Throughout the years, nature has had different places and meanings in art: from mere background to an independent genre. In this short course, we will study some examples from early 17th century Dutch landscape, to contemporary works dealing with climate change. This will include works of art as diverse as Chinese hand-scroll paintings, the paintings of flowers, Romantic landscape paintings, the Impressionist works of art, and political installations and performances. We will reflect on the way works of art reflect the way our perception of the natural environment has changed throughout the years.
Nature has been a source of inspiration for artists all over the world for centuries. In this short informative and entertaining course, you will learn about different ways artists have represented our natural environment, in a variety of contexts.
To start with, examples from Japanese and Chinese art will be studied and contrasted with European art. We will seek to understand why, in Europe, nature was not an important subject matter in art before the 17th century (with Ruisdael and Claude Lorrain for instance). Before that time, nature was often present as a background to portraits and narratives, or was relegated to botanical illustrations.
After this introduction, we will focus on the depiction of natural sceneries in paintings and examine different movements or styles: Romanticism and symbolism, as well as naturalism. Many 19th century painters placed nature at the very heart of their creative endeavour: Constable, Turner, Friedrich, Corot, Monet, and van Gogh will be among the painters studied. Landscape painting will be an obvious source of examples, but we will look at other art forms such as ceramics.
As we enter the 20th century, we will direct our attention towards contemporary art. We will look into Land Art, with iconic works like Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”. And, of course, in a world impacted by climate change, we will consider contemporary artists who have placed nature and an ecological consciousness at the heart of their artistic practice, such as Olafur
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