introduction to the history of landscape painting

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome to September’s Oil Painting Blog.

We are delighted to be back after such an amazing Summer. We have a jam-packed series of blogs ready and waiting to be released to you each month as we roll on into the Autumn / Winter including a fabulous Christmas edition.

This month we are going to begin on a gentle note to ease you all back in again with a 4 Key Point Introduction to the History of Landscape Painting – A Beginner’s Guide. *

Key Point 1 – The History of Landscape Painting – When it all Began – An Introduction

Landscape painting is a relatively new development in Western Art.

Whereas, in Oriental Art, its history dates back more than 1,000 years. [1]

Initially, in Chinese Art, for example, it began, as a way to narrate stories and poems. It was predominantly monochromatic, using black ink on silk, then moving to paper after its invention in the 1st Century. This style of art, concentrated on brushstrokes and a water/mountain theme. [2]

Travelers Among Mountains and Streams

Travelers Among Mountains and Streams
Fan Kuan
Song Dynasty (960-1279)

In European Art, around the 16th Century, Albrecht Altdorfer is considered by many to have painted the first “pure” landscape. He along with the Danube School of Landscape Art, of which he was a member, is accredited with transforming landscape art into an independent genre of its own right. [3]

Landscape with Footbridge (1517-20) Albreact Altdorfer

Landscape with Footbridge
Albreact Altdorfer

National Gallery, London

Landscape with Castle near Regensburg

Landscape with Castle near Regensburg
Albreact Altdorfer

Alte Pinakothek, Munich Germany

Prior to this, and particularly in the Renaissance period, landscapes were generally treated by artists, including Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer as backdrops in their paintings. [4]

The Baptism of Christ

The Baptism of Christ
Oil on Wood
Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Adoration of the Magi (1504)

Adoration of the Magi
Oil On Wood
Albreacht Dürer

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Key Point 2 – Landscape Painting – What Exactly is it?

Landscape painting is the depiction of natural scenery in art. Such paintings can capture mountains, valleys, bodies of water, fields, trees and forests, coasts and may or may not include man-made structures as well as people. [5]

Sky is almost always included in the view, and the weather is often an element of the composition. [6]

The Starry Night, Saint Rémy

The Starry Night, Saint Rémy
Vincent Van Gogh

The Museum of Modern Art

Slushy Landscapes

Slushy Landscapes (with Figures)
Peter Doig

Private Collection

View of Toledo

View of Toledo
El Greco


Key Point 3 – Landscape Painting – How did it Develop?

In the 17th Century, artists from the Dutch and Flemish schools began to concentrate on light and weather, leading to a period know as the Dutch Golden Age [7] which was influenced by Italianate and realist styles. Figures became smaller and/or were used to depict scale within the paintings.

In England, artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, used landscape painting to show off the houses and estates of their wealthy patrons. [8]

Mr and Mrs Andrews 1750

Mr and Mrs Andrews
Thomas Gainsborough

National Gallery, London

In France, Jean – Antoine Watteau (combined beautiful scenery with outdoor conviviality and Jean-Honore Fragonard produced frothy foliage and clouds. [9]

Landscape Painting with Waterfall

Landscape with Waterfall
Jean-Antoine Watteau
The Winter Palace

The Swing – (L’Escarolette)

The Swing – (L’Escarolette)
Jean-Honore Fragonard

Wallace Collection, London

After the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, and with contributions from artists such as J.M.W Turner and John Constable landscape painting really thrived as an artform.

The lake of Lucerne from Brunnen

The lake of Lucerne from Brunnen
J.M.W Turner

Private Collection

Branch Hill Pond (1821)

Branch Hill Pond
John Constable

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Key Point 4 – Landscape Painting – Turn of the Century Advancements

While Turner most certainly pushed landscape painting to the forefront, other advancements such as the invention of the metal paint tube and ferrule on brushes, the colour wheel, the plein air pochade, new premixed paint and colours, coupled with developments in steam travel allowed landscape painting to expand to new horizons and indeed new movements such as impressionism, neo-impressionism, favism, tonalism and expressionism to name a few.


The Haystacks
Claude Monet

Golfe Juan
Paul Signac

Worchester Art Museum


Mountains at Collioure
André Derain

National Gallery of Art, Washington


Sun Rise
George Innes

The Met, New York


London, Large Thames View 1, 1926
Oskar Kokoschka

Buffalo AKG Art Museum

So that’s it, our round-up on the introduction to the history of landscape painting, we hope you enjoyed this month’s oil painting blog. Next month, we have a choice of blogs to choose from so it will either be more on landscape painting looking at artists such as Casper David Friedrich and whom they influenced, landscape paint palettes, how to go about painting a landscape or something totally different. So, keep posted for our next one.

Best Wishes

* As always, I am not affiliated with any brands, stores, or persons I may or may not mention and your use of any of these products, links and the like are your own risk and it’s up to you to do your research/homework before you use them. This is just my opinion and experience.

[1] Art, The Definite Visual Guide (Dorling Kindersley 2008), pg 18

[2] E A Lòpez, ‘All you need to know about Chinese Landscape Paintings…’ (Online 11 March 2020) >accessed 05 September 2022

[3] Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, ‘Albrecht Altdorfer (?), ca. 1480-Ratisbon, 1538’ (Online 2022) >accessed 05 September 2022

[4] F. Scarfe, ‘How to Paint Atmospheric Landscapes in Acrylics’ (Search Press Limited 2017), pg 39.

[5] Blumberg, Naomi. “landscape painting”. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3 Apr. 2020, Accessed 5 September 2022

[6] painting

[7] F. Scarfe, ‘How to Paint Atmospheric Landscapes in Acrylics’ (Search Press Limited 2017), pg 39

[8] Ibid

[9] Author unknown >accessed 05 September 2022

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