Landscape into Art

It was an incredible experience to discover an old classic, the book ‘Landscape into Art’ written by Kenneth Clark in 1949, based on his series of lectures given as a Slade Professor in Oxford (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Landscape-into-Art-Kenneth-Clark/dp/0719536103). According to a contemporary Cambridge Review, ‘The importance of this book to art criticism and to the history of art can scarcely be exaggerated. Ruskin and others have written notable pages on the art of landscape painting, but no such complete work on it as a separate branch of art has appeared in English’.

The book has to be read for the following passage alone: ‘…van Eyck,…Bellini, Claude, Constable and Corot, show us that the representation of light owes its aesthetic value to the fact that it is the expression of love’ (p. 229). Hellenistic Frescoes, Utrecht Psalter, Simone Martni’s friendship with Petrarch, Giovanni di Paolo, The Limbourg Brothers, Benozzo Gozzoli, Paolo Uccello, Jan van Eyck, Durer, Pollaiuolo, Piero della Francesca, Pieter Breughel, Rembrandt, Ruisdael, Vermeer, Canaletto, Claude, Poussin, Corot, Monet and Cezanne, all are discussed in the book with amazing depth and attention to detail, exploring international connections, influences and sources inspiration.

The authors of the contemporary review seem to have been unaware of a major four volume treatise on the history of landscape painting published by Alexandre Benois in 1912 in St Petersburg (one has to acknowledge that this work wasn’t published in English). The magnificent four-volume edition explores the development of the landscape painting in a similar historical fashion to a lecture series by Kenneth Clark, focusing perhaps on many more figures and epochs. A nearly 2000 pages long, four-volume work, richly illustrated (sometimes in colour), remained unfinished and ends on a discussion of 18th century French landscape painting. It is now a bibliographic rarity and could be found at a mere £3000: https://www.ozon.ru/context/detail/id/136659642/

 

References

Clark, K. (1949) Landscape into Art, John Murray, London (1976 edition)

Benois, A. (1912) History of Painting, Shipovnik Publishers, St Petersburg, 4 volumes

Pieter_Bruegel_der_Ältere_-_Landschaft_mit_der_Flucht_nach_Ägypten

Pieter Breughel (1563) Landscape with the Flight into Egypt, currently in the Courtauld Gallery, London: Pieter Breugel

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