Landscapes, Classical to Modern: Lessons and Ideas for Discussion

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J. Paul Getty Museum Education Department

Landscapes, Classical to Modern: Lessons and Ideas for Discussion


atmospheric perspective (aerial perspective) As space recedes into the far distance in a landscape painting or drawing, the intensity of the color fades and there is less contrast of lights and darks. The further back in space, the lighter the colors appear, often as lighter, cooler, tones of blue to gray.
background A term in visual arts that describes the part of a composition that appears to be farthest from the viewer. The background is one of the three zones of recession in linear perspective – foreground, middle ground, and background.
Balance The distribution of objects, colors, textures, and space within a composition. Balance can be symmetrical, in which the elements on each side of a median line are similar, or asymmetrical, in which each side differs. With radial balance, elements are arranged around a center point.

Barbizon A village in France near the Forest of Fountainebleau where an informal school of landscape painting was established between the early 1830s and the 1870s. This group included Théodore Rousseau, Narcisse Diaz de la Peña, Constant Troyon, Charles Daubigny, and Jean-François Millet. The Barbizon school’s artists reacted against the conventions of classical landscape and advocated a direct study of nature.

classical A word used to describe a prime example of quality or "ideal" beauty. It often refers to the culture, art, literature, or ideals of the ancient Greek and Roman world, especially that of Greece in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.
classical antiquity A term that refers to the culture and art of ancient Greece and Rome, especially the period from 480 B.C. in Greece to the time of Constantine the Great in Rome in the late fourth century A.D.
color Light, as perceived when reflected off of objects. Color has three main-characteristics: hue , described by its name (red, green, blue, etc.); value (how light or dark it is); and intensity (how bright or dull it is).
cultural landscape A term referring to the human-modified environment. There are four general types of cultural landscapes, not mutually exclusive: historic sites, designed landscapes, historic vernacular landscapes, and ethnographic landscapes. Cultural landscapes express a long and intimate relationship between peoples and their natural environment.

daguerreotype A daguerreotype is a one-of-a-kind, highly detailed photographic image recorded on a polished copper plate coated with silver. It was the first popular photographic medium and enjoyed great success when it was introduced in 1839.
foreground A term in visual arts that describes the part of a composition that appears closest to the viewer. The foreground is one of the three zones of recession in linear perspective – foreground, middle ground, and background.
form The term that describes three-dimensional shapes, which have length, width, and depth. Spheres, cylinders, and boxes are examples of forms.

Not in glossary – link to elements of art pages?

emphasis The part of the design that catches the viewer’s attention. Usually the artist will make one area stand out by contrasting it with other areas. The area will be different in size, color, texture, shape, etc.
geology The study of planet earth, its rocky exterior, its history, and the processes that act upon it. The word “geology” comes from Greek: from geo, for “earth,” and logia, for “the study of.” Geologists seek to understand how the earth formed and evolved into what it is today, as well as what made the earth capable of supporting life.

Grand Tour An extended cultural tour of Europe taken by wealthy young nobleman from England and France (particularly in the 18th century) as the culmination of their education. The goal of the tour was to refine an individual through first-hand study of classical art and literature. Italy, with its ancient Roman and Renaissance monuments, was the premiere destination of the Grand Tour.

history paintings The genre considered by the French and English academies to be the highest form of art. Subjects are drawn from classical history, literature, or the Bible. In the late 1600s, scenes of contemporary events also became acceptable subjects.
horizon line The division line between earth and sky in a picture.

Impressionism A movement in painting begun in France about 1875. It stresses a candid glimpse of the subject, spontaneity, and an emphasis on the momentary effects of light on color. Some members of the Impressionist circle were Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley.

landscape A term used to classify a painting, drawing, or other depiction of natural scenery. Although figures and manmade objects may be included in a landscape, they are of secondary importance to the composition and incidental to the content.
landscape architecture Landscape architecture is the art, planning, design, management, preservation and rehabilitation of the land and the design of man-made constructs within it. The scope of the profession includes architectural design, site planning, town or urban planning, parks and recreation planning, regional planning, and historic preservation.
line A mark with greater length than width. Lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, straight, or curved, thick or thin.
linear perspective This term defines the standard system of geometric perspective. It is based on the actual or imagined construction, on the picture plane, of a perpendicular grill of parallel lines that converge on the horizon line at vanishing points. The picture plane is divided horizontally into zones of recession.
Louvre An art museum in Paris, famous for its extensive collection of antiquities and Old Masters. Originally a fortress and palace built in the late 1100s, the Louvre was declared a national museum by the revolutionary government in 1793.
middle ground A term in visual arts that describes the part of a composition between the foreground and background. The middle ground is one of the three zones of recession in linear perspective – foreground, middle ground, and background.
movement The path the viewer’s eye takes through the artwork, often to focal areas. Such movement can be directed along lines, shape, and color within the artwork.
overlapping The placement in a composition of one object in front of another in order to create the illusion of depth.
palette knife A flexible, spatula-like blade set in a hardwood handle originally used by artists to scrape paint onto their palettes and to mix pigments. In the 19th century artists like Gustave Courbet began to use these knives to apply paint to their canvases as well as their palettes.
pattern The repeating of an object or symbol within an artwork.
plein air painting French for "open air." The term most often refers to the practice of painting outdoors rather than in the studio. It is also used for paintings that strongly convey the impression of having been painted outdoors.
proportion The feeling of unity created when all parts (sizes, amounts, or number) relate well with each other. When drawing the human figure, proportion can refer to the size of the head compared to the rest of the body.
Realism A mid-19th-century style of art based on the belief that the subject matter should be shown true to life in the most straightforward manner possible without idealization. Leading Realist painters were Gustave Courbet and Honoré Daumier. Realist painters often used rough, vigorous brushwork and a muted palette.
relative size (also called “scale”) The size of one object or part of a landscape in relation to another. For example: a tree in the foreground would be painted much larger than a tree in the background.
Renaissance From the French word for “rebirth,” the term refers to the period in Italy between about 1400 and 1550, during which interest revived in the art and culture of classical antiquity, the secular world, and the importance of the individual.
repetition This principle works with pattern to make an artwork seem active. The repetition of elements of design creates unity within the artwork.
rhythm This principle is created when one or more elements of design are used repeatedly to create a feeling of organized movement. Variety is essential to keep rhythm exciting and alive, and moving the viewer through the artwork.
Royal Academy (Académie Royale) The French academy of fine arts, established in 1648 under Louis XIV, including an art school in Paris and a branch in Rome, the Académie de France. The Académie mounted exhibitions of members' work, the Salons, and was dissolved in 1793. In 1795 its functions were taken over by the new École des Beaux-Arts, which was often referred to simply as the Académie.
Salon The periodic art exhibitions sponsored by the French Académie Royale. Begun in 1667, they were among the most prestigious and influential exhibitions of European art until the development of independent art societies in the late 1800s.
shape A closed line. Shapes can be geometric, like squares and circles; or organic, like free-formed shapes or natural shapes. Shapes are flat (two-dimensional) and can express length and width.
space The term defining the area between and around objects. The space around objects is often called negative space; negative space has shape. Space can also refer to the feeling of depth. Real space is three-dimensional; in visual arts, when we can create the feeling or illusion of depth, we call it space.
texture A term describing the surface quality of an artwork that can be seen and felt. Textures can be rough or smooth, soft or hard. Textures do not always feel the way they look; for example, a drawing of a porcupine may look prickly, but if you touch the drawing, the paper is smooth.
unity The feeling of harmony between all parts of the artwork, creating a sense of completeness.

urban sprawl The term for the expansive, rapid, growth of greater metropolitan areas, traditionally suburbs, over a large geographic area.

vantage point (point of view) A position from which an object is observed.

variety The use of several elements of design to hold the viewer’s attention and to guide the viewer’s eye through the work.
Virgil (70 BC19 BC) The ancient Roman poet who authored the Eclogues, the Georgics, and the Aeneid. His perfect poetic expression made him first among pastoral poets. The Aeneid, the adventures of Aeneas, was an national epic honoring Rome and foretelling prosperity to come; the work is unquestionably one of the greatest long poems in world literature.
zones of recession This term refers to the foreground, middle ground, and background in any composition that attempts to represent spatial depth.

© 2006 J. Paul Getty Trust

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