My responce to landscape photography



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Landscapes of the sublime

In aesthetics, the sublime is the quality of greatness, beauty and wonder. Awe inspiring, moving and spiritual, capable of invoking calming or romantic feelings.

Landscapes are one of the richest and most lasting subjects in art. Artists have been painting landscapes for hundreds of years trying to capture the inspiration and emotions conjured up by natural landscapes.

Landscapes have been portrayed in art following styles and fashions of their day. The paintings have included fine art water colours and oils of breath taking views that have photographic qualities recording in great detail and accuracy the views. These paintings have not only served as pieces of art, but before photography they were a method of recording scenes from faraway lands that could be brought back to their home countries to be exhibited to the public.

‘St. Peter’s in Rome: View from above the Arco Scuro, near Pope Julius’ Villa’, by William Pars (1742-82), 1777, Rome, Italy, watercolour. Museum no. P.31-1932


Landscapes subjects that were painted as commissions would usually be of scenes, buildings or views dictated by the commissioning patron. They were typically vanity paintings that were to include lands, family members, animals or buildings that would be used to show their wealth and status. Country views of contented farmers and labourers.

Mr and Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough (c.1750)


Views included ancient monuments and ruins and imagined scenes or landscapes from history or ancient Greek, Roman or Biblical texts. The romantic poets such as Browning or Wordsworth summoned up idyllic images that were very popular and artists wanted to repeat in visual form.

Time and fashions changed and with the development of photography as a method and art form that could capture in minute detail the landscapes, artists were able to experiment and freely interpret and try and capture the essence of a landscape. To include in the art the feelings and emotions, and take more liberties to paint in interpretive style. Artists such as Turner, his early landscapes are very accurate recordings, his later paintings are emotional paintings of light than accuracy or detail.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1775 – 1851 ), Mortlake Terrace, 1827, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.109
Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775 – 1851, Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway. 1844

The change in landscapes also changed what was considered landscape subject material. The changes because of the spread of industrialisation of land, the canals and railways, improvements of roads, the expanse of cities, housing and factories due to the industrial revolution. The need for trees for building materials, the increasing populations that needed more land for agriculture the cutting down of trees and forests, the slow changes and intensification of farming practices were changing the environment and the landscapes.

Photography enabled images of exotic and distant lands to be photographed as well as geographically closer landscapes. These photographs have created a geographic and historic archive and social document of how a place looked, what people did and wore and went about their daily business.

Mill at Hurst Green 1859
Roger Fenton, Mill at Hurst Green. 1859.


Mill at Hurst Green (1859) by Fenton shows a Victorian attitude to landscape that is seen as an ideal country village scene. These photographs show a simple clean desirable place that would contrast with the town or city life of Victorian times that would be crowded and busy, dirty and grimy with industry.

Conwy Valley, 1890. Francis Frith Collection


These tranquil scenes are emulated today. The landscape has been affected by man-made structures, these can be buildings or walls, footpaths or roads that dissect and introduce lines across a landscape.

Boardale farm picture

Boardale, Cumbria From Land Fay Godwin 1985


Helen Dixon a contemporary British landscape photographer, her style is to photograph landscapes with dramatic skies.

Sunflower field by Helen Dixon



Marc Adamus – American photographer that takes landscapes rich and vivid in colour and dramatic skies

Summer storm in Arizona by Marc Adamus


Reference Material

Mark Loveday PowerPoint presentation: Landscape of the sublime.

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