1.3 Establishing conventions: Landscape Art and Landscape Photography

Using search engines and any other resources, find at least 12 examples of 18 and 19th century landscape paintings. List all of the commonalities. Try to find out why the examples were painted (eg private or public commission.) your research should provide some examples of the visual language and conventions known to the early photographers.

Notes here to be updated from visits to exhibitions at:

VandA: Constable

Tate Britain: Late Turner and Turner galleries

National Gallery : Pedar Balke

National gallery and elsewhere Maggie Hambling

Tate Britain: John Martin


http://www.jean-baptiste-camille-corot.org  Creative Commons website

Horizon lines, framing devices, division between foreground, middle ground and background planes. Aerial perspective.

Storm at Sea, 1865 - Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot - www.jean-baptiste-camille-corot.orgStorm at Sea, 1865

Diagonal lines of rain point to solid horizontal horizon.




Souvenir du Pont de MSouvenir du Pont de Mantes - Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot - www.jean-baptiste-camille-corot.organtes

Framing device and aerial perspective.



http://www.john-constable.org Creative Commons website
Haywain - John Constable - www.john-constable.orgHaywain




Hampstead heath with a rainbowHampstead heath with a rainbow - John Constable - www.john-constable.org




Hampstead Heath - John Constable - www.john-constable.orgHampstead Heath





  • frequent use of the Golden ratio to position horizons at one or two thirds levels in paintings
  • uses a lanes, roads and other devices to lead the eye into the picture
  • interest in plays of light and naturalistic colour
  • linear as well as aerial perspective
  • use of triangles and implied triangles on foreground objects like carts, boats etc.
  • later starts to experiment with dynamic and impasto brushstrokes, as precursor to Impressionists
John Martin

http://www.william-turner.org creative commons website

Turner tends to have his horizons lower, or non-existent. And makes lots of use of dramatic swirls for storms, and brilliant sunsets. But still positions vertical elements and objects around the thirds line.

The Fighting 'Téméraire' tugged to her last Berth to be broken up - Joseph Mallord William Turner - www.william-turner.org
The Fighting ‘Téméraire’ tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, National Gallery

Snow Storm, Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps 1812 - Joseph Mallord William Turner - www.william-turner.org




Snow Storm, Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps 1812, Tate Gallery

Snow Storm- Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth c. 1842 - Joseph Mallord William Turner - www.william-turner.org

Snow Storm- Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth c. 1842

Caspar David Friedrich

http://www.caspardavidfriedrich.org  creative commons website

distinctive style, influenced by his Danish training, where a distinct national style, drawing on the Dutch 17th-century example, had developed. To this he added a quasi-mystical Romanticism.

The Wanderer above the Mists 1817-18 - Caspar David Friedrich - www.caspardavidfriedrich.orgThe Wanderer above the Mists 1817-18

Strong contrast in colours and between foreground and background with dramatic silhouette.  Quasi symmetrical balance between right and left side of the image. Diagonals leading to the centre figure.

Trees in the moonlight - Caspar David Friedrich - www.caspardavidfriedrich.orgTrees in the Moonlight

Use of diagonals and muted colours.

Two Men by the Sea at Moonrise - Caspar David Friedrich - www.caspardavidfriedrich.orgTwo Men by the Sea at Moonrise

Use of strong horizontals with central horizon line. Silhouettes against an oval pool of light. ‘High Dynamic Range’.


from Tate.org search

Claude Monet, 'Poplars on the Epte' 1891

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

from http://www.tate.org.uk/search/Whistler 

mists, high horizons. Strong horizontals and verticals.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 'Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Cremorne Lights' 1872

Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Cremorne Lights 1872

Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge c.1872-5

Then try to find examples of landscape photographs from any era that conform to these conventions.

See analysis in posts on:

Exercise 1.2 Photography in the museum or in the gallery

This image has horizon on top thirds line with leading line of rocks from, between and to vertical thirds lines. The original image though breaks with conventions on aerial perspective in that the rocks in that although there is a progression in sharpness from fore to middle to background, the equal haze of water and sky add the feeling of mystery. In a painting probably there would have been an attempt to use various devices to de-emphasise the sharpness on the rock at the front to more effectively lead the eye into the picture to the triangular rock at the middleground and back again. In the photograph this is achieved to some extent by the changes in tonal contrast from relatively equal tones between the foreground rock and sea to the sharper contrast between the dark triangular rock and the sea. Then back to the sharp dark/white contrast lines on the foreground rock.

See posts on:

Peter Henry Emerson

Fay Godwin (reading still to be written up )

Justyn Partyka

Most landscape photographs on sites like Flickr, photographs submitted to landscape photography magazines and camera club competitions also conform to:

– conventions of rule of thirds (reflected in grids in Lightroom and Photoshop),

– contrast between fore/middle/background to include near and far objects

– use of leading lines/implied lines to link the elements.

They also generally:

– blur motion on water through slow shutter speed

– increase tonal contrast in cloud and sky areas, and often enhance colours

– have a deep depth of field through small apertures – both these done through using a tripod.

– simplify the image, cloning or removing distractions in digital processing.

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