Journal directory listing - Volume 31-41 (1986-1996) - Volume 33 (1988)

Before the Impressionism - The Embryonic Stage and Development of Western Landscape Painting Author: Wang Che-Hsiung


Landscape painting originated from the love of nature, in pre-historic ages, NATURE and DANGER were almost synonyms. People hardly mentioned it with a feeling of awe. The praise of nature's beauty only existed in poets' works, handed down to us only in written forms. While in medieval ages, religious figures were the major objects of artists' portrayal. If Giotto had given up the gold foil for the sketchy sky, hills and trees as the background of his paintings of religious figures, and let's suppose the would-be landscape background had been regardedas the origin of landscape painting, it might have taken even logner time and more efforts by those artists who had unusual passion for nature to promote the place of landscapr painting in fine arts from that of unnoticeable background or foil to that of an independent genre.
In the first place, the daily plates of religious lessons in a calender form painted by Pol de Limbourg brothers for le duc de Berry have been considered to be one of the masterpieces in the history of landscape painting. Nevertheless, it is at most the <<1'enluminure>> in religious books.
Due to the emerging of the humanism in the Renaissance, painters were beginning to follow Aristotle's concept that "art is the imitation of nature." They endeavored to duplicate nature with their boundless imagination. Of course, at that time, landscape paintig only had its role as "background" though. The pure landscape painting grew to maturity around the seventeenth century. There were outstanding landscape painters in Netherlands, Flanders and Italy. In particular, there appeared a special kind of Indscape painting of "pastoral scenery" in Netherlands, which was totally different from the Italian landscape painting of noble temperament whose subject matters were mostly about historical events. Among them, Ruysdael and Hobbema are two of the best. The French painters Poussin and Lorrain, Who lived in Italy most of the time, devoted themselves to the elaboration of the style for landscape painting and first led us to. taking notice of "light" as an important factor in this kind of painting. This is actually a big step in the development of landscape painting.
Affected by King Louis XV's boast of France's "peace and prosperity", French landscape painters in the eighteenth century had shifted their preferrence to the elegant banquet style. However, Fragonard and Hubert Robert still stuck to the development of comparatively simpler rural landscape painting. Above all, Moreau's translation of the real landscape had already contained a touch of realism.
Pure landscape painting didn't gain the ground they deserved until the nineteenth century. In other words, they had undergone different stages such as the background to figure paintings, the vehicle of historic painting of didatic formality for academic school, and the insturment of moral preaching before they became pure appraisal of nature. By that time, artists were beginning to make through observation of the real scenery in nature. Romantic landscape painter Michel, created a new style of "desolate" paintings. Whereas Paul Huet introduced the "Shakespearean" tragic scenery. By then, French landscape painting began to play a very important role in art history. Certainly we couldn't possibly neglect the influence of British Romantic landscape painters Constable and Bonington on French lanscape painters.
During the apex of landscape painting, the masters of <> like Theodore Rousseau, Dupre, Diaz, and Troyon made their efforts to establish Paris as the world center of art in place of Rome. On the one hand, the art of Barbizonean landscape painting was subjective, in that they advocated the landscape painting should be the expression of the painter's rnind. On the other hand, it is objective. That is to say, the painter delineated the real landscape. Therefore, they paid much attention to painting from real life in nature. This paved the way for the masters of impressionism like Monet, Renoir, Sisley and Pissarro and thus facilitated their study.

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