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Landscape Painting: Past and Present

While landscape painting dates back to antiquity, it only became a serious genre when artists began using landscapes as a retreat from the complexities of modern life. The 19th century brought landscapes to the forefront through plein air techniques. The landscape became a reflection of philosophical ideas when previously, landscapes were simply an image of pastoral idyll.

The effects of the anthropocene on art have intensified with time. Today we are faced with new challenges: climate change, environmental destruction, and population density. The 21st century has an even more strained relationship with nature and an even greater dependence on technology. Our ecological crisis marked the collapse of traditional landscape, and modern gives way to contemporary. We have a radical new conceptualization of landscape, no longer tethered to factual depiction. Our perception is distorted by digital aesthetics which results in new, imagined landscapes. Scenes that could only be afforded by contemporary technology are present in the works by Yael Bartana, Thomas Eggerer, Sean Landers, Adam McEwen, Rodney McMillian, Sarah Morris, Seth Price, Stephen Prina, Dirk Skreber, John Stezaker, Nicola Tyson, and Corinne Wasmuht. Today, we can only dream of the bucolic landscapes of the past while we try to make sense of the present.

21st Century Landscapes -  - Viewing Room - Petzel Gallery

Detail, Seth Price, Untitled, 2019


With the twentieth century, the further dismantling of linear perspective in a variety of areas began to take hold. Cinema supplements photography with the articulation of different temporal perspectives. Montage becomes a perfect device for destabilizing the observer’s perspective and breaking down linear time. Painting abandons representation to a large extent and demolishes linear perspective in cubism, collage, and different types of abstraction. Time and space are reimagined through quantum physics and the theory of relativity, while perception is reorganized by warfare, advertisement, and the conveyor belt. 

Hito Steyerl, In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective, 2011

Pastoral Landscapes

He who looks on nature with a "loving eye," cannot move from his dwelling without the salutation of beauty; even in the city the deep blue sky and the drifting clouds appeal to him. And if to escape its turmoil—if only to obtain a free horizon, land and water in the play of light and shadow yields delight—let him be transported to those favored regions, where the features of the earth are more varied, or yet add the sunset, that wreath of glory daily bound around the world, and he, indeed, drinks from pleasure's purest cup.

Thomas Cole, Essay on American Scenery, 1836


Thomas Eggerer, Yellow Harvest

Thomas Eggerer

Yellow Harvest


Oil, acrylic, and carbon on canvas

79 x 90 inches

200.7 x 228.6 cm

John Stezaker, Tears

John Stezaker



Found painting and collage

20.1 x 23.8 inches

51 x 60.5 cm

John Stezaker, Tears XI

John Stezaker

Tears XI


Found painting and collage

17.8 x 19.9 inches

45.3 x 50.5 cm

John Stezaker, Tears IX

John Stezaker

Tears IX


Found painting and collage

16 x 20 inches

40.7 x 50.7 cm

John Stezaker, Tears VII

John Stezaker

Tears VII


Found painting and collage

15.9 x 20.1 inches

40.5 x 51 cm

Nicola Tyson, Figure with Tree

Nicola Tyson

Figure with Tree


Oil on canvas

72 x 95 inches

182.9 x 241.3 cm

Psychological Landscapes

The image has become sheer presence, immediacy: the here and now in real time. Made up of particles of time, wrested out of sensation and turned into cognition, the image deals more with concepts and saying than with intuition and showing.

Irmgard Emmelhainz, "Conditions of Visuality Under the Anthropocene and Images of the Anthropocene to Come," E-Flux, 2015


Seth Price, Untitled

Seth Price



Dye-sublimation print on synthetic fabric, aluminum, LED

115 x 60 x 4 inches

292.1 x 152.4 x 10.2 cm

Psychological Landscapes

Landscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock.

Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory, 1995

Seth Price "Social Synth" (2017)

Seth Price, Social Synth, 2017, Single-channel video, 13:53 minutes, color, silent

21st Century Landscapes -  - Viewing Room - Petzel Gallery




Installation view, Seth PriceHell Has Everything, Petzel, New York, 2018–2019

Political Landscapes

There is no such thing as just landscape. The actual landscape is politicized through the events that take place on it.

Julie Mehrtu, "What Does It Mean to Paint a Landscape in this Political Moment?," Culturetype, 2017

Yael Bartana "True Finn" (2014)

Yael Bartana, True Finn, 2014, HD, 50 minutes

Sarah Morris "Rio" (2012)

Sarah Morris, Rio, 2012, Beta digital, 89 minutes
21st Century Landscapes -  - Viewing Room - Petzel Gallery

Stephen Prina
Harbor Lights Supper Club, Galesburg, Illinois, 1947–1986, former site, 2015
Photography: Foley Photo Studio, Galesburg Illinois

Digital print on vinyl banner
206 x 385 inches
532.2 x 977.9 cm