+
3 Tutorials that teach Romantic Landscape Painting
Take your pick:
Romantic Landscape Painting

Romantic Landscape Painting

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will overview the visual style and issues of Romanticism and the Hudson River School.

(more)
See More

Try Sophia’s Art History Course. For Free.

Our self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

An overview of Romantic landscape painting.

Video Transcription

Download PDF

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

Today's objectives or the things we're going to learn today are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe influences on romantic landscape painting, and identify examples of romantic landscape painting.

Key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lessons. First key term is pastoral-- a scene that shows man's dominion over nature. Picturesque-- in landscape painting it refers to the charm of human nature in an undisturbed state. Hudson River School-- American, 19th century art movement characterized by landscape painters, romanticism, and themes illustrating the Hudson River Valley, Catskills, Adirondack, and the White Mountain area.

Manifest Destiny-- a doctrine held by many Americans beginning in the 19th century which believes in a divinely granted right of expansion. Transcendentalism-- a 19th century philosophical and spiritual movement with stresses the intuitive over the empirical. And sublime-- an aesthetic quality in nature during the 18th century, distinct from beauty, expressing awe and fear simultaneously.

And the big idea today-- that landscape painting became an important aspect of romanticism in how the landscape was used as a metaphor for the unification of the soul with nature. And this idea of nature being permeated by an universal spirit is a very transcendentalist idea. We'll be looking at artwork that dates from between 1799 and 1836.

We'll be traveling to Dresden, Germany, London, England, and New York state. All romantic landscape painting takes the idea of romanticism, but applies them to-- wait for it-- landscape painting. Now romantic landscape painting therefore is typically characterized by the following elements-- subject matter that incorporates the ideas of the picturesque or landscaping worthy of being painted. Manifest destiny, our divine right to expand the country. The sublime, which was a simultaneous awe and fear of nature. The incorporation of ruins like we saw in French Baroque landscape painting, and images of the past world.

So this first painting is a great example of the importance of the incorporation of ruins into a landscape painting. It's a landscape painting for sure, but what makes it different than other types of landscapes? Well, remember romanticism and dark romanticism are genres of art that have this idea of the sublime. And in the case of dark romanticism, this notion of decay and death permeates throughout them.

Now this entire landscape is evocative of death. Humans, nature, and even the seemingly eternal construction of a church-- Gothic in this case-- none of these things last forever. That's a sober reminder of the inevitability of death and all things, but also shows the interconnect in this that exists between all things.

John Constable's painting, "The Haywain", is a visual owed to the pastoral and idyllic English countryside. Now Constable believed that paintings that depicted landscapes were as important as history paintings, and his work was a carefully constructed nostalgic view of a small family farm. It also proves a bit foreboding depending on your interpretation.

The cultural influence in the Industrial Revolution was apparent. Constable was uncomfortable with the way in which the English countryside was changing as more and more small farms were disappearing from the English landscape. He always felt that this image's depiction of the sky and the dark clouds that seemed to loom overhead may have been Constable's view, or Constable's way, rather, of foreshadowing what felt was to come.

So this concept of the sublime is important in romantic artwork. The next three examples that we'll look at explore this concept in slightly different ways. Now J.M.W. Turner's painting, "The Slave Ship", explores the sublime to the subject matter. Insurance companies at the time would only compensate owners for slaves lost at sea, not slaves that died of natural causes. To avoid a financial loss, the captain of the slave ship ordered all the sick and dying to be tossed overboard.

The sublime beauty of the boiling sea and the fiery sky, and the ship heading into the approaching typhoon almost overshadow the drama happening in the foreground. You can see the arms and the hands in shackles of slaves as they are being pulled underwater.

On a cheerier note, we'll take a look at some beautiful landscape paintings from the Hudson River School. The Hudson River School wasn't an official school in the traditional sense, or institution, but rather a group of artists who shared a similar vision and method of painting. Now this group of artists is known particularly for its dramatic scenes of the American wilderness like this painting called "The Oxbow" by artist Thomas Cole.

Now, an oxbow is that loop shape feature that you can see here in the Connecticut River. American landscapes lacked the availability of ancient ruins like the landscapes of Europe. So Cole argued that the breathtaking features of the American wilderness should be considered its natural ruins further enhanced the sublime beauty of the scene by his composition in the quick retreat of the foreground off a steep clip, which forces our attention back into the landscape immediately. And recession of a passing storm into the background also contributes to this feeling of awe.

Now Hudson River School artists like Thomas Cole were consistent in their subject matter choices that consisted of distinctive landscapes of the Northeastern region of the United States, such as the Hudson Valley, the namesake of the school, the Catskill Mountains, and the Adirondack Mountains.

19th century American romanticism and its subject matter correlated with the westward movement into a new frontier, and the growth of a young nation. Now the justification for the territorial expansion is a means of promoting and defending democracy can be summarized in the widely held belief, or doctrine known as Manifest Destiny, which is essentially our divine right to expand.

Now Albert Bierstadt's painting of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is an expression of Manifest Destiny. Bierstadt was part of the Hudson River School and traveled west as part of several expansion journeys. His beautiful paintings exhibit the Hudson River School quality of Luminism in which the paintings almost glow in how they depict light. That's a rather amazing characteristic of these works of art. Creating an almost divine presence within the painting and enhances the sheer awe of such an impressive landscape.

Paintings like this would have been the only visual examples for many people of what awaited them out West. And would have served as inspiration, as well as motivation, and the heavenly rewards that were awaiting those that took part in the divine expansion westward.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again and 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 influences on romantic landscape painting? And can you identify examples of romantic landscape painting?

Once again, the big idea for today is that landscape painting became an important aspect of romanticism in how the landscape was used as a metaphor for the unification of the soul with nature. And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Romantic Landscape Painting"

Key Terms

Pastoral

A scene that shows man's dominion over nature.

Picturesque

In landscape painting, it refers to the charm of viewing nature in an undisturbed state.

Hudson River School

American, 19th-century movement characterized by landscape painters, romanticism, and themes illustrating the Hudson River Valley, Catskills, Adirondack and the White Mountain area.

Manifest Destiny

A doctrine held by some Americans beginning in the 19th-century which believes in a divinely granted right of expansion.

Transcendentalism

A 19th-century philosophical and spiritual movement, which stresses the intuitive over the empirical.

Sublime

An aesthetic quality in nature during the 18th-century, distinct from beauty, expressing awe and fear simultaneously.


Citations

Image of Monastery Graveyard in the Snow Public Domain http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/caspar-david-friedrich/monastery-ruins-in-the-snow The Hay Wain; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John_Constable_The_Hay_Wain.jpg The Slave Ship; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Slave-ship.jpg The Oxbow; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cole_Thomas_The_Oxbow_%28The_Connecticut_River_near_Northampton_1836.jpg Among the Sierra Nevadas; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Albert_Bierstadt,_Among_the_Sierra_Nevada_Mountains.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Pastoral

    A scene that shows man's dominion over nature.

  • Picturesque

    In landscape painting, it refers to the charm of viewing nature in an undisturbed state.

  • Hudson River School

    American, 19th-century movement characterized by landscape painters, romanticism, and themes illustrating the Hudson River Valley, Catskills, Adirondack and the White Mountain area.

  • Manifest Destiny

    A doctrine held by some Americans beginning in the 19th-century which believes in a divinely granted right of expansion.

  • Transcendentalism

    A 19th-century philosophical and spiritual movement, which stresses the intuitive over the empirical.

  • Sublime

    An aesthetic quality in nature during the 18th-century, distinct from beauty, expressing awe and fear simultaneously.