Plein Air Art - Looking Back (Part 2) / by Jeannine Cook

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.

Leonardo da Vinci – Landscape (5 agosto 1473) – pen and iron gall ink, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe, degli Uffizi, Florence

Leonardo da Vinci – Landscape (5 agosto 1473) – pen and iron gall ink, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe, degli Uffizi, Florence

Fra_Bartolommeo, The Holy Family with the Infant St John in a Landscape,  1506-07, Thyssen Museum, Madrid

Fra_Bartolommeo, The Holy Family with the Infant St John in a Landscape,  1506-07, Thyssen Museum, Madrid

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.

Albrecht Dürer, The Great Piece of Turf, 1503 watercolor and gouache heightened with white, mounted on cardboard, Albertina Museum, Vienna

Albrecht Dürer, The Great Piece of Turf, 1503 watercolor and gouache heightened with white, mounted on cardboard, Albertina Museum, Vienna

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Aachen Cathedral and the Katschhof, silver point, 1520, British Museum, London

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Aachen Cathedral and the Katschhof, silver point, 1520, British Museum, London

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". 

 Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx, 1515–1524,  Joachim Patinir (1480–1524)., Prado Museum, Madrid

 Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx, 1515–1524,  Joachim Patinir (1480–1524)., Prado Museum, Madrid

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.

Hunters in the Snow (Winter), Pieter Bruegel the Elder, oil on wood, 1565, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Hunters in the Snow (Winter), Pieter Bruegel the Elder, oil on wood, 1565, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Master of the Small Landscapes - Village View, published 1559-1561

Master of the Small Landscapes - Village View, published 1559-1561

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.

Rembrandt, The Three Trees, 1643, etching Metropolitan Museum

Rembrandt, The Three Trees, 1643, etching Metropolitan Museum

r Rembrandt, Landscape with two cottages, ca. 1633, silverpoint, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam

r

Rembrandt, Landscape with two cottages, ca. 1633, silverpoint, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam

Meindert Hobbema, Jan van Goyen, Jacob van Ruisdael, Salomon van Ruysdael and so many others celebrated scenes of their homeland.

View of Haarlem and the Haaarlemmer Meer, 1646,  oil on wood, Jan van Goyen , Dutch,  Metropolitan Museum, New York

View of Haarlem and the Haaarlemmer Meer, 1646,  oil on wood, Jan van Goyen , Dutch,  Metropolitan Museum, New York

Jacob van Ruisdael Dutch, 1628-29–1682 Wheat Fields, Metropolitan Museum, New York

Jacob van Ruisdael Dutch, 1628-29–1682 Wheat Fields, Metropolitan Museum, New York

The Avenue at Middelharnis by Meindert Hobbema. Oil on canvas, 1689. National Gallery, London.

The Avenue at Middelharnis by Meindert Hobbema. Oil on canvas, 1689. National Gallery, London.

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.

A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning c.1636, Peter Paul Rubens, National Gallery, London

A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning c.1636, Peter Paul Rubens, National Gallery, London

Look for Part 3 of this blog on Plein Air Art, coming very shortly.