art historian W.J.T. Mitchell asserted that there is no doubt that the classical and romantic genres of landscape painting evolved during the great age of European imperialism but have since been retired, accepted as part of the common repertory of kitsch.
In their induction in the quotidian consciousness of art, the seemingly simple representations provided by landscape paintings garnered acclaim for their ability to explore a dual metaphoric and physical reality, portraying not only the ideological concerns that exist outside the painter but also his interpretation of them. From the 17th Century to the 20th Century, landscape paintings changed in image, representation, popularity, and style, but from Poussin to Kiefer, the import of cultural encoding remained.
Like his contemporary Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin preferred the late afternoon light, drifting across his pastoral canvas with the golden solace of the fading sun. A precursor to the great age of Neoclassicism, for Poussin, the landscape painting was a vital tool in creating the desired ideal out of the basic ingredients of reality. The highest aim of painting was to recreate serious and noble actions, not with the actual, marred occurrence, but rather to do so with manufactured perfection.
During his lifetime, a self-created perfection on canvas was the closest Poussin and his peers would see.
The 17th Century was a time of great tumult throughout the Western world, and was a century of war within Europe. Wars of conquest and liberation, civil discontent, and religion colored the burgeoning modern world with the cloak of the past, as it moved away from its recent history of middle aged darkness, Renaissance, and brutally struggled into the world of powerful nation-states it would become. Until that point, wars would edge out amicable relations between countries, and great rivalries spawned of a pre-nationalist era consumed Europe.
While Poussin was just a young man, the Thirty Year's War began, consuming much of his adult life. Strife was alive outside of Britton as well, and the steady military engagement produced the decline of the great Spanish empire and the rise of France. Meanwhile, trade blossomed; imperial endeavors brought new and unseen riches to the shores of Europe, where bright new colors mixed with the old, fostering a new energy that lead not only to great rivalry but also the search for perfection Poussin so encompassed.
In an epoch rich with tumult, Poussin frequented Rome, the great Holy Catholic city-state firmly built upon savoring the past. He too carried a wanton desire for the days gone by; as the Church looked to Christ, society to days of cultural awakening and social peace, he returned to the antique in form and thought, aiming his paintings for intellectual stimulation instead of the senses.
His dedication to mental infatuation through art was embodied in the Funeral of Phocian, embodying his love of antique virtue and landscape.
Melancholia pervades the painting, as the good General Phocion, wrongly accused by the Athenians, is sent to his death. Poussin forces the observer to step out of the familiar confines of the usual landscape and examine the scene his portray, one of politics, grievance, and tragedy. Delving into the roots at the heart of Western tradition, he questioned the commonly held ideals of virtue and power, in their peril and injustice. "By placing tragic figures," like Phocion, of great historical importance and modern relevance, "into richly interesting and complexly constructed landscapes, Poussin produced two of the most intellectually demanding and satisfying landscape paintings in the Western tradition."
The great mass of paintings from Poussin's era neglected the inquisition and challenging that he demanded of his observer. Gloria Phares elaborates, "although it is easy to dismiss such attitudes as the unenlightened views of the 16th and 17th centuries, recent history shows that artists are not immune from those who consider blasphemous the use of religious symbols in artistic expression."
While, like religions symbol, addressing the intellectual audience was not in line with the conceptual mores of the time, Poussin's unique motivation in landscape painting was carried on a hundred years later by Fragonard, whose erotic passion coursed though The Swing like a life-blood.
The Swing is the embodiment of love's luxuries, symbolized by the rising tide of passions in the impatience of Venus' water chariot in the lower center of the landscape. Above a lock of tangled flora holding her young lover captive is a girl in a swing, both hidden away in a secret garden of chaste preservation and social expectations that passion overcame. He is thrilled; reaching out with his hat, the young man bares the standard eighteenth century erotic image of disclosure and opens himself to her. The girl responds in kind, lifting her feet in rhythm with the swing, shoes flying to the ground and baring her nakedness in return.
Doyen accounts for this in discussion with Coll (, suggesting that like the familiar broken pitcher, a naked foot is the artistic symbol for the loss of virginity.
Using landscape, Fragonard challenged the standard inertia of erotica, charging the painting with amorous ebullience and joy of an impetuous surrender to love.
The boy watches her from the rose bush, hat off, arms erect, as she rides through the sunshine in a glimmer of rose petals and cream. Her thoughtless abandon is only interrupted by his directed lunge, when her legs part, skirt opens, and shoes fly off.
In his direct challenge to the standard mores of social custom and expected chastity, Fragonard's frivolity and gallantry run to the heart of the Rococo spirit. After studying the late Boroque under Tiepolo in Italy, he returned to Paris, rejecting his previous concentrations for an artistic conversation with the erotic. Unlike Poussin, he demanded thought of the observer, Fragonard challenged his audience with the fantastic euphoria of passionate, emotional, and physical delight. While The Swing became an immediate success, it was not only for the sake of the technical prowess, but also for the young nobleman so scandalously devouring the virgin's feast.
Eighteenth-century art, Mary Vidal supports, demands being examined in the light of interpretive genre painting. All regress from the monograph of traditional sense and find an etymology in the paint allowing a new discussion with the subject matter. Ultimately, the contributions of Eighteenth-century painters is taken into careful consideration with the weight of stake in their discussions, combining artistic approaches with contemporary society and ideological context.
In each case, that context carried a lingua transferred to a later date by color and landscape.
"A painting by Casper David Friedrich is not a thing of the past. What is past is only the set of circumstances that allowed it to be painted: specific ideologies, for example. Beyond that, if it is any 'good', it concerns us - transcending ideology - as art we consider worth the trouble of defending (perceiving, showing, making). It is therefore quite possible to paint like Casper David Friedrich 'today'."
In an era when Protestantism conveyed a Germanic influence on the work of nature as a pagan embodiment rather than a virtue of God, Friedrich posed the exception. He stressed the personal and resonance with experience, using his landscapes as a means for communication and reception with the individual observer, not the audience as a whole. Henrich von Kliest wrote that Friedrich's landscapes made him feel as though his "eyelids had been cut away" by a painting "with nothing but a frame as a foreground."
As evidenced in Monk by the Sea, Friedrich posed a shocking breakthrough and confrontation with standard landscaping. Using illumination and scenic shifting, his light interweaves the painting with Nationalism and Protestantism inside nature. The romantic air was captured by the painting, shown at the Berlin Academy in 1818 and then purchased at the behest of the fifteen-year-old Crown Prince.
The landscape embodied both high drama and restless adventure, with the single figure existing in strong solitude against the fortuitous rocky foreground and sky and sea parallel. The isolation of the monk, rumored to be Friedrich himself, is paired with the closeness of the poor fisherman's chapel, built by Protestant mystic Kosegarten to provide a place for profession of apostolic faith even far from home.
In an age of shifting national tendencies and great industrial boom, the power of the individual was taking greater form than the collective. The German state saw a tide of maritime success and economic boom at the hands of individual fisherman; and the lone Napoleon had conquered much of Europe, trekking his powers from France to Russia, and spreading the rise of the personal spirit in the tide of the religious Reformation. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries brought a surge of personal strength that Friedrich captured in Monk by the Sea as Bronte did in her own work; both wielded their artistic tool to encapsulate the contemplation of mystery and power in the individual sense.
As Friedrich was painting in Germany, Juan Miro was growing up in the hills of northern Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, Spain. His mother was born…