My Top 10 Contemporary British Landscape Artists.
‘Moving Home’ Oil on Canvas 40 x 65, Angela Edwards
Britain has a rich history of vivid and expressive contemporary landscape art. The artists chosen are synonymous with Britain’s unique artistic style and continue to influence all facets of the genre. Their work is an inspiration for many artists today, while also underpinning Britains firm grasp on contemporary art. Many would argue that Britain has some of the world’s most beloved and well known contemporary landscape artists.
Narrowing this list down to include only ten contemporary British landscape artists was a challenge. But every name on this list has brought something unique to landscape art in Britain. And are likely to be defined as catalysts or “architects” of landscape art in Britain. Moreover, these landscape artists have an expansive and diverse catalogue weaving us through their evolution in landscape art.
Considered the most influential British artist of the 20th century, David Hockney is a mixed media phenomenon. His work features prominently in The Museum of Modern Art. Although his work spans seven decades, Hockney’s first foray into landscape art was in the 1990s with a magnificent piece that defines his style in the genre. The “Small Santa Monica & the Bay From The Mountains” was created in 1990, and explores Hockney’s vivid use of colour and defined edges which would go on to define all of his mixed media landscape art. His exhibition at the Royal academy in Sept 2011 showed his very large landscape movies which filled a gallery and documented the four seasons in the landscape.
If you get the chance do visit the Salts Mill in West Yorkshire, you will find a huge selection of Hockney’s work. You can read more about Hockney work in my blog
Paintings like Canoe-Lake, Orange Sunshine, and Grasshopper demonstrate Peter Doig’s enigmatic style. These artworks are as charming as they are foreboding and display his prowess as a meticulous colourist.
Peter earns a spot on this list, not because of his real-world accomplishments but also because of his pioneering style. A style that combines figurative and abstract elements in his artwork. Although many of his most famous paintings captured landscapes outside of Britain, his style is still indicative of his British roots.
Although Peter Lanyon’s artwork only spans a short two decades, his work is still some of the most influential in the genre. Lanyon’s earlier influences include art critic Adrian Stokes, Ben Nicholson and to a lesser extent Barbara Hepworth. These influences are crucial in shaping his earlier work. However, later his relief and construction style art combined with his love of viewing Cornwall through a birds-eye view when gliding enabled Lanyon to bring his most famous creations to life. These paintings would lean heavily on abstraction and go on to be viewed as some of his most successful work.
The painting Porthleven..is a prime example of Lanyon’s idea of the ‘experiential landscape’, this approach involved looking at a landscape from different positions and combining these views with Myth, history and geology. Here we see the fishing port of Porthleven from several perspectives, including its two harbours and clock tower. Fascinatingly Lanyon also eluted to the fact that he identified a human presence in the work, that of two figure a Fishermans wife on the right wrapped in a shawl and the fisherman with a lamp on the left. He saw these two figures as depicting the cultural identity of Cornwall.
“20180915 Porthleven Peter Lanyon Tate Gallery St Ives Cornwall”by rodtuk is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Inspired by the romanticism of Richard Wilson, the evolution of JMW Turner’s work is evocative of the early stages of contemporary landscape art.
From the humblest of beginnings – displaying his art in his father’s barbershop – Turner weaved a tail through art that saw him break through the romanticism era of his time. Romanticism artwork is precise and detailed. However, as Turner’s developed his style, his artwork began taking on a less defined approach, some suggest that this was partly due to his failing eyesight.
His use of watercolour to convey imaginative landscapes is juxtaposed by his ability to weave intricate yet turbulent marine paintings. His work – especially later work – forms the foundation that many artists have followed.
Although JMW Turner died in 1851, his artwork is still seen as contemporary and a extensive collection of his work is housed at the Tate Britain.
A new exhibition which has at its heart surprisingly a reproduction of his work Slave ship. The original was said to be too fragile for the journey from Boston. The exhibition opened last month and runs from the 28th of Oct to the 7th of March 2021 at Tate Britain.
Turner was given the title of Modern painter by the critic Ruskin and as the Modern painter the painting depicts a scene of carnage and very relevantly brings into focus the history of slavery linked to British History.
An interesting and perhaps surprising addition to the list, Long uses the physical materials of the landscape to produce his work.Combining personal experience and inspiration from his glorious surroundings, Richard Long art expresses freedom, lightness, and mobility.
Longs work takes you on a journey through his physical movement. Most telling of Long’s artwork is his desire to do it from anywhere and using anything. You can see this most clearly in his work “River Avon Mud Circle.” To create this piece Long transported mud from his home in Bristol to the exhibition in Canada and using only his fingers and hands, created this work of art.
Richard Long, River Avon Mud Circle 2011
A master in urban landscapes L.S. Lowry’s distinctive style saw him capture England’s industrial districts in the 1950s and 1960s. Indicative of his style was his “matchstick men” which littered many of his industrial scenes and are a key feature in his work.
His lack of weather and shadows, ensured his work was often described by critics as naive, and for many years it was believed he was self-taught.
But, Lowry’s use of scale – with his dominant buildings and animated people – is something to inspire. It displays the effect of industrialization on everyday life, something that is still ongoing – and prevalent today. Possibly, one of the reasons he will always be known as the people’s artist.
But his ability to capture industrialisation – and its effects – is also on prominent display in his landscape paintings. These paintings articulate the sombre outlook at the time. With industrial buildings emanating thick black smoke and streets empty of people. Another signature element of LS Lowry was his use of only five colours to create his masterpieces: ivory black, vermillion, Prussian blue, yellow ochre and flake white.
There are over 500 known artworks of John Nash, many of which depict the landscapes he encountered. These landscapes ranged from China in his “China Clay Country” painting to the British countryside in his painting titled “Cornfield.” As an artist with no formal training and not many influences to speak of, John Nash depicts landscapes through an untainted lens. His signature style, which sees him painting landscapes in the evening is indicative of his time as a war artist.
Nash seems to have a deeply contrasting and somewhat graphic style, which enabled him to depict the harshness of the war torn landscapes
“Oppy wood 1917. Le Soir (John Nash) Expo 1917 Centre Pompidou Metz 074” by mfld57 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Victor Pasmore was a pioneer of abstract art in Britain. His work details his journey from figurative to abstract, where he would explore constructions, collages, and paintings. Pasmore’s first venture into abstract art was in the 1930s but because of his frustrations with the results, he would choose realism instead. This love for abstract art continued and is evident in his sharp turn to the genre in his later work. In fact, his winding journey through different genres is what makes his work fiercely distinct.
Watercolourists and landscape artist Eric Ravilious was a key figure in Britain’s early foray into contemporary landscape art. His work spans several decades, yet his style remains fairly consistent throughout his life.
One constant element in all of his paintings is the lack of figures. But, it’s that emphasis on objects that translates in his landscapes. Ravilious had a complicated relationship with Modernism and Design, which is very evident in his linear style of paint application.
Barbara Rae’s artwork explores her fascination with the history and topography of a place. This is evident in some of her most popular landscape artwork like ‘Beach Gleamings’ and ‘Black Pyramid.’She beautifully combines the mediums of paint and print.
As a decorated artist with membership in the Royal Academy and an honorary doctorate from Napier University, Rae’s abstract depiction of landscapes and an in-depth understanding of colour is always evident in her work. The underlying thread of all of her work is her unique artistic expression. This artistic expression is on perfect display in all her work, regardless of whether she’s painting an arctic landscape or a landscape closer to home.
Barbara Rae RA at the Royal Academy
As contemporary landscape art continues to develop it’s likely that the work of these artists’ will be most influential to future British artists – whether directly or indirectly.
Possibly, because these artists have each created and – in some instances – continue to develop their style. This style is the foundation of British artistic expression. And expands across the genre to include landscape art in all forms – whether that be land art, sculpture, paintings, or other mixed media.