Still Life And Landscape Art

By Coleen Torres

History painting, portraiture and genre painting were considered to be the most important genres in painting for centuries. Still life and landscape art are on the fifth and the fourth place of this Academy's hierarchy. But, if you stop and think fr a while, you will surely remember that some of the most exciting pictures you have ever seen certainly belong to these two genres. Just remember some masterpieces such as Van Gogh's Sunflowers.

Until sixteenth century, still life was rarely painted. If you would like to describe this genre, the easiest thing to say is that artists paint inanimate objects, natural or manufactured. You will find one interesting description in the Tate museum Glossary. It says that they paint anything that doesn't move or is dead. Natural objects are often food or flowers, and made ones books or vases.

Early works often involved symbolism, especially when it comes to flowers. Lilies were often featured, as a symbol of purity. Later on, some other artists enjoyed painting something simply because these objects were interesting for their shape or their color, or maybe texture. Cezanne was one of them, and he made some really lovely pieces.

The first recognized major work of Western still life is Caravaggio's basket of fruits. It was painted in 1596. During the early 1600s, this genre became popular in the Netherlands. These early works were mostly religious and symbolic. Floral motifs were especially prominent. Flowers were appreciated for their grace and fragrance, and paintings immortalized these values.

Breakfast and banquet motifs are very popular as well. Other popular themes are games and vanities. All pictures have one thing in common. The background is in dark, gray tones, tan colored, in one word, neutral. Main motif is usually bright colored, and there are some elements in gold and silver. Skulls, watches and similar objects are there to remind us of our mortality.

Landscape art, on the other hand, emerged at the same time, but with different motifs. It feature nature, including water, mountains, woods, vegetation, rivers and lakes. Some works are highly realistic, while others are impressionistic or idealized, depending on the period. Predominant is oil, but numerous artists rather use water colors or pastels. You will also find mixed techniques.

This genre became independent in the sixteenth century, but landscapes can be found much earlier. After that, it was recognized and accepted. Today, contemporary art feature modern motifs. Some popular motifs are roads, different buildings and other things surrounding modern people.

In China, landscape art was highly appreciated long before. Western artists did paint them, but only as a background for their real motifs, mostly for different human activities. When Flemish and Dutch schools emerged in the seventeenth century, things have changed. Some famous artists such as Vermeer rose interest for this type of paintings. They finally became appreciated.

Nineteenth century gave birth to some of the most beautiful examples of landscape art. Mostly made in England and France, by artists such as Constable, Turner, Camille Pissarro and Renoir, these pictures can really take your breath away. Human figures can be presented in the background, but if they have no importance at all, the picture is still considered as landscape.

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