Dürer left a fascinating record of medieval Europe through carefully observed line drawings, etchings and muted water colours.
They seem sensitive – with careful lines, compositions that pull you through perspective, tone or focused attention. He captures combinations of natural landscape & buildings, often quite humble dwellings as well as castles & municipal buildings. Least attractive for me are the etching landscapes depicting mythical and epic events (Landscape with cannon – 1518): there's less variation in the weight of the lines and the detail; depth is created with the size of objects; it seems too busy, the lines too heavy, too much detail, with little differentiation in distance except the very distant hills which attract undue attention because they stand out from the foreground; skies are bearing down on the earth, and my eye doesn’t know where to look or rest. I find it almost oppressive compared with the delicacy and restraint of the much more simple line drawings and water colours.
Claude Lorrain (1604-1682)
Claude Lorrain created highly detailed pastoral works in pen & ink, watercolours and oil paintings. In contrast to Dürer, the landscapes appear were imaginary, idealised, epic settings with architecture in rich glowing light, the sun adding to the expansive skies and sense of moment, often sitting close to the horizon sending golden light cascading across the canvas.
For me, his work conveys great depth of field: detailed foreground, classical buildings with strong perspective lines or large pillars and trees getting smaller in mid-ground, the background appearing distant in pale colours, no detail and small, small scale suggesting a large scale of great distance. They seem to be momentous events under huge skies with billowing clouds steeped with glowing light from low sun. Trees loom like pillars holding up big skies. The atmosphere is larger than life & dream-like, the figures are relatively small within the paintings, almost serving to show the dramati scale of the landscape.
Video tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-S3gBZF0p0
L S Lowry (1887 – 1976)
'Clifford's Tower' (York) 1952
'Industrial Landscape' 1955
'Coming from the mill' 1930
'The Lake' 1937
Moving to the 20th Century, Lowry also created imaginary landscapes from familiar aspects of his envirionment. However they are industrial and urban, more like social commentary on industrial northern England. The colours are muted and flat light filters from dull skies through smoky air. Some works have few or no figures while others are crowded with stooping, crowds. Lowry still creates distance using lines of perspective, diminishing colour and size of objects; areas are sometimes framed by the industrial chimneys or the eye is drawn up the picture by rows of terraced cottages. The style is famously naive though too complex to be really childlike.
Lowry used flat colour rather than complex layered glazes of classic landscape artists; he often painted spontaneously from imagination onto the canvas, without drawing or planning the works first. Talking of his own working methods, Lowry said that "buildings always come before the figures." Despite his spontaneity he still aimed for visual balance but chose consciously when and how to use the classic tools of perspective and composition:
“Clark Art - 1957 BBC Lowry Documentary’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTJoo-Xhe7s
George Shaw (b1966)
The Uncovered Cover' 2015-2016
'Scenes from the Passion: Late' 2002
'The Old Country' 2015-2016
'Black Magic', 2014
'The new houses' 2011
A british artist working creating photo-realistic, images of suburban Britain of the 1960’s-70’s . Often in dour colours.
In detail they remind me of Dürer, and I find them evocative though oppressive – dank woodland, banal urban and semi-urban spaces and half-forgotten. Although there are no people I read them as though through the eyes of a watching child: they are the utilitarian spaces created by default and used by adults but inhabited by children. I can smell the rank underpass, fetid streams round the back of housing estates. Unusually Shaw used Humbrol enamel paints to create these highly detailed works and photo-realistic works.
Vija Celmins (b1938)
Untitled (Spider Web), 2000
'Night Sky 3' 2002
'IKB45 Blue' 1960
Another exploration of photo-realism, but so different from Shaw: these are monochrome graphite drawings, detailed and painstaking, but they each focus on a single element: the surface of water, clouds, a clear night-sky, a spider web. From 1981 onwards, Celmins was worked with a wide variety media, including erasers to selectively removing darkness from images, and achieving subtle control of grey tone, often exploring negative space.
Celmins produces detailed images of nature but without the usual tools such as framing or perspective; no reference points to direct the eye, no horizon or depth of field and landmarks to navigate by.
“The location, constellation, or scientific name are all unknown - there is no information imparted.”
See Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vija_Celmins 20:17, 19/06/17.
Peter Doig (b1959)
'The Architects Home In The Ravine' 1991
'White creep' 1995-6
Such a contrast to the previous artists: energetic and atmospheric, vibrant colour and a painterly style; some, ('White creep') are more realistic in style, while meany are abstracted and dreamlike ('Grasshopper'). I find these more appealing than Celmins' work as Doig shows wider views often with a strong sense of enigmatic narrative.
Wikipedia: ‘Many of Doig's paintings are landscapes, somewhat abstract, with a number harking back to the snowy scenes of his childhood in Canada. He draws inspiration for his figurative work from photographs, newspaper clippings, movie scenes, record album covers and the work of earlier artists like Edvard Munch. His landscapes are layered formally and conceptually, and draw on assorted art historical artists, including Munch, H.C. Westermann, Friedrich, Monetand Klimt. While his works are frequently based on found photographs (and sometimes on his own) they are not painted in a photorealist style. Doig instead uses the photographs simply for reference. In a 2008 interview, Doig referred to his use of photographs and postcards as painting "by proxy" and noted that his paintings "made no attempt to reflect setting.”’
See video: https://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/trinidad-tobago/articles/peter-doig-revolutionising-landscape-painting/
John Virtue (b1947)
'View of Green Haworth from the North'
'Accrington from the Coppice'
John Virtue is another British landscape artist with a unique style and approach: mostly working in black & white with varying degrees of abstraction. The works convey, for me, energy and movement, mood and atmosphere. Some landscapes containing both wild moorland and villages huddling together against the elements above; cityscapes dark & moody with an energy and atmosphere, in which familiar landmarks emerge from formless darkness.
His largely monochrome work contrasts starkly from early landscape artists such as Dürer or Lorrain: he seems to describe real places but they are partially obscured, painterly drips and smears cross the pictures but the architectural forms retain a degree of perspective, areas of light and dark move the eye around the picture and I find they convey a heavy sense of drama, though it is less prescribed than with earlier painters.
Nicholas Herbert (b 1955)
Landscape L891 Near Bison Hill, The Chiltern Hills. 2015 18 x 13cm. Mixed media on white paper.
Herbert's landscapes are again far removed from both classical landscape artists and photorealism, but reminiscent of Turner as energy, movement and mood take precedence over visual detail. But neither are they totally abstract, and like Turner, Herbert retains the essential structures.
It's a style that I relate to far more at an emotional level: it feels less posed but more responsive and guttural. Herbert still uses layered colour and tone to retain essential forms & structures but the artist's marks are, like John Virtue, more visible, which for me brings one closer to the artist and makes the work more personal.
‘Silent Spaces’ is a series of mixed media landscapes inspired by the chalk uplands, wooded hillsides and secluded valleys of the Chiltern Hills. "I use my physical and emotional experiences of this area to capture within these works the essence of the landscape, its enduring mass, transient atmospherics and ephemeral qualities of light, as well as to express my own meditative thoughts, personal memories and those subconscious responses that I inevitably take from having been there."'