24. Landscape into Art

'We are surrounded with things which we have not made and which have a life and structure different from our own: trees, flowers, grasses, rivers, hills, clouds. For centuries they have inspired us with curiosity and awe. They have been objects of delight. We have recreated them in our imaginations to reflect our moods. And we have come to think of them as contributing to an idea which we have called nature. Landscape painting marks the stages in our conception of nature. Its rise and development since the Middle Ages is part of a cycle in which the human spirit attempted once more to create a harmony with its environment.'
Kenneth Clark

A huge proportion of the films in the Roland Collection deal to some extent with landscape. In titles concerning Renaissance artists the camera frequently penetrates to backgrounds of mountains and distant horizons, and several film-makers make a point of relating the works shown to the natural environment in which and upon which the artist dwelt (see for example Paula Modersohn-Becker, Bruegel, Kandinsky). This section, however, selects a range of artists concerned with the depiction of landscape as a subject in its own right, in a tradition which began with the Northern Renaissance, reached its first heights with Dutch seventeenth-century painters, led to the sublime or picturesque scenery of Romanticism and the plein-air researches of Impressionism, and remains a potent theme for contemporary artists.