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French Baroque Landscape Painting

French Baroque Landscape Painting

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will introduce the Baroque in France, focusing in particular on landscape painting.

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Tutorial

An overview of French Baroque landscape painting.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about French Baroque landscape painting.

As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms. Describe the stylistic differences between French Baroque and Dutch landscape paintings from this time. And identify examples of French Baroque landscape paintings.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow. First key term is Poussinistes-- a group of conservative French artists in the 17th century who believed drawing was more important than color. Rubenistes believed that color, not drawing, was superior due to its being more true to nature. Grand Manner-- during the 17th and 18th centuries, the highest category of painting, equivalent to history painting. It made stylistic references to classical Greece and the Renaissance. The big idea for today is that the landscape paintings of Nicolas Poussin were very different from Dutch landscape paintings, and refrained from including the minute details and accurate depictions of landscapes in favor of more idealized interpretations.

We'll be looking at the time period from 1639 to 1655. And once again, I've marked the 30 Year's War ending in 1648 as a reference. Once again, we're returning to France. And it's important to point out that during the 17th century, France was becoming a very major political power, which culminated with the reign of Louis the XIV.

The influence of classical Italian art is evident in paintings by French Baroque landscape painters like Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. Lorrain had an interest in the effects of natural phenomena of atmospheric conditions, including weather, and included them in his paintings. Like Poussin, he incorporated ancient ruins and references to classical antiquity into his paintings, wherever he also made prefatory sketches that observed the effects of sunlight, which he reproduced in his paintings, such as the effects that suggest a hazy glow or summer afternoon in this painting, and the excellent execution of atmospheric perspective and how the middle ground fades into the almost transparent hills on the horizon. The bridge serves to connect the foreground with the middle ground.

The emphasis here is clearly on the landscape. There's no discernible story that seems to be unfolding. The figures within seem to function only as some human interest amongst the beauty of the French countryside.

The Poussin, a contemporary of Lorrain, was another very well-known and respected landscape painter. Where Lorrain emphasized the landscape almost exclusively, Poussin told a story set within the landscape. This emphasis of a narrative story differs from the less specific or perhaps more ordinary stories depicted in the genre paintings of the Dutch. In fact, Poussin had stated that he was opposed to lowly subjects and minute details, which are defining characteristics of Dutch genre paintings.

The Burial of Phocion tells a story of an Athenian general name Phocion falsely accused of treason and put to death. Being carried to his burial location by two buriers away from the classical city in the middle ground. The trail of two buriers winds its way through the landscape, past farmers or shepherds, and other individuals that casually go about their business.

Although based on a story, this event isn't depicted in any particular period of time. The city appears to be a collection of classical structures and local buildings, rather than a specific place. It's a timeless portrayal of a classic story.

The classical themes and Renaissance artists were clearly influential on the art of Poussin. Et in Arcadia Ego, which roughly translates to "Even in Arcadia, I am present" shows the influence of artists, such as Raphael and the classical pose and structure of the figures. Now, the landscape is thought to be an idyllic version of Arcadia in Greece. Three men, probably shepherds, are huddled around a tomb reading an inscription, which is probably or believed to be making reference to the person who was inside, who once enjoyed this land, as the men do now. Now, the figure of the woman, thought to represent death or perhaps a personification of the actual inscription, reminds the man that death is inevitable.

Now, this painting exemplifies Poussin's style in is interesting Grand Manner subjects, as well as his emphasis of design over color. Now, color was still important to Poussin. He had, after all, been very influenced by the works of artist like Raphael and Titian, who's known for his use of color, in Poussin's travels to Italy.

Now, rather in an overall hierarchy for Poussin, color was second to design. Poussinistes was the name applied to a group of conservative French artists who were members of the Academy and emphasized composition and design over color, versus the Rubenistes, after the Dutch artist Peter Paul Rubens who emphasized color first. This opposition lasted well into the 1800s.

Let's take a look at our objectives again to see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe the stylistic differences between French Baroque and Dutch landscape paintings from this time? And identify examples of French Baroque landscape paintings?

And once again, the big idea for today is that the landscape paintings of Nicolas Poussin were very different from Dutch landscape paintings and refrained from including the minute details and accurate depictions of landscapes in favour of more idealized interpretations. And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "French Baroque Landscape Painting"

Key Terms

Poussinistes

A group of conservative French artists in the 17th century who believed drawing was more important than color.

Rubenistes

Believed that color, not drawing, was superior due to its being more true to nature.

Grand Manner

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the highest category of painting, equivalent to history painting. It made stylistic references to classical Greece and the Renaissance.

Citations

Image of France Map Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:France_location_map-Regions_and_departements.svg; Et in Arcadia Ego; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nicolas_Poussin_052.jpg Burial of Phocion; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Burial_of_Phocion.jpg Claude Lorrain, Village Fete, Public Domain, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Claude_Lorrain_012.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Poussinistes

    A group of conservative French artists in the 17th century who believed drawing was more important than color.

  • Rubenistes

    Believed that color, not drawing, was superior due to its being more true to nature.

  • Grand Manner

    During the 17th and 18th centuries, the highest category of painting, equivalent to history painting. It made stylistic references to classical Greece and the Renaissance.