History of the Landscape in the Painting
Colloquium Landscape and Gardens, in May 30th, 2008

Study of François Murez - www.francois-murez.com

Colloquium organized by the Association Saint-Fiacre Loire-Baratte

Let us take advantage of this chapel of Chaluzy and of her period of construction to place the beginning of this intervention, that is the neighborhood of the 1200s, period of the Middle Ages and time of the cathedrals. The landscape in the Painting does not exist: the Nature is still in this period considered rough in all the spirits, the Painting is only religion.
Then the Christendom of west retracts, the crusaders flow back. By 1350, the big plague makes its devastation. Sociétes decays, the wars rage. Paradoxically, this big moment of contraction of the history corresponds to a period of fertility and cultural progress. If the epidemics and the wars were cruel in certain regions, they spared the others who developed and grew rich. Here, the new richs multiply and appeal to the artists. There, caravels face the oceans and go away more and more. New ways open ; men feel new and invent.
The art of the medieval garden builds up itself. The Nature does not so frighten any more and enters the glance, the vision of the painters.

Giotto, St François (circa 1300)

The landscape, the garden in painting remain however a support. They allow to stage characters and serve background, of bottom, to emphasize religious scenes. Soon, all these elements of the Nature get organized under the brush; the genius of the painters gives them a strength which, gradually, is going to damage the global balance of paintings: it is a painting in the painting.
The motive for the window ( the " veduta ") allows to find the beginning of solution of this dilemma.

Fra Angelico, Announciation (circa 1400)

Van Eyck, The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin (circa 1435)

This specialization in the space of the painting is going to allow the painter to define rules, conventions, prospect and so to free itself from the religious painting. The landscape can become a separate genre.
It does not stay any more in the painter than to enlarge the window and to reduce until forget what surrounds it. This work is going to be progressive.

This window opened on the outside allows to leave, to find a breath and a freedom. The detail taken out of its context is a true painting in itself.

It is what is going to make a German painter, Joachim Patinir (1475 – 1524).

Patinir, St Jerome (circa 1515)

In this painting, the reversal is very clear. The landscape becomes the main object of the painting and the human and religious element looks for itself. The space is panoramic and the very high placed horizon. The representation is not real but contains as much as possible of different geographical elements and often little realistic.
Brueghel follows the same progress. The historians of art call these landscapes: landscapes of the world.

Brueghel (1520 – 1569) , The Hunter in the Snow

In Italy, Utens paints médicéennes villas by 1600 in the same spirit.

Utens, Cafaggiolo & Collesalvetti (between 1599 and 1602)

This landscape of the world, powerful, magnificent, unreal, is then going to become landscape of the man, fragile, limited, real. And as such, the horizon is going to go down to return better to the painter its glance of man. The sky so liberated is going to be place of unfinished, of infinity.

Van Goyen, Landscape with 2 oaks (1641)

Rembrandt, The 3 trees (1643)

Van Goyen's painting and Rembrandt's engraving have the same composition but the opposite light.

The landscape then becomes classic. The nature has to comply and respect the precise rules of the painter to aim towards the ideal of Beauty.

Nicolas Poussin (1594 -1665), Apollon and Daphné

Lorrain (1604 – 1682), Landscape

Then, the landscape becomes romantic. Several tendencies show themselves. I would retain only that of Turner, English painter, having frequented the edges of the Loire. Turner liquefies his landscapes; the watercolor facilitates him its researches.

Turner, Scenes on the Loire, circa 1800

In opposition with the previous period when the landscape is construction regulated by the imagined, these landscapes are colors which gather the moment of the felt. The drawing fades slowly and this disappearance will give rise to the impressionistic landscape.
As Turner, Corot is a precursor.

Corot, Willows

The impressionistic landscape is the fulfillment of the genre. The touch of the painter becomes shivers and vibrations. Willows, very present in the Baratte, liquefy and melt into the water which bathes their feet.

Auguste Renoir, Willow and boat

The material does not have objectivity anymore, the constructed does not exist any more. The light, only moment of the painting, floods with its variations in colors, the eye of the painter.

Monet, The two willows

The painter is not more than an eye and the hand directly commanded by this organ without passage by the intellectual, constructed and emotional.
To some, the eye of the painter is drived by an aggravated sensibility, by a fear of the life as at Van Gogh. The eye always commands the hand but through emotional restless one.

Vincent Van Gogh, Iris

To others, the emotional is serene.

class=titreb>E. Steichen, Clara Steichen in her garden, 1908.

In the twentieth century, materialistic and consumer-oriented society, industrialization and communication make throw out the landscape of the painting, because this one is foreign to the technological utopias and to the artificial worlds, the symbols turned out the power of the man.

A painter can suffer from it until the suicide.

Nicolas de Staël, Sicile 1954

The destroyed, amputated landscapes, the deformed nature bring however the artist to return towards this subject and to consider it again to mean all the fragility.

Olivier Debré, Iris

François Murez, La Baratte, Lettuces, 2006

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