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Museum Home Education Search Lesson Plans All Curricula Landscapes, Classical to Modern: Lessons and Ideas for Discussion Discussion Questions about Landscape Art
Discussion Questions about Landscape Art

While some of these issues may be addressed in the content and lessons in this curriculum, the following questions are general considerations for talking about and looking at landscapes.

Elementary Level Questions
• List everything you see in the landscape. First, list what is natural; next, list what is man-made. Which list is longer? Does the longer list match the definition of landscape as a picture of natural scenery?

• Imagine that you have entered into the scene depicted in the landscape painting. What would you see, smell, hear, taste, or touch if you were in this place?

• If you could enter into the scene in the work, where would you be located? Does the artist give you a natural path to follow through the landscape?

• Is this a place that you would want to visit? Why or why not? What would you wear if you were visiting this landscape?

• Landscape art is typically described by what appears in the foreground, middle ground, and background. Consider what objects you can see in the foreground, middle ground, and background of the landscape.

Secondary Level Questions
In many landscapes, understanding how the artist depicts space is important to visually appreciating the work. When viewing a landscape, consider which, if any, of the techniques listed below the artist employs to create a sense of space in his/her work.

Atmospheric Perspective is sometimes referred to as 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 spatial depth, the lighter the color. Often, colors in the far distance appear as lighter, cooler tones of blue to gray.

Overlapping is the placement in a composition of one object in front of another, which creates the illusion of depth.

Relative size (scale) is the size of one object or part of a landscape in relation to another. For example: a tree in the foreground would appear much larger than a tree in the background.

Consider the following: Where was the artist standing when he or she made this landscape? How does his or her point of view, or vantage point, affect the way the landscape looks?

• Some landscape artists painted out-of-doors; others painted in studios from their sketches and memories. The artists who painted landscapes in their studios often chose to create pleasing compositions, which were not always true to the realities of a particular place. When looking at a landscape painting, think about whether it is an image of a real or imagined place. Are there any clues in the painting that would lead you to believe it was made from direct observation, or in a studio?

• Compare landscapes from the mid-19th century to earlier landscapes. Until the 19th century, landscape paintings were most often made to be an illusion of reality, using techniques to create perspective and a naturalistic space, like a window into the world. Later painters, such as Gustave Courbet and the Impressionists, created landscapes that depicted real places, but in less illusionistic ways. They were more concerned with light and its effects on color and the textural applications of paint onto canvas.

• If you were asked to think of a landscape in your imagination, would it be the landscape where you grew up? Do you think we define landscape for ourselves as the place with which we are most familiar? In the 19th century the rise of landscape painting in France and America ran parallel with the development of those countries' national identities. The connections that the respective peoples had to the landscapes they inhabited helped to shape these ideas. Does the landscape we live today in shape our identity? Discuss.

For the Classroom

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Brief History of the Landscape Genre

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