity"

The Romantic movement intensified the existing interest in landscape art, and remote and wild landscapes, which had been one recurring element in earlier landscape art, now became more prominent. The German Caspar David Friedrich had a distinctive style, influenced by his Danish training. To this he added a quasi-mystical Romanticism. French painters were slower to develop landscape painting, but from about the 1830s Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and other painters in the Barbizon School established a French landscape tradition that would become the most influential in Europe for a century, with the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists for the first time making landscape painting the main source of general stylistic innovation across all types of painting.

In the United States, the Hudson River School, prominent in the middle to late 19th century, is probably the best-known native development in landscape art. These painters created works of mammoth scale that attempted to capture the epic scope of the landscapes that inspired them. The work of Thomas Cole, the school's generally acknowledged founder, has much in common with the philosophical ideals of European landscape paintings — a kind of secular faith in the spiritual benefits to be gained from the contemplation of natural beauty. Some of the later Hudson River School artists, such as Albert Bierstadt, created less comforting works that placed a greater emphasis (with a great deal of Romantic exaggeration) on the raw, even terrifying power of nature. The best examples of Canadian landscape art can be found in the works of the Group of Seven, prominent in the 1920s. Emily Carr was also closely associated with the Group of Seven, though was never an official member. Although certainly less dominant in the period after World War I, many significant artists still painted landscapes in the wide variety of styles exemplified by Neil Welliver, Alex Katz, Milton Avery, Peter Doig, Andrew Wyeth, David Hockney and Sidney Nolan.

The term neo-romanticism is applied in British art history, to a loosely affiliated school of landscape painting that emerged around 1930 and continued until the early 1950s. These painters looked back to 19th-century artists such as William Blake and Samuel Palmer, but were also influenced by French cubist and post-cubist artists such as Pablo Picasso, André Masson, and Pavel Tchelitchew. This movement was motivated in part as a response to the threat of invasion during World War II. Artists particularly associated with the initiation of this movement included Paul Nash, John Piper, Henry Moore, Ivon Hitchens, and especially Graham Sutherland. A younger generation included John Minton, Michael Ayrton, John Craxton, Keith Vaughan, Robert Colquhoun, and Robert MacBryde.


Etymology

It is believed that the word land, landscipe or landscaef entered the English language some time after the 5th century. These terms referred to a system of human-made spaces in the land - spaces such as fields with boundaries though not necessarily defined by fences or walls. It also referred to a natural unit, a region or tract of land such as a river valley or range of hills as occupied by a tribe or later, ruled by a feudal lord. The term is similar in meaning to the German landschaft referring to a small administrative unit or region. The term fell into disuse and by the time of the Domesday Book in the 11th century the word did not appear in any translation from the Latin.

The modern form of the word with its connotations of scenery appeared in the late 16th century when the term landschap was introduced by Dutch painters when referring to paintings of inland natural or rural scenery. Landscape, first recorded in 1598, was borrowed as a painters' term from Dutch during the 16th century, when Dutch artists were on the verge of becoming masters of the landscape art genre. The Dutch word landschap had earlier meant simply 'region, tract of land' but had acquired the artistic sense, which it brought over into English, of 'a picture depicting scenery on land'.

According to Jackson: "From 1577 with Harrison's Description of Britain onwards, a new awareness of the aesthetic nature of landscape emerged as a new kind of topographical writing flourished...". Originally the term was translated landskip which the Oxford English Dictionary refers to as the corrupt form of the word, gradually to be replaced by landscape. The English word is not recorded as used for physical landscapes before 1725.

Following a lengthy analysis concentrating on the German term landschaft, Richard Hartshorne defined landscape as referring to "the external, visible, (or touchable) surface of the earth. This surface is formed by the outer surfaces, those in immediate contact with the atmosphere, of vegetation, bare earth, snow, ice, or water bodies or the features made by man."

Hartshorne differentiated the term from region which he considers is larger and more flexible in size. He eliminated sky on the basis that the atmosphere is simply the medium through which the Earth's surface is viewed and also excludes underground mine workings, the soil beneath vegetation and rainfall. However he included moveable objects noting that a view of Broadway (New York City) without traffic would be incomplete. He ignored the inclusion of oceans in landscape. He opposed perception of landscapes by other than sight, e.g. sounds and odours, on the grounds that these do not contribute to a unified concept. In regard to the concept of natural and cultural landscapes that Carl Sauer among others differentiated, he stated "the natural landscape ceased to exist when man appeared on the scene". While admitting the term primeval landscape could refer to pre-human landscapes he considered the present natural landscape is "a theoretical concept which never did exist".

During the 1920s and 1930s, attempts were made to construct methodologies that made landscape the essential if not exclusive task of geography. This stemmed from Sauer's view that the role of geography was to systematically examine the "phenomenology of landscape". Sauer viewed landscapes broadly as areas comprising distinct associations of forms, both physical and natural, and regarded landscape study as tracing the development of natural landscapes into cultural landscapes.

By the 1940s, this emphasis had passed as geographers found that the difficulties associated with reconstructing the past were forbidding and at odds with their primary concern with the present world. The concept of a natural landscape became increasingly questioned with knowledge of human impact on the environment. More recent geographers have addressed the subjective attributes of a place within humanistic geography thus crossing the bridge between the objective and the subjective assessment of an area.

The popular conception of the landscape that is reflected in dictionaries conveys a particular and a general meaning; the particular referring to an area of the Earth's surface and the general meaning being that which can be seen by an observer.

With greater attention to the environmental perception by psychologists over recent decades, landscape is regarded as the raw material with which to study human perceptions and human information processing. Thus Daniels & Cosgrove defined landscape, not in physical terms but as an outward expression of human perception: "a landscape is a cultural image, a pictorial way of representing, structuring or symbolising surroundings." Meinig combined the physical and the psychological: "any landscape is composed not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads.".

In recent decades the term environment has gained wide usage. Jay Appleton (see Environmental psychology) distinguished environment from landscape by referring to the latter as "the environment perceived". An advantage which the term environment has over landscape is, as Bourassa noted, that environment can refer more readily to urban scenes although the term urban landscape is also in common usage. As the term environment embraces the total physical, biological, cultural and aesthetic components of an area, it is generally regarded as too broad and encompassing a term for landscape.

The terms scene, scenic and scenery are inadequate descriptions of landscape. With its roots in the theatre where a scene describes a portion of a play, so a scene can describe a portion of a landscape. Scenery, which describes the decorative backdrops used on a stage, also refers to the general appearance of a place, particularly a picturesque view. While it can be used interchangeably with landscape it does not convey the same depth of meaning.

The term landscape aesthetics or just aesthetics is frequently used in the literature. Aesthetics has a more controversial origin than landscape. It derived from the Greek aesthesis meaning "sense perception". The term was used as the title of the book Aesthetica [1750-58] by Alexander Baumgarten [1714 - 62], a minor German philosopher who incorrectly applied the Greek term to a critique of the beautiful or the theory of taste (sociology). Thus the term which originally applied to the broad field of sense perception was restricted to the area of taste. Immanuel Kant in 1781 criticised this use and applied it in accordance with its classical meaning "the philosophy of sensuous perception". However, the corrupted term aesthetics gained popular acceptance entering England after 1830 and, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, within a century of the coining of the meaning by Baumgarten, it was in use widely throughout Europe.

The dictionary definition of aesthetic perpetuates Baumgarten's error and defines it as "things perceptible by the senses as opposed to things thinkable or immaterial", "pertaining to the sense of the beautiful or the science of aesthetics"Macquarie Dictionary, 1981., or "of, relating to, or dealing with aesthetics or the beautiful". Aesthetics is regarded as a branch of philosophy, that which "deduces from nature and taste the rules and principles of art, the theory of the fine arts; the science of the beautiful..." or "[that] dealing with the nature of the beautiful and with judgements concerning beauty".

Thus landscapes have often been the subject of inquiry within the broad framework of aesthetics in the quest for an understanding of beauty.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Landscape" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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