Today landscape painting is an accepted, plentiful and admired form of art. But until the 17th century, landscape in Western Art was confined to the background of portraits or history painting.
French painters Claude Lorraine and Nicholas Poussin gave it more prominence, but still highly stylised their works, which became known as classical landscape. Dutch painters of the period were also developing a much more naturalistic way of representing the land around them.
Landscapes in general became more popular in the 18th century, but it was in the 19th century when many artists started exploring the fields, forests and mountains for their natural beauty. Constable and Turner are two of the best known British examples of this, but in France it was the Barbizon School and their associates who experimented and pushed the boundaries of accepted subjects, paving the way for Impressionism.
At the Cooper Gallery there are two collectors who stand out as favouring landscapes – James Fox and Sir Michael Ernest Sadler. Fox collected traditional oil paintings of British landscapes, of very high quality by established 19th century artists. Sadler’s love of sketches and watercolours range in period and style from Dr Monro and Francis Towne to Edward Wadsworth and Paul Nash. Explore the range of contrasting views below.