Posted in 01 Thinking about landscape, Coursework

Exercise – 1.3 Establishing Conventions

Using internet search engines and any other resources, find at least 12 examples of eighteenth and nineteenth century landscape paintings. List all of the commonalities you can find across your examples. Consider the same sorts of things as you did for the sketching exercise at the start if Part One. Where possible try to find out why the examples you found were painted. (e.g public or private commission) Your research should provide you with some examples of the visual language and conventions that were known to the early photographers.

Now try to find some examples of landscape photographs from any era that conform to these conventions.

Collate your research and note down your reflections in your learning log.

This was quite a bit easier than the critical essay by Krauss. I really enjoyed searching for the landscape paintings, in fact I spent an evening researching the Oxbow lake by Thomas Cole which I will add in a separate post after this.

I googled 18th and 19th Century Paintings and found the following also searching art websites.

1. Oxbow Lake – painted by Thomas Cole in 1836.  See my full review here


Cole was commissioned by his Patron, Luman Reed to create a series entitled the ‘Course of Empire’ It was to be a ‘series of no less than five paintings.’ Whilst excited at first Cole began to sink into depression as the work was intensely slow. Reed recommended Cole created something for the opening of the National Academy of Design’s annual exhibition. Cole suggested using one of the images from the series he was working on but Reed turned the idea down, feeling it would spoil the unveiling of the series. His next suggestion was to change American landscape painting for ever, Cole was instructed to create a painting much like one from the series he was creating. When Reed had seen it he said ‘no man ever produced a more pleasing landscape in a more pleasing season’ Cole responded in a letter, 
I have already commenced a view from Mt. Holyoke—it is about the finest scene I have in my sketchbook & is well known—it will be novel and I think effective 
The result was ‘The Oxbow, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm’ 
2. A Storm in the rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie. Painted by Albert Beirstadt
Taking a year to paint, Beirstadt created a sketch on location then completed it in his studio in New York. The painting captures a feeling of awe as features of the Rocky Mountains have been greatly exaggerated to generate a feeling of ‘awesomeness’ Whilst a colloquial term and perhaps not suitable for a degree I just feel this word sums up the painting. He wanted the image to inspire and for viewers to be enthralled. Again there is a feeling of this being from a fantastical land and again features an oncoming storm. Whilst not searching for images with storms there do seem to be quite a few of storms and American vistas.
3. Hawe Water by George Alexander 1859holiday_hawes
Whilst not known as a landscape artist Henry George Alexander creating this beautiful scenic watercolour of Hawes Water in the Lake District. With a style reflecting the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood art movement who believed in ‘truth to nature’
This is more calmer and with a feeling of solitude then the storm wracked images above. It has a photorealism to it.
4. Caspar David Friedrich – The Monk by the SeaFriedrich_Caspar_David_Capuchin_Friar_By_The_Sea_o.jpg
A dark romantic landscape artist, Friedrich style differs greatly from the above, focusing greatly on layers, texture and form as opposed to the great detail of those above. As much acclaimed as it was criticised comments were made how the painting lacked the framing device known as repoussoir, an element placed on the left or right foreground designed to draw the eye further into the image. This image inspired many other artists to create something similar despite the criticism.
1920px-James_Abbot_McNeill_Whistler_007.jpg Marc-horse_in_a_landscape.jpg
5. Carl Hallström – Dusk/Twilight  Carl Hallström Tutt'Art@ (19).jpg
A beautiful and evocative painting of the 19th Century artist Carl Hallstrom. I can’t find the reason for which the painting was created.
6. Chasm of the Colorado – Thomas Moran 1873
Yet another American scene, this one is so striking and on first sight I knew I had to include it. Featuring characterful ragged rocks, a dramatic sky and such a perspective it feels like you can reach into the distance. Hundreds of sketches built up into this epic vista of Arizona.
7. Hardekoolbome – Bosveld  by  Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957)
I love the contrast of this painting to all the others, a 19th Century South African painting, the colours are so fresh and vibrant, whilst the corner is dark the image shimmers with light and once again we see the dramatic clouds rolling in. It’s immediately obvious that this image is different to the ones above, I would say it had the most similarity with John Alexander Hawes Water. You look at it and know it’s from a different continent than America or UK or the Swedish artist. And I love that, it’s uniqueness brings something fresh and new to the list I’m compromising here.
‘Pierneef realised that he was setting the trend for a unique South African style’ – wikipedia
8. Jules Dupré –
I have chosen a famous French landscape painting here by the acclaimed Jules Dupré. According to Wikipedia, he learned how to express movement in nature. And this can be seen here, the brush strokes imitate the plaufyllness of the wind in the trees and the ever changing weather. I like how the cloud brushstrokes are reflected in the pool of water. Again though I searched I struggled to find why this was painted, but I do know that he loved showing the majesty of nature which he believed was spiritual, and appealingly that trees were elements linking heaven and earth together.
9.Unknown by Shemyon Shchedrin in 1796.
Though featuring a Russian scene, this image is more of an echo of Western works at the time, the landscape “Not only are the gardens landscaped to imitate Western taste, but the landscape itself is more evocative of Western Europe than the Baltic seaboard.”
10. Yosemite Valley by Thomas Hill 1867
Thomas Hill was an America artist who created beautiful paintings of many areas included Yosemite. He accompanied the photographer Benjamin West Kilburn who was famous for creating stereographs. These stereographs were probably Hill’s reference when he created his paintings in his studio.
11.  by Lazlo Neogrady44.jpg
Lazlo Neogrady, a Hungarian artists speciality was painting natural landscapes (which usually featured forests under a thick snow) and using the art technique impasto, where paint is laid so thickly on the canvas or paper that it can be scraped off giving it an almost three dimension appearance. This is probably why his paintings feel like you could step into them.
12. Man Strolling in Wooded Landscape by A.A. Mills76254acaf6f029888f7e214559973ffc.jpg
The final image I chose is yet again American, however this painting resonated with me, the feeling of peacefulness, of solitude.
Thought – One thing I noticed when searching for landscape paintings of that era in google images, is that the large majority of them seemed to from American artists of American vistas. To mix up the selection I added British art and searched for some other countries. I’d be interested to undertake some research as to where landscape painting originated.
Whilst reading about American landscape painting, I came across the Powell Survey. Initiated in 1873, it was a brain child of John Wesley Powell (a Civil war veteran who had become a geologist) and the English painter, Thomas Moran (who painted the image above, Chasm of the Colorado) initiated the Powell Survey, a cartographical and scientific exploration to create a representation of the Colorado and the Green river and unexplored parts of the canyon. Part of the exploration was also to create narrative records and visual creations. A decade long exploration there was great hard ship and near drownings all to create an ‘accurate image of the native cultures and natural landscapes of the American West’ Cartographers, photographers, artists were among those hired.
‘Painters of the late 19th century were intimately familiar with geology, cartography and exploration. Landscape topics were ripe metaphors for expansionism and exceptionalism, and popular with merchants and industrialists who were major patrons of the arts.’
It was fascinating and very enjoyable seeking out these landscape artists, some of them were easier to track down than others, it’s sad to see the paintings that have no names and very little information about them. Perhaps this was meant to a quick exercise and spending time over two days is a little excessive but I feel that my own art is benefiting from noticing the techniques employed in these paintings, I love hearing what inspired the artist. My favourite two images are Ox-bow and Chasm of Colorado. Both are intensely dramatic, powerful and have a beautiful mastery of light.
Similar Compositional Devices
I noted the following of the twelve paintings
  • The majority focused on nature, the wilderness of landscape and humans occupancy upon it. However the human aspect was not a main feature at all, in fact a time traveller or someone who had no experience of the landscape then may have thought that people had not settled as very few settlements are shown.
  • People are included but not greatly and usually serve to provoke emotion, relation or interest. This is a great dispute of modern photography, should people be included. In response to this my tutor said, ‘the landscape doesn’t exist without people. It exists in people’s heads.
  • The majority followed the compositional tool placing the horizon in either the lower third of the image or the upper third. Only two ran the horizon directly through the centre of the image.
  • Whilst they all are absorbing and beautifully executed paintings only a few of them featured a very clear focal point. And in most of those cases it was of a person. Perhaps that is more to our viewing as we instinctively are drawn to another person in the landscape, even if that figure is so tiny in a a panoramic vista.
  • Weather features greatly. Of the twelve images, eight paintings all featured a turbulent sky, whether a fearsome storm as in the Ox-bow or a swirling creation in Jacobus Pierneef.
  • Several of the images followed the rule of thirds. Placing the main focus on one of the invisible compositional lines. The ones where they used a bulls eye composition were very striking especially as in ‘Man Strolling in Wooded landscape’
  • Only, Monk by the Sea and Shemyon Shchedrin’s featured any empty space. It works especially well with the ‘Monk by the Sea’ as the desolation of the landscape is echoed in the empty sky.
  • Lead in lines feature greatly. I feel this is especially powerful in ‘Chasm of the Colorado’ as I mentioned above, for a moment I forget I was looking at a painting.
  • The colours used are of nature, green’s and blues excluding the sunrise/set of Twilight.
  • Depending on the brush stroke all capture a feeling of texture increasing the illusion of three dimensionality.
  • Trees and mountains serve as natural framing to add interest and serve in leading the eye where the artist so wanted.
  • All feature great vistas, a splendour of nature.
  • They are all painted in a landscape composition as opposed to portrait.
  • Whilst this perhaps reflects on my own interests in art I have tried to select a variety of art work. The overall feel of them however would have to be dramatic, thunderous sky, bright contrast, dark moody atmosphere, however there are the optimistic and bright paintings like the Russian painting and the one of the Lake District. And of course the South African artist which has a very positive air about it, bright colours, bright light, beautiful.
Now try to find some examples of landscape photographs from any era that conform to these conventions.
My first thought was Ansel Adams, he captured the drama and power of whatever he shot which I felt was also a feature of Thomas Hill’s Ox-bow. You can see the two bear similarities (though Adam’s photo is of the Snake River. Both are dark on the left hand side and feature a sweeping sky. The river begins from the right hand corner. One difference is the compositional placement of the horizon. The painting features it straight across the middle whereas Adam’s is in the upper top half. There is deep contrast and a sharpness. It’s quite poignant the relation they both have. Both masters of their craft.
Below are some others that I feel conform to the above similarities.


"Pro Photographers" - Yosemite Valley, CAd06b43a0044fbc393838f0b3bbac3f1213617285155171453436_2b2604aed5_o
Posted in 01 Thinking about landscape, General, Part One ~ Beauty and the sublime

Exercise 1.2: Photography in the museum or in the gallery?

Read Rosalind Krauss’s essay ‘Photography’s Discursive Spaces: Landscape/View’. Summarise Krauss’s key points in your learning log (in note form) and add any comments or reflections.

The course stated the link no longer worked but it could be found here

The article was written by Rosalind Krauss (an American art critic, theorist and professor.

My first thoughts of this article were that it was incredibly heavy, very detailed and challenged my knowledge of the dictionary. I realised that this wasn’t going to be the easiest article to read so split it into sections (with classical music on in the background which I’ve always found helps aid concentration and memory)

First I read the first page. Then I read it again this time much more slowly and made a list of all the words that I wasn’t familiar with or that I wanted to read the definition of (I thought my knowledge of linguistics was good before this) I also made a list of certain words of phrases that struck me. I know several other students struggled a bit with reading this but I didn’t want to just read it I wanted to understand it clearly. Even though the dictionary definitions of some words had me reaching for another dictionary to translate that.

In the end though I understood the article and what’s more enjoyed the beginning too despite how heavy and opinionated it was. It was quite an intense study session and took several hours to complete.

  • At first I thought the article was purely to show the contrast of a photo and the lithograph, however it soon revealed that this analysis was merely the tip of the Tufa Dome (so to speak) It was clear this article is much more about how a photo can appear and be received differently purely by the category it is placed into.
  • We were shown two images. At a glance they could seem identical. However one was an original photo taken in 1868 by the photographer Timothy O’Sullivan and the other was a Lithograph (an almost identical replica of the photo created for a Geological magazine) The images featured the Tufa Domes of Pyramid Lake. Krauss clearly has a very low opinion of the lithograph ‘the lithograph is an object of insistent visual banality.’, she believes the majesty and aethic quality is removed when science fills in the gaps that the photo hasn’t included. Suddenly this is just a photo for a Geological magazine with the air of mystery vanquished, new detail is introduced including a (painting) of water reflections which remove the imagery of the dome hovering in the air .
  • This shows that the original is classed as an art where the latter is purely scientific.
  • One argument could be raised that whilst the original image by Timothy O’Sullivan has captured a feeling of mystery and is evocative of a fanatical realm, the lithograph is more true to the scene O’Sullivan would have faced.  One thought could be that this replica of his photo was how he would have endeavoured his original to turn out. Perhaps had he had more technologically advanced equipment he would have desired to create the technical quality as seen in the lithograph. .
  • Krauss writes of the art gallery and how the wall is an extension of the art and vice versa such as Monet’s famous painting ‘Waterlillies” In her opinion there are several features in a gallery, one being the choice to include an image. Therefore paving the way for what is acceptable, for what is deemed art. Anything that is excluded automatically creates a stamp on the artist of insignificance. Also critique is one of the features. Thus landscape suddenly had it’s own depiction of what was classed as art.
  • The article goes on to the debate that has been going on throughout history, is photography a science or an art? I looked at this in some detail before beginning this exercise which you can see here “The object here is to show that photography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition”
  •  The question was asked as to whether O’Sullivan’s work had intended to be seen as topographical but then was given the name of art as a way to infuse the photo into the art galleries.
  • Krauss wrote opinions of whether photography belonged in an art gallery or a museum.  At the time photography was not seen as an art but a means of documentation, employed by explorers (something I would like to look into further)
  • The article the power of a photo blown up on a gallery wall, creating an extension of the place. “that fills the frame with a nearly uniform total continuum’
  • Krauss writes that most of O’Sullivans photos were seen with a stereoscope.
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes ‘a passionate advocate of stereography’ describes the process, “the mind feels its way into the very depth of the picture…like hypnotism..and dream…in which we seem to leave the body behind us and sail into one strange scene after another like disembodied spirits’
  • Landscape is mostly referred to in regards to painting (an interesting fact which I learnt from another student) whereas O’Sullivan describes his photos as a ‘view’ which could be so to show photography is an art yet different to landscape. The use of the word ‘view’ was adapted by many photographers including the discourse of photographic journals. By calling it something other than a landscape does this go against them in terms of the debate of whether photography is an art. Would people at the time have thought this was admitting that photography had no place alongside landscape. However it could be looked at as the two genres rubbing shoulders, each drawing inspiration from the other and using techniques and adapting their own terminology. It could be likened to the dark ages when Christianity was spreading through Britain, the Catholic church tried to adapt existing feasts and festivals so as to make things more acceptable.
  • Interesting that this course is entitled Landscape photography.
  • Krauss wrote of how photography and art was used. Photos were used for cataloging and documenting so therefore were filed away however art was to be seen and enjoyed placed on gallery walls. I find myself in my mind personifying art, I feel like art is a rich families child who is automatically accepted for the revered boarding school whereas photography, the ‘bastard’ of art, fights hard to accept a place. That said I am an artist myself and live to draw. I am by no means disregarding art, merely referring to the acceptance of art in this age. Perhaps I’ve been reading this article for a bit too long.
  • The article looked at how creating a piece of art takes great skill and time to perfect whereas anyone can pick up a camera. I also explored this in my earlier study of photography and art. Interesting that anyone can can pick up a pencil and draw, even if it’s poor it’s still art, a child’s hand painting is revered as art and placed on the kitchen fridge. So how is it that anyone can take a photo but if the photo is blurred or poor it is not regarded as art. There is clearly a higher superiority that the world has placed on art. I wonder how art would have been seen if photography had been created first. Whilst not possible with the first paintings going back to the dawn of time, but just in theory, would art have been seen as a way to create a photo just over a much longer period of time?


In conclusion art and photography, neither is superior to the other, all make use of science to create a piece of art. Both are unique and reflect the individual, all require a force, a mind behind it, imagination and a vision.

I have to admit reading that article was not easy, it was exhausting, reaching the last paragraph could be likened to the feeling I imagine one would have completing the London marathon. I feel very pleased to reach the end of it and to understand it. Whilst an intense first exercise it has shown me the level this course is at, much more intense than the last ones for sure, I will aim to research more articles like this, developing my own thoughts and visions and exploring deeper into the meaning of photography.

Posted in 01 Thinking about landscape, Coursework, Part One ~ Beauty and the sublime

Exercise 1.1 Preconceptions

Pick up a pencil and draw a very rough sketch of a landscape picture.

  • What shape is the picture
  • What sort of terrain is depicted
  • What’s in it. Are there people?
  • How are the subjects arranged?
  • How might you describe the mood of the picture.

I was very pleased to see the course began with an art project. Art is so important to me, my dream is to become a children’s book artist. I automatically drew this landscape. As of June I have been creating and drawing the adventures of my character Freckles the fox cub who travels round the world and I have drawn in many landscapes. Therefore as I began to draw it immediately unfolded into the world I had created for her.


Reviewing it I saw how I’d followed some of the conventional landscape rules whilst adding other elements naturally.

  • Composing with a foreground to add depth, perspective, interest and draw the eye
  • Drawn in a landscape orientation. Though vertical works well to enhance certain features like an open sky.
  • Following on with hills and a blur of wild flowers.
  • Another hill clipping the middle ground to create depth.
  • Rising mountains with snow capped peaks. Two curving in from both sides.
  • A waterfall thundering down the rocks
  • A dramatic sky with birds in silhouette.
  • Freckles herself in the foreground.
  • The mood is generally always bright, happy and optimistic which reflects my own character.
  • Built up in layers foreground, middle ground, background, distance.

Whilst the landscape is partly from my imagination and partly from a blend of pictures I’ve created of the Glacier National Park in North America,, you can see as the project continued I developed the composition of landscape in different ways but the mountains always seem to feature and the flowers in the foreground.

There is almost a similarity of the photos of Yosemite, below is an example photographed by the revered Ansel Adams. Of course the mood is a complete contrast, bright and happy with dark and moody. Could it be said that that one of the many reasons Ansel Adams landscape photography appeals is because it has such a swell of harmony of ones interpretation of a beautiful landscape.

maxresdefault-1 norsigian-ansel-adams-yosemite-valley.jpg

Going back to the exercise, I realised that I didn’t even think about adding people in my drawing, perhaps that shows that in my mind a landscape is something to do with nature as opposed to manmade elements and I feel empowerment from seeing a landscape unharnessed and free from control. Could nature itself be the character I wish to photograph.

Perhaps that in turn shows a part of my character. Being ill most of my life I have been unable to go and visit exotic places, that saying some days I can’t leave the house I am so ill but the desire is so powerful in me to be with nature. It could have been a subconscious decision to choose this course. Whilst initially I thought I had chosen it because I love the landscape, nature and have always loved landscape photography. My love of photography goes back to when I was only an infant. My parents let me use their film camera to take a photo. I promptly turned around and took a photo of an old coke bottle lying in the gutter. While Mum and Dad were laughing about how I’d wasted the film a man walked by, “I am a professional photographer and that is art,” and thus began my love of photography. I’ve shot on everything from a disposable camera to a tiger shaped camera but my three loves are my DSLRS. The Pentax is now my sisters but the Canon 60D and 70D barely leave my side.

I always want to look beyond the outer layer of a conventional landscape and see the stories and worlds within.

Already exercise one has formulated many questions in my mind.

  • If anyone did this exercise would there always be an echo of familiarity throughout all the images.
  • If children from different cultures created a landscape drawing from their imagination would there be any similarities. Is the idea of a standard landscape innate to us just as a face is. Excluding of course those who have never been subjected to another person or landscape.

To answer the first question of course all I need to do is gather together the pictures from everyone else on the course and position them together.