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Landscape, aesthetics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M074-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2022
Retrieved June 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

Landscapes vary considerably in scale and kind. At one end are landscaped gardens and parks, carefully designed and maintained, at the other are wilderness areas of ice and snow, impenetrable forests, craggy mountains and valleys, raging rivers, or even landscapes on the moon or on Mars. In between are landscapes more or less the product of human activity, if not specifically designed as such: farmland, forest plantations, cultivated terraces for growing rice or tea, and urban landscapes with city parks, children’s playgrounds, skyscrapers, industrial zones, derelict buildings.

If these landscapes belong in the real world of matter and time, never far behind have been human depictions of them, under the broadest category of landscape paintings or poems. Human fascination with landscapes, across time and cultures, has led to a repeated interplay between landscapes themselves, how they are perceived and valued, and representations of them. One example might be the growing popularity in the nineteenth century of tourism to remote countryside such as the Lake Distract in England, influenced by Romantic poets like William Wordsworth. Or the influence of the imaginary landscapes by the artists Claude Lorrain or Nicolas Poussin in the seventeenth century on English landscape garden design in the eighteenth century, including the creation in the latter of mock ruins and visually striking settings. Yet another might be the thought from Oscar Wilde that ‘nature imitates art’, by which he (partially) meant that once we get used to looking at, for example, Impressionist landscape paintings, perhaps by Claude Monet, we come to see the real thing as bearing an Impressionist appearance. Also, the common expression ‘picturesque’ applied to a landscape suggests that enjoying a landscape of a certain kind bears a strong similarity to enjoying a landscape painting representing that kind. Of course, the landscapes that attract painters or poets are not always of the benign picturesque kind. The term ‘sublime’ is used to describe both the rugged, dangerous, awe-inspiring landscapes of towering mountains and thundering waterfalls, but also dramatic, often Romantic, depictions of these, by the likes of the painter Caspar David Friedrich or the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley or Samuel Taylor Coleridge (see Sublime, the).

Citing this article:
Lamarque, Peter. Landscape, aesthetics of, 2022, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M074-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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