When splendour moves the heart

When splendour moves the heart

Beautiful vistas to stormy seas and idyllic grasslands, the charm of landscape painting endures.

'Hunters in the snow'

Landscape painting has been an extremely popular form of expression, whether it is painted from imagination or is a depiction of a real scene. From beautiful vistas to stormy seas, various elements from nature form a prominent part of the scene, and the portrayal of the sky is usually an integral component. The weather is another natural element that generally plays an important role in such depictions, and paintings of stormy weather over the sea, quiet placid waters, changing colours of fall and icy winters form interesting studies of generally real places. In fact, use of colour and the portrayal of the sky and weather contribute heavily in conveying the mood of the painting — grey, sombre, bright and cheerful, calm and tranquil, and so on — and give a glimpse of the environment and surroundings. Walter J Phillips once said a landscape painting is essentially emotional in origin and exists as a record of an effect in nature whose splendour has moved a human heart. This is perhaps why their appeal has not faded over time.

Romantic style

Let us touch upon a few well-known landscape paintings and artists from the West — many of these works belong to different periods and have been painted in different styles, from realistic to impressionist and expressionist renderings. Pieter Bruegel the Elder was one of the first artists to move away from religious themes. The Hunters in the Snow (winter) (1565) is an ice-covered winter landscape that captures the harshness and austerity of the weather and the life of those living there.

In the 19th century, John Constable, an English landscape artist painted magnificent views of the countryside around him, in a completely natural and romantic style. He is considered to have contributed immensely to this genre and is one of the most important landscape artists of all time; yet sadly, financial success eluded him in his lifetime.

A similar romanticised style of painting is associated with Hudson River School, a mid-19th century American art movement that captured the beauty of the wilderness. Thomas Cole was the founder of this movement and he painted several large-scale works that encapsulated the grandeur and natural beauty of the wild, primarily in the Hudson River valley.

J M W Turner was a painter and printmaker also from the romanticism movement, and his depictions of the sea and marine vessels were outstanding portrayals of weather conditions, the sense of movement and the play of light on water as well as violent storms. Unfortunately, many of his oils have deteriorated with time.

Claude Monet, best known perhaps for his series of water lilies, painted several landscapes and was fascinated by the variations of colour and light through the day and through changing seasons. He painted them in an impressionist style, of which he was a founder member. Along with him, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley also painted brilliant landscapes in the French Impressionism style.

The Starry Night, an expressive view before sunrise, from his bedroom window, remains one of the best-known paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch post-Impressionist painter. Along with this, he painted several landscapes that were executed in a similar style with bold fluid colours and expressive brushstrokes.

These are just a few examples of famous landscapes by renowned artists and there are several other masterpieces that are out there, amongst which you will definitely find your favourite.

The author is a Bangalore-based art consultant, curator and writer. She blogs at Art Scene India and can be reached on artsceneinfo@gmail.com

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