California Landscape Art the Californian Term Paper

  • Length: 9 pages
  • Sources: 5
  • Subject: Art  (general)
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #83826810

Excerpt from Term Paper :

There are different moments in the day that are captured by the painter, be it a sundown or a moonrise in "Nocturne" (Granville Redmond, n.d.). At the same time, he tried to capture most of the elements of the natural landscape, the violent yet harmonious waves in "Opalescent Sea" or the wild bushes of the traditional secluded areas of California, which inspire the feeling of a certain end of the world in "Twilight."

In time, the focus slowly shifted away from the dramatic landscape of the mountains and plains and there was a certain development by introducing the human body as the center of the image, rather than a completing element that only added value to the main actor which was the natural landscape. In this sense, the evolution was obvious and, although the Californian landscape remained the center piece in the canvases, it remained as an element of identification for the eventual human characters which came to give life to the painting. This transition would ultimately lead to a complete realistic view of the world which would eventually be transposed on canvas.

An important artist that made this transition in his paintings is Joseph Lee, whose depictions of the Bay area included, at times, also elements suggesting human life. In "A view of Fort Point, San Francisco" reveals not only an exquisite landscape of the bay area, but also the changes that slowly affected the American landscape as a whole. While in the early beginning when California was viewed more as a barrel place, with only the natural aspect as representative, as years passed and the development of the country and of the region became obvious, artists changed their perspective and tried to portray precisely the reality of the day, with more action involving the human being, with an emerging buzzing life. Lee's painting of the peer is representative for showing the somewhat changed situation in California, with ships docking and activities under way. It was also a reminder of the importance of the ocean for the emerging economic and social development of California's cities. Aside from the artistic effect, therefore, the paining has also a historical importance because it shows the extent to which the society and the social landscape evolved in California.

The great variety of possibilities the Californian landscape offered paintings was clearly stated artistically through a certain unofficial separation between two emerging trends, the Northern and Southern Californian styles (Stern, 2003). In the North the abundance of rigid landscapes made artists adopt a less colorful attitude in their paintings, while the Southern painters were drawn more towards the use of warm, light colors that reflected the sunny environment in the South. These included marine scenes with a touch of wild beauty; although the tendency at the turn of the century had been a deeper portrayal of men, the Southern art still maintained the innocence of its beginnings.

The industrial development of California and more precisely the evolution towards a more factual representation of the landscape determined artists to find different ways in which they could the human element in the paintings. In this sense, "with forty percent of the United States' population living in urban environments by 1900, the city began to replace the countryside as an intriguing subject for American writers and painters. Also, these city dwellers' demands for illustrated newspapers and magazines meant that many artists in the early twentieth century trained as sketch reporters who could quickly capture the action at fires or strikes, sports events or theater premieres" (National Gallery of Art, 2007). Therefore, it can be said that the reorientation of the American painters towards the urban landscape was both an intriguing evolution and a necessary one.

One of the first steps undertaken in this change was the individualization of the man in his social environment. In this sense, the almost abstract paintings of artists such as David Park try to show people in their own natural element, which is traditional for the new Californian space. Park is seen from this perspective, as being "responsible for helping to develop one of the most vital and inventive shifts in American postwar art" (Hackett- Freedman, 2007). The themes of his paintings were not the reflection of widely complex subjects, and yet they caught the attention of both critics and audience. It was more the simplicity of the subject that interested the viewers. Also, in his famous "Kids on bikes" from 1950 he leaves the viewer to clearly distinguish between the fuzzy forms of the people. However, the image he conveys to the public leaves it no doubt over a possible landscape different from the Californian one. The interesting part about his artistic approach is the fact that, without actually offering a defining element that would point to a Californian landscape, the suggestion is clear to the public.

One of the most representative figures of the modern art in California who is viewed by most critics as having brought an essential contribution to the way in which not only the Californian landscape, but also the Californian way of life is presented, is David Hockney. It can be said that he is part of the realist approach to painting because of his great use of common themes such as regular American houses, certain unimportant moments in the lives of people, as well as the introduction of modern elements such as swimming pools and palm trees. However, his approach is distinct from other painters of his time.

He was considered by most critics as an eccentric individual due to the fact that throughout his artistic career he made use of different artistic means of expression, even photo collages. In spite of the turbulent personal life, his paintings are considered to be representative for the great amount of love and affection he feels for the surrounding environment and for people in general. In this sense, "by embracing all sorts of technology and media, Hockney has made his art accessible to people everywhere. He has used art to express the love he has felt for others, and consequently, his works show personal stake and personal meaning" (DavidHockney, 2003). Indeed, his picture tend to reflect an objective and subjective perspective at the same time, a combination which results in conveying mixed feelings, yet a powerful sense of belonging to the environment and landscape he created.

His work, "Large Interior Los Angeles" is relevant in this sense. Unlike most of its predecessors who considered the Californian landscape to be exclusively an outdoor experience, Hockney addresses the same issue by pointing out a different side of California. Indeed, it cannot be fully defined as a landscape, nonetheless it represents an environment in which people live their everyday lives and which plays a similar role to the one the steep mountains of the Yosemite Valley played for the Indians. The innovative element in his painting however is the ease with which he managed to transpose an intimate living space onto to a theme available for the general public. Without too many details, the artist manages to convey the sense of coziness and warmth. From the point-of-view of a regular viewer, the impression is that of a personal yet open space, similar to the idea captured from previous works analyzed. Also, despite the fact that there are no apparent details to suggest an integration in a certain geographical space, the image leaves the feeling of a traditionally well off American family in the sunny Californian landscape.

One painting that clearly suggests the environment of California is "Skaters / Venice." The artist has clearly identified the environment through traditional natural elements for the Californian landscape. The palm tree and the exotic vegetation suggest the hot and bright climate of the peninsula, whereas the skaters, lightly dressed suggest the free, youthful spirit of the area. From this perspective, it can be said that Hockney too portrays the Californian landscape, but from a different perspective and in a different time, elements which are therefore obvious in his approach.

Overall, it can be concluded that, indeed, the Californian space has been a source of inspiration for many of the great American artists. In their work they tried to convey the different time frames and periods of the landscape, starting from the early naive, yet impressive natural sceneries, to the modern, prosperous, and youthful 20th century perspective.


Cheney, Martha Candler. Modern Art in America. New York: Whittlesey House, 1939.

DavidHockney. "About David Hochney." 2003. (accessed 22 November 2007)

Granville Redmond: The Artist. N.d. 22 November 2007)

Hackett- Freedman. "David Park: artist overview." 2007. (accessed 22 November 2007)

Jenkins, P. A history of the United States. New York: Palgrave, 1997.

National Gallery of Art. "Tour: American realists of the early 1900." 2007. (accessed 22 November 2007)

Oakland Museum of California. "Native Grandeur: Preserving California's Vanishing Landscapes." 2002. (accessed 22 November 2007)

Ogden, Kate Nearpass. "Thomas Hill." N.d. (accessed 22 November 2007)

Stern, Jean. "The California Impressionist Style in Perspective."…

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