A Quick History of Landscape Painting in Western Art

The First 3500 Years

More often than not, the paintings that really grab my attention are landscapes, and I like to think I’m a somewhat knowledgeable about them in terms of art history. So, I was surprised to learn recently that the word “landscape” — an anglicization of the Dutch landschap — was only introduced into the language — purely as a term for works of art — around the start of the 17th century. That is not to say that landscapes didn’t exist in art before then … apparently there just wasn’t a word for them.

Spring flowers and swallows, fresco; Akrotiri, Santorini
Book of Hours , folio 14v-15r, by Zanobi Strozzi, c. 1445.
Virgin and Child in an Archway, Petrus Christus, c. 1450
Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest
Paolo Uccello, The Battle of San Romano, c.1440 National Gallery, London.
Camille Corot, Hagar in the Wilderness, 1835. Oil on canvas. Rogers Fund, 1938, Metropolitan Museum, New York
Meindert Hobbema, The Avenue at Middelharnis, 1689
National Gallery, London
Aert van der Neer, Moonlit Landscape with Bridge, c.1650, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Morning in the Riesengebirge, Caspar David Friedrich c.1811. Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany
John Frederick Kensett, Mount Washington, 1869, Wellesley College Museum
Claude Monet, Landscape with Thunderstorm, Vetheuil, 1880
Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany

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