Tag Archives: Landscape painters

Exercise 4.4 – Of Mother Nature  and Marlboro Men

The student is asked to read the essay ‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men’ by Deborah Bright and then note the key points of interest and any personal reflections from the essay.

Bright’s essay was written in 1985, the midpoint in the Regan Presidency when corporate America and Reaganomics were the driving power behind the American ascendancy. The third opening of American manifest destiny was possible, the American dream, of expansion into space and leading the world into a new future. The first Manifest destiny had passed and was now a distant memory kept alive on  TV screens playing old John Ford movies and in the advertisement ego of the Marlboro man; the last stand of the cowboy in the middle of the US, along with his horse and his cigarettes, alone in what remains of the American landscape around him (usually the high plains or Arizona’s painted desert.

Bright is correct in framing the Marlboro man images as proto-political landscapes, these images are redolent of the geographical photography of O’Sullivan, Adams and Weston, all of them missing any feminine point of view or interest. After all, Landscape painting was a male-dominated domain, one which in the 17th and 18th centuries were not welcoming to women, who were thought not to be intelligent enough to understand or produce worthy landscapes. Marlboro man’s version of the American pioneer completely erases the pioneering women who successfully drove west with the wagon trains and made a substantial contribution to American life and to American history.

As was pointed out, in Andrews ‘Landscape and Western Art’, pp 166, Landscape painting, while attempting to reflect a certain amount of scientific accuracy, was also a constructed text of selected subjects. Thus, as in the case in Constable’s Hay Wain where the workers have no faces or real detail, they are background figures, happily performing their duties.  In reality, the workers in the fields were rioting due to a lack of work and income, partially due to war and partially due to the start of industrialisation and the industrial revolution which would render a vast number of these workers’ jobs as redundant. Constable did not include these social and political changes and upheaval as they were unsuitable subjects for a gentile landscape painting. Constable deliberately chose which parts of the landscape he wanted to represent and through that choice, disregarded the rest.

This very same choice was being made and driven within American Landscape photography from the 1940s onwards. With the growth of tourism, advertising was the biggest manufacturer of landscape images, ditching the landscape representation of change through human interaction and instead presenting the characteristic image of the wide-open America, a landscape which stretches on for miles, unexplored but yet ready and prepared to welcome tourists with roadside lodges and all modern amenities available.  The marketing of the male gaze of the landscape, by the same marketing men as the Marlboro man, created the idea of the ‘back to nature’ trip, where for a short period of time, people would harken back to the nostalgia of the rigours of the pioneer life, but without the danger. These trips would, of course, be captured on camera as a memory of the holiday – nature fit for human consumption.

Certainly, within this aesthetic, the landscape of America was treated as the unexplored wilderness of Ansel Adams Eden-like interpretation. Very much like Constable’s Hay Wain, the political landscape is ignored in favour of the spectacular but sanitised view of the subject. Bright in the same way, points to Szarkowski whom she suggests lifted the works of O’Sullivan and Weston out of context and repackaged them ‘as the indisputable sires’ of landscape photography.

As a counterpoint, Bright suggests that the work of the New Topographics photographers was the start of a movement of social critique within landscape photography. It was a limited movement Bright details due to a lack of understanding and expectation on what should be critiqued and how. Certainly, the 1970s was not the hotbed of social activism and revolution that we see today, and now the barricade to keep art free from ‘overt politics’ has been broken down.

Bright is correct in saying that the artist themselves influences the final image, through their own practice and perceptions, both social and political. Bright is also correct in stating that in the 1980s, there was a lack of support for Landscape created by female photographers and artists and by using methods of mass production and low costs, female artists had replicated the methods used by male marketing teams to make their work available to the larger public. Therefore, circumventing the interwoven gallery-led market for art, which has allowed them to articulate their ideas and politics through their landscape imagery.

In closing, Bright suggests that women may eventually break the idea that Landscape photography is the sole domain of white male photographers, who like the Marlboro man, are explorer, guide, hunter and preserver, solely responsible for the land. It can be seen outside of America that this is already happening with the work of Artists such as Fay Godwin, Susan Derges, and Vanessa Winship. It can be seen as Bright wanted, that breakthroughs are happening, for example, the work of Lois Connor whose use of large format platinum prints, creates exemplary monochrome landscapes of beauty. Connors imagery of Utah, South Dakota and China are as resplendent as the work of Adams or O’Sullivan, in my opinion.


Bright, D. (1985) ‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men An Inquiry Into the Cultural Meanings of Landscape Photography’, (), pp. [Online]. Available at: http://www.deborahbright.net/PDF/Bright-Marlboro.pdf (Accessed: 1st May 2019).

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Exercise 1.3 Establishing Conventions

The exercise tasks us to use multiple resources to find at least 12 examples from 18th and 19th Century Landscape Painters. Then to list the commonalities which can be seen in these paintings.

Using Reference books, web search engines and online articles; I selected the following.

Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828)

Richard_Parkes_Bonington_005 (1)

Figure 1. Normandy (1823), Public Work

Peter De Wint (1784-1849)

Roman Canal, Lincolnshire c.1840 by Peter De Wint 1784-1849

Figure 2. Roman Canal , Lincolnshire (c.1840),

John Sell Cotman (1782-1842)
Llanthony Abbey 1801 by John Sell Cotman 1782-1842Figure 3, Llanthony Abbey (1801), Private Work,


Samuel Scott (1702-1772)
An Arch of Westminster Bridge c.1750 by Samuel Scott c.1702-1772Figure 4. An Arch of Westminster Bridge (c.1750), Private Commission for Sir Lawrence Dundas

William James Mueller (1812-1845)
View of Bologna: Capriccio with Eastern Figures c.1835 by William James M?ller 1812-1845Figure 5. View of Bolognia: Capriccio with Eastern Figures, (c 1835),

Michael Angelo Rooker
ma rooker south east view of winsor castleFigure 6. South View of Windor Castle, 1776, Private Commission, 

John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
JR Cozens The valley of the Eisak Near Brixen in the TyrollFigure 7. The Valley of the Eisak Near Brixen in the Tyrol, 1783/84, 


Fredrick Erwin Church (1826-1900)
FE Church View to CotopaxiFigure 8. View of Cotopaxi, 1857, Private Commision for Walter Wright

Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900)
1911.4.1_1.tifFigure 9. Aurora Borealis, 1865, Smithsonian Museum,

Asher Brown Durand (1796–1886)
AB Durand Landscape with BirchesFigure 10. Landscape with Birches, c 1855, sold to Jonathan Sturges

Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
1992.14Figure 11. The Fountain of Vaucluse, 1841

Thomas Hearne (1744-1817)
Thomas Herne Glastoburgh AbbeyFigure 12. Glastonbury Abbey (1795), Private Commision

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802
Thomas Girvin Bamburgh CastleFigure 13. Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland (1797-1799)

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851)
D 5446Figure 14. Edinburgh from Calton Hill (1819)


List of commonalities:

  •  Use of the rule of thirds and lead in lines by many of the artists.
  • The majority of the works have people in the scene
  • A couple of works feature rural scenes feature domesticated animals, none as far as I have chosen feature wild animals.
  • Buildings are shown in the work as either dominating the scene as a ruin or as a main part of the background.
  • The majority are in ‘landscape’ orientation, although few are in the 16:9 ratio.
  • Trees/woodland feature heavily and include water either flowing as a waterfall or standing as a lake. Rivers are shown as calm.
  • The majority show rural scenes of the countryside which are idillyic
  • The sky is either dramatic or it is a blue calm sky
  • The lighting in the majority of the works is golden light.
  • Use of natural tones and vibrant greens

A few of the things that stood out to me:

  •  The shape of the frame fits the work rather than the other way around. It looks as if a few frames have been altered after the work was completed,
  • Later paintings take on the Sublime element, adding drama through colour or composition.
  • Commissions were made by patrons who wanted their “land seat” to be composed as impressive as possible.


The second part of the exercise tasks us with searching for and showing  landscape photographs from any era which conform he commonalities listed.

Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams The_Tetons_and_the_Snake_RiverFigure 15. The Tetons and Snake River (1942)
  • Use of the rule of thirds and lead in line
  • Dramatic Sky
  • Landscape orientation
  • Trees/woodland,
  • River is shown as calm.
  • Grand/Rural Scene

David Speight
David Speight Misty Dawn at Kilchurn castle
Figure 16. Kilchurn Castle at Sunrise  
  • Landscape orientation,
  • Trees/woodland feature heavily and include water either flowing as a waterfall or standing as a lake.
  • The rural scenes of the countryside which are idillyic
  • The sky is both dramatic and it is a blue calm sky
  • The lighting is golden light.
  • Use of natural tones and vibrant greens
  • Use of the rule of thirds

Carr Clifton
Carr Clifton
Figure 17 
  • Use of the rule of thirds
  • Landscape orientation,
  • The majority show rural scenes of the countryside which are idillyic
  • The sky is a blue calm sky
  • The lighting in the majority of the work is golden light.
  • Use of natural tones and vibrant greens

Franco Fontana
Franco Fontana Pugla 1987
Figure 18. Puglia, 1984  
  • Use of the rule of thirds
  • Landscape orientation
  • Trees/woodland feature
  • The majority show rural scenes of the countryside which are idillyic
  • The sky is a blue calm sky
  • The lighting is golden light.
  • Use of natural tones and vibrant greens



The paintings are much more dramatic, some capture the nightmare state of the sublime.
The paintings show ruined abbeys, the photographs mainly show city scenes or striking landscapes; few photographs that I could find would have a ruin as the main subject of the scene or work.

The photographs show a more realistic scene, the colours are more vibrant. The contrast is better in the photographs and in all they have a more natural feel to them.

Very photographs have people within the scene in the same composition as the paintings; I struggled to find photographic work and compositions which reflected a similar scene to the paintings.

Attribution of Figures

Figure 1,
Richard Parkes Bonington, (1823), Normandy [ONLINE]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Parkes_Bonington#/media/File:Richard_Parkes_Bonington_005.jpg[Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 2,
Peter De Wint, (1840), Roman Canal, Linconshire [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/de-wint-roman-canal-lincolnshire-n03480 [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 3,
John Sell Cotman, (1801), Llanthony Abbey [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/cotman-llanthony-abbey-t00970 [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 4,
Samuel Scott, (1750), An Arch of Westminster Bridge [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/samuel-scott-480 [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 5,
William James Muller, (1835), View of Bologna: Capriccio with Eastern Figures [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/muller-view-of-bologna-capriccio-with-eastern-figures-n01463[Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 6,
Michael Angelo Rooker, (1776), South View of Windor Castle [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/6/collection/700408/south-east-view-of-windsor-castle [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 7,
John Robert Cozens, (1783), The Valley of the Eisak Near Brixen in the Tyrol, [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/158411?search_no=5&index=1 [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 8,
Frederic Edwin Church, (1857), View to Cotopaxi [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/American/artwork/76571 [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 9,
Frederic Edwin Church, (1865), Aurora Borealis [ONLINE]. Available at: https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/aurora-borealis-4806 [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 10,
Asher Brown Durand, (1855), Landscape with Birches [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/landscape-with-birches-33754 [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 11,
Thomas Cole, (1841), The Fountain of Vaucluse [ONLINE]. Available at: https://collections.dma.org/artwork/4031115 [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 12,
Thomas Hearne, (1795), Glastonbury Abbey [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.bmagic.org.uk/objects/1920P683/images/135700 [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 13,
Thomas Girtin, (1797), Bamburgh Castle [ONLINE]. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Thomas_Girtin#/media/File:Thomas_Girtin_005.jpg[Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 14,
JMW Turner, (1819), Edinburgh from Calton Hill [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/50144/edinburgh-calton-hill?artists[15158]=15158&search_set_offset=27#related-media-anchor [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 15,
Ansel Adams, (1942), Grand Tetons and the Snake River [ONLINE]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Adams_The_Tetons_and_the_Snake_River.jpg [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 16,
David Speight. (2018), Kilchurn Castle at Sunrise {ONLINE]. Available from: https://www.davidspeightphotography.co.uk/portfolio/view/misty-dawn-at-kilchurn-castle-argyll-and-bute-scotland/scotland-landscape-photography

Figure 17,
Carr Clifton, (2018), Appalachian Mountains [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.phototraces.com/creative-photography/famous-landscape-photographers/ [Accessed 23 February 2018].

Figure 18,
Franco Fontana, (1987), Puglia [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.photoandcontemporary.com/work.aspx?wr=561&ar=3 [Accessed 23 February 2018].



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