The inspiration of nature

Arcadian and romantic landscapes

Slovenian artist Franc Kavčič/Caucig (1755-1828) spent his life and career in the important European art centres of his time. Inspired by antiquity and the art of the Italian Renaissance, he trained as an artist in the academies of Vienna, Bologna and Rome. Kavčič typically painted idyllic landscapes and scenes from the Bible and mythology. His style of painting was strongly influenced by 17th century French neoclassical painters such as Claude Gellé, called Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin, as work such as Ideal Landscape with a Young Man Killing a Snake.

Today, around two thousand of Kavčič’s drawings survive, the greatest number being in Vienna and in Ljubljana. To learn more about Kavčič, visit the website of the Slovenian National Gallery.

Johan Thomas Lundbye (1818-1848) drew inspiration from his native Denmark, particularly the wild and unspoilt coast of Røsnæs, a landscape he knew intimately. Lundbye applied the conventions of neoclassical painting to Danish, rather than Greek or Italian, landscapes to express his patriotism and pride in Danish art.

Set within a beautiful landscape, the massive burial mound in Dolmen at Raklev, Røsnæs, 1839, connects the present with Denmark’s ancient history and customs. By the time of his death at the age of twenty-eight, Lundbye had become one of his country’s most noted romantic painters.

English artist John Constable’s influences included Claude Gellé, called Lorrain and 17th century Dutch landscape painters such as Jacob van Ruisdael. His famous work The Hay Wain, 1821, was produced in his London studio, following a number of open-air sketches and drawings made in Suffolk, near the river Stour, where Constable spent most of his life.

Before executing the painting itself, Constable made a small oil sketch for the whole composition, now in the collection of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. The fluid brushstrokes of Constable’s oil sketches could be seen as a forerunner of Impressionism, which we will explore later in this chapter. As a penultimate step, Constable also produced a full-size preparatory sketch in oil, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, to establish the final composition.

When The Hay Wain was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821, it failed to find a buyer. Yet when it was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1824, Constable was awarded a Gold Medal by Charles X of France.

Painting is with me but another word for feeling.

John Constable

Estonian Eugen Dücker (1841-1916), a native of Saaremaa island, worked as a professor of landscape painting at the Art Academy of Düsseldorf for forty years. Peaceful seascapes with gently sloping shores and low horizons, as seen here in Seaside Landscape, 1875, became so characteristic of his work that the term “Dücker’s horizon” was coined as a result.

Through his teaching and painting, Dücker influenced the development of landscape painting, in a number of northern European countries, towards a relatively academic and romantic style. The Norwegian painter Adelsteen Normann (1848-1918) was a notable student of Dücker’s. In 1892, Normann invited his countryman Edvard Munch to join him in Berlin, where Munch would paint The Scream a year later.