© Koninck: Dutch Landscape with a Distant View of Haarlem, 1654

"A modern, critical approach to landscape would assert that painting it only becomes pertinent once humankind's relationship with nature has been broken.Seen from this perspective, every landscape painting is a departure from nature, not merely an observation of its beauty."

(Citation from the catalogue)



Landscapes in artworks are perhaps the most obvious means of showing how people have related to nature over time. Landscape painting as a recognised and independent genre was first developed around 1590, but there had been depictions of landscapes long before this. The landscape and the landscape painting first become truly interesting when we begin to lose our connection to nature. We can see the loss of this connection at two places in history; in the development of the term ‘landscape’ in the 1500s, and in the true loss of a primary connection to nature as a result of industrialisation in the 1800s.

© P. C. Skovgaard: Forest in May. motif from "Iselingen", 1857

The ideological landscape

Landscape painting sees a blossoming in the 1800s, during which time it assumes a role in the political agenda as part of the struggle to form democratic nation states. Towards 1900 landscape painting grows unpopular, because it is considered of little utility in contexts of debate. Nonetheless, a great number of artists maintain their interest in the landscape. They use studies of nature to demonstrate deviations and trends, as the sense of convention regarding how a landscape should look is so strong.

When landscape painting in the 1800 becomes popular as a political and ideological player, it is because it is seen as neutral and free of ideologies and other interests. But in reality it can have a certain propagandising effect, such as when in the 1800s it helps align Danish identity with Danish nature, which is portrayed through landscape painting. One of landscape painting’s more critical functions is to conceal its ideological foundation and effectively gloss over the fact that it was conceived to convey a lie.


The nature of paradise constitutes an independent part of the landscape theme, as paradise has been a frequent motif in graphic art. Paradise was understood in several different ways. Paradise was both the Garden of Eden, from which Adam and Eve were expelled, and it was the firmament or the heavenly paradise that one hoped to attain after death. In order to be able to portray paradise, however, the artist would need to reconsider the appearance of paradise, as the Bible itself offers very few descriptions. At the same time, paradise seemed the very prototype for perfect nature, a place where the weather was always fair and where nature never struck back.

© Poul S. Christiansen: Dante and Beatrice in Paradise, 1895

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