Landscape was the first photographic genre, but how influential is it in contemporary fashion? Photographic genres are forever blurring and more than ever we are seeing photographs from fashion shoots ending up in prestigious galleries. My own work is heavily influenced by the use of people within the landscape, and while I am starting to experiment with fashion within different landscapes. This essay gives me the chance to explore the history of people within landscapes and contemporary practitioners using the landscape to convey different meanings. In the early 17th century Anthony van Dyck was one of the leading artists in England, having been commissioned by royalty. His portraits included King Charles I and his family. He would work either out of his own studio or a studio on location. Van Dyck’s paintings of Charles on horseback emphasised the grandeur of the King, but in his portrait of Charles dismounted, Levey explains how the use of the landscape is more effective. ‘Charles is given a totally natural look of instinctive sovereignty, in a deliberately informal setting where he strolls so negligently that that he seems at first glance nature's gentleman rather than England's King’(Levey 1971, pp 128)
Antoon van Dyck, 1635. Louvre. [painting] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Charles_I_of_England.jpg [Accessed10/03/11]
So, by using the landscape van Dyck has created a sense that the King is not much different from any other gentleman. However, there are still subtle differences that could still be interpreted to signify royalty; the white horse with the gold flowing mane, the servants looking after the horse and carrying clothing. This could also be perceived as a fashion statement; the clothing stands out from the surroundings and it seems that the focus is on the garments. It is hard to decide if this was in fact painted at this location or in the studio, as van Dyck was known to have created a few landscape paintings. Thomas Gainsborough was one of two (the other being Sir Joshua Reynolds) leading portrait painters in England during the late 18th Century. Gainsborough often painted conversation pieces; a group painting where the group seem to be engaged in some sort of conversation or activity, often outdoors. ‘The emphasis on the landscape here allows Gainsborough to display his skills as a painter of convincingly changing weather and naturalistic scenery’ (The National Portrait Gallery, Anon, n.d)
Thomas Gainsborouh, 1750. Mr and Mrs Adrews [painting] Available at: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/thomas-gainsborough-mr-and-mrs-andrews [Accessed 21/03/11]
Gainsborough has been able to romanticise the landscape. With painting and sufficient skill there is a possibility to emphasise certain things. Gainsborough has chosen to emphasis the landscape, filling more than half of the frame with it. This could be a statement of ownership, wealth or even fashion. The large flowing blue dress draped over the elaborate wooden bench draws the eye and contrasts the moody clouds beyond. Again, as with van Dyck’s ‘Louvre’, Gainsborough has chosen a relaxed pose for the man, almost provoking ideas that he is “laid back”. Power is a strong theme within this painting. The gun is probably the most obvious, but if we look closer, the dog is at the ‘Master’s’ knees looking up and obeying him. He is also standing over the woman. She is looking very stiff, as if she doesn’t want to anger him. The romantic era began in the second half of the 18th century; the visual arts, music and literature were all celebrated. Caspar David Friedrich was generally considered the most influential German romantic artist. He conveys a subjective emotional response to the natural world; he is best known for his paintings of contemplative silhouetted figures against night skies, morning mists and barren trees. Friedrich's paintings commonly employed the Rückenfigur—a person seen...