This is the second blog entry in a long look-back at the heritage of plein air artists.
Soon Renaissance artists were celebrating nature in their works. We all know the dreamy landscape behind the Mona Lisa but Leonardo da Vinci, with his fiercely intense gaze, was studying nature in drawings and storing images for his paintings. Fra Barolomeo was doing the same thing to a certain extent, producing lyrical settings for his relgious paintings.
Albrecht Dürer was clearly working from nature and some of his most famous works are watercolours or gouache studies. His silverpoint travel journal of 1520 too is full of plein air drawings. a little later, Titian too celebrated scenes from northern Italy in the background of some of his paintings, but they were nonetheless idealised to a degree.
The Northern artists were meanwhile developing their own versions of landscape painting, some idealised, such as Joachim Patinir whose 1515-24 version of a high viewpoint of a wide landscape was an innovation and categorised as "world landscape".
Increasingly, landscapes formed part of their paintings. Peter Breughel the Elder used winter scenery to great effect, as well as more idealised scenes for seasons of the year.
Interestingly, there is a series of drawings, clearly done from real life, by the Master of the Small Landscapes in the mid-16th century, and when these were published by Hieronymus Cock and became known in artistic circles, they helped push Dutch landscape painting into a definite category as opposed to being part of the world landscape tradition. Later, this genre sub-divided into true landscapes and scenes from urban life, as artists responded to the evolving market of wealthy middle class patrons living in smaller homes.
Perhaps the culmination of Dutch landscape art came with Rembrandt's drawings and etchings and the 17th century marine scenes and amazing paintings of light, atmosphere, clouds and the flat scenery of the Low Country as it was so aptly called.
Meindert Hobbema, Jan van Goyen, Jacob van Ruisdael, Salomon van Ruysdael and so many others celebrated scenes of their homeland.
Rubens too loved to paint landscapes, mainly for relaxation. His scenes evoke not only the Dutch countryside but the artists who had led the way for him, like, Breughel, Titian, even Roelant Savery.
Look for Part 3 of this blog on Plein Air Art, coming very shortly.