Throughout history landscape painting always struggled for recognition and it was not until the 17th century that it truly started to be appreciated.
Prior to this historical, religious and portraits of the rich and powerful dominated the art world.
However, it was during the 18th/19th century that the genre really found favor, movements such as Impressionism, the Hudson River School and the two great English artists Turner and Constable made landscape paintings extremely sought after.
Below is a list of some of the most famous landscape paintings ever produced.
Famous Landscape Paintings
1. Impression Sunrise
Impression Sunrise is one of a series of paintings by Monet that depicts the port of Le Harve, France.
Le Harve is actually his home town and he would paint six separate canvases of the landscape scene.
The painting itself actually gives rise to the naming of the art movement “impressionism”.
The Impressionists and their art were initially not well received by the Paris art establishment.
With Louis Leroy, a prominent critic of the time, saying that the wallpaper was more finished than the paintings of Monet.
They were so resolutely rejected that, after being rejected from the Paris Salon in 1874, it drove the group of artists to hold their own exhibition.
Ironically, Impression Sunrise has a much more restrained use of brush strokes and more subdued colors than the paintings that would go on to personify the movement, as such it is not really a good example of impressionism.
Monet is famed for his many landscape paintings, he would routinely paint the same scene multiple times in varying lighting conditions.
A strong advocate of ‘en plein air’ or painting outside he would often have multiple canvases with him when working in the fields around his house in Giverny.
2. Starry Night
Van Gogh is not only famous for his art but also for cutting off his own ear.
Van Gogh spent a considerable portion of his life suffering from depression and anxiety and following the act of cutting his ear he voluntarily admitted himself to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole lunatic asylum, near Saint-Remy-de-Provence on 8 May 1889
In the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole he would experience one of his most productive periods as an artist when he made some of his most famous paintings, such as Irises and his self-portrait in blue.
He painted The Starry Night during this time, which was the view from his east facing window in the asylum.
It is not an exact reflection of the view from his window, rather a combination of different elements of the various landscapes he had observed throughout his life.
All of which culminate in the final painting, just before sunrise, the image reflects his view of an ideal village.
3. The Hay Wain
The Hay Wain is a painting by British artist John Constable, completed in 1821, depicting a rural scene between the English counties of Suffolk and Essex, on the River Stour.
Constable is one of the great landscape artists and along with William Turner his art is always what springs to mind when people think of English landscape paintings.
The Hay Wain is one of Constable ‘s collection of paintings called the ‘six-footers’, large-scale canvases that he produced for the Royal Academy’s annual summer exhibitions.
Initially it was not very well received in England at the time both the style of painting the “impasto” technique nor the subject matter.
The painting is a scene of an everyday idyllic life in the countryside, when in reality at the time life in the British countryside was far from perfect.
The industrial revolution would render many farm hands out of work and there was a mass exodus from the countryside towards any available work in the cities and larger towns.
Prior to this work the majority of landscape ark would have been painting in a more symmetrical way and would have been of a classical setting similar to the works of Claude Lorrain.
It is arguably his most famous work and currently resides on permanent display in the National Gallery in London.
4. Christina’s World
Andrew Wyeth was one of the best known American artists who was made famous for documenting the lad and people around him, he would be primarily be considered a realist painter yet he thought of himself as more of an abstractionist artist.
The woman in Christina’s world is a young lady by the name of Anna Christina Olson of South Cushing, Maine which is where his wife betsy’s family owned a home.
Wyeth would paint many works in both Maine and Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where he was born, often capturing everyday rural scenes.
The inspiration for Wyeth’s most famous painting was Anna, who had a degenerative muscle disease that cost her the use of her legs in her early 30s.
Wyeth claims he was inspired to paint her after seeing from his window her crawl across a field.
It is one of the most iconic landscape paintings by a 20th century artist which ironically received very little if any attention when it was first displayed.
5. Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog
Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer (Wanderer above the Sea of Fog) is an oil painting by the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich dating from 1818.
It has been regarded as one of Romanticism’s masterpieces and one of its most representative works.
A lone figure stands atop a mountain peak gazing out across a fog laden backdrop, it is extremely contemplative in nature and represents the wanderer looking towards the unknown future that stands before him.
Unfortunately this is one of his works that was adopted by the Nazi party who used it as a symbol of strong German nationalism, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that he would eventually be free of the association and his work started to be appreciated again.
6. The Oxbow
Or to give it it’s full title “View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm — The Oxbow” was painted by Thomas Cole in 1836.
Cole was the founding member of the Hudson River School(not technically a school more of a movement)
The Hudson River School was an American art movement in the mid-19th century, represented by a group of landscape painters whose Romanticism inspired their artistic vision.
The paintings, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountains, usually represent the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area.
Cole was born in Lancashire, England and moved to America when he was seventeen.
Whilst to the uninformed the Oxbow may seem like a perfectly idyllic landscape image there is actually quite a bit more to it.
There is actually a very strong contrast between the wilderness of the natural world and the advance of civilization.
On the hill in the background there are very deliberate logging scars cut into the hill and the middle ground on the right of the picture is almost all cultivated land where the previous forests have been felled to make way for farmland.
7. Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)
Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) is one of Winslow Homer’s most celebrated landscape paintings. Homer initially started out as a commercial illustrator and worked for many leading publications of the day such as Harper’s Weekly.
It was his assignments with Harper’s Weekly that would trust him headlong into the civil war as he would visit several camps of the Northern troops. HE sketched and engraved everyday scenes and ordinary soldiers while in these camps and capturing these images would propel him forward towards a career as a painter.
After a trip to France where he was exposed to Realist artists such as Manet and Courbet he focused heavily on capturing everyday life scenes of American life.
A Breezing Up on the surface seems like a rather simple capture of a father and his sons on a small fishing boat. However, the look on the fathers face is rather stern and is a direct contrast to the youthful and joyous look on the children’s faces.
The composition shows a clear influence from his time in France with the main subjects shown in a very close up manner in the foreground and a juxtaposition with the larger sail boat far off in the background.
8. Fine Wind, Clear Morning
Fine Wind, Clear Morning is a painting by the famous Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai of the Edo period(between 1603 and 1868), who is most famous for his series of landscape prints.
His other notable works are The Great Wave and and Rainstorm Beneath the Summit all of which form part of a series called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji(which are actually 46 in total.)
Mount Fuji was revered within Japanese culture and is the subject of millions of paintings, drawing and prints to have been produced.
The prints are created by a process that involves drawing the image on thin Japanese paper(washi), gluing the paper to the block and then using the paper as a guide to carve a wood block which is most often cut from cherry as it has a really fine grain.
Once glued to the block an incision was then made along each side of the line on the paper to give a line of varying thickness which was then chiseled away.
The block was then inked and then pressed to form the image. The simplest examples were in black and white adding color increased the difficulty and the time to complete the work significantly.
9. Looking Down Yosemite Valley
Looking Down Yosemite Valley was painted by Albert Bierstadt in 1865 and is a particularly large canvas measuring over 5 x 8 feet.
It is the painting that Bierstadt would become most known for and cemented him as one of the best American artists of the day.
Although he was originally born in Germany Bierstadt is usually considered as American having moved there as a child at the young age of one year old.
Looking Down Yosemite Valley was painted in 1865 but Bierstadt had actually made several preparatory sketches in 1863 whilst on a trip out west with his future wife.
This practice of sketching out in the wild and completing the works in the comfort of his studio is something that he would continue to do for most of his career. One of his other famous pieces Among the Sierra Nevada, California was actually completed in his Rome studio while on a two year tour of Europe.
Bierstadt’s work received great commercial success with lot’s of his work being bought for very large sums of money, all of this cash allowed him to travel extensively through Europe, he even had a private audience with Queen Victoria.
Looking Down Yosemite Valley is one of the finest pieces of landscape art that he produced and it essentially captures a very natural looking Yosemite free from the advances of man westward.
Bierstadt choose to paint the scene devoid of any humans or animals and there is a very romantic look to the canvas that draws the viewer from the artists eye right through to the background, however the background is void of any real focal point instead a golden haze spreads light out across the valley.
To many it captured the ideal image of the untouched Western landscape before a time when man started to heavily populate the area.
He would return several years later in 1867 and was saddened by the amount of tourists that he found in the wilderness who were brought in large numbers by the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
10. The Fighting ‘Téméraire’ Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up
Along with John Constable, J.M.W Turner is responsible for some of the most famous landscape paintings ever produced by any English man.
Turner is know for is rather atmospheric paintings of the sea and the surrounding coastline with a particular focus on the effects of light.
All large volume of his work was centered around the River Thames in London and would complete thousands of sketches of such scenes with a view to completing them later on in his studio.
The Fighting Temeraire, tugged to her last berth to be broken up was painted by Turner in 1838
From her valiant success at Trafalgar, The Temeraire was a very well-known ship and her sale by the Admiralty received considerable press coverage, which was possibly what brought it’s plight to his attention.
On 5 September 1838, Turner witnessed the ship on a tow while boating off the Greenwich marshes, it would eventually end up in a breakers yard where Turner would make more detailed sketches of the hull.
The significance of the tug is not to be understated as it was steam powered and as such symbolized the new dawn of steam power and the demise of the golden age of sail power.
From a compositional stand point the old now defunct sailing ship that once was a symbol of British naval power is positioned to the side and it is the newer steam powered tug with it’s dirty chimney belching out thick smoke that is closer to center.
We hope you have enjoyed our list of some of histories best landscape paintings!