Being an Artist

Guidebook for British art. Chapter 4. Nature's Masterpieces: British Art in the Landscape


Embark on a journey through the picturesque landscapes that have inspired generations of British artists. This chapter explores the profound relationship between nature and art, unraveling the ways in which the diverse British countryside has served as both muse and canvas for painters, sculptors, and visionaries. In closing, this chapter illuminates the transformative power of nature on British art.

From Romantic landscapes to modernist abstractions and environmental interventions, the diverse expressions in this chapter showcase the enduring allure of the British countryside. Join us in the upcoming chapters as we navigate through more facets of British art and its enthralling evolution.

Summer ApproachSummer Approach. Ewa Czarniecka

The romantic reverie: Turner, Constable and sublime landscapes

Enter the world of Romanticism, where artists like J.M.W. Turner and John Constable embraced the sublime beauty of nature. Turner's ethereal seascapes and Constable's idyllic rural scenes capture the emotional essence of the landscape, marking a departure from the formal constraints of the past.

Victorian vistas: Ruskin, the pre-Raphaelites and a return to nature

As the Victorian era unfolds, we witness a renewed interest in the natural world, influenced in part by John Ruskin's advocacy for a return to a more authentic, unspoiled landscape. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, with artists like John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, champions intricate depictions of nature intertwined with symbolic narratives.

The aesthetic landscape: Whistler and the harmony of color

James McNeill Whistler and the Aesthetic Movement bring a new perspective to landscape art, focusing on the harmonious arrangement of color and form. The fleeting beauty of the Thames River in Whistler's "Nocturne in Blue and Gold" epitomizes this approach, emphasizing the atmospheric and emotional qualities of the landscape.

The arts and crafts garden: Morris, Jekyll and designed landscapes

Transitioning from canvas to earth, this section explores the Arts and Crafts movement's impact on garden design. Gertrude Jekyll and William Morris collaborate to create harmonious, designed landscapes that blur the lines between art and nature, celebrating the beauty of cultivated outdoor spaces.

The Bloomsbury countryside: Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Vita Sackville-West

Venturing into the Bloomsbury Group's exploration of the countryside, we discover how artists like Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, along with writer Vita Sackville-West, transformed the landscapes around their homes into artistic havens. The vivid colors and unconventional perspectives of their works reflect a modernist approach to rural scenes.

Modernist explorations: Nash, Piper and abstraction in nature

In the early 20th century, Paul Nash and John Piper embrace a modernist exploration of landscapes. Their works, influenced by Cubism and abstraction, reveal new ways of interpreting and expressing the essence of the British countryside, especially in the context of war and social change.

The contemporary wilderness: Hockney, Gormley and environmental art

As we move into contemporary times, artists like David Hockney and Antony Gormley push the boundaries of landscape art. Hockney's vibrant Yorkshire landscapes and Gormley's site-specific installations engage with the environment, addressing ecological concerns and the evolving relationship between humans and nature.

Land art and environmental activism

This section explores the emergence of Land Art and environmental activism in British art. Artists like Richard Long and Hamish Fulton create works directly in the landscape, emphasizing a connection with nature and raising awareness about environmental issues.

Urban landscapes: From concrete jungle to cityscape beauty

Concluding the chapter, we shift focus to the urban landscape as a source of inspiration. British artists, including LS Lowry and Leon Kossoff, capture the dynamic energy and changing faces of cities, offering a contrast to the traditional emphasis on rural scenes.