A window on nature
What is a landscape?
This exhibition at the Louvre-Lens addresses this question from the perspective of art. From the Renaissance to the present day, artists have been revisiting Creation myths in their own way through painting, by representing the sky, earth, sea, light and darkness. The shimmering moments captured by the Impressionists, the fleeting mist in Chinese paintings of mountains and water (shanshui), the thousand and one views of Japanese woodblock prints – all of these works convey messages of light and shadow. In the 17th century, this codified language was reflected in what were known as ‘the ornaments of nature’: trees, plants, rocks and streams.
This exhibition sets out to decipher the concept, exploring the sources of representations of landscape in art and following artists through the various stages in their work, from the preparatory sketch to the finished work. In the process, it explores different types of landscape and views of nature, from the small drawing to the gigantic panorama, from the peaceful plain to menacing volcanoes, from the fleeting instant to the vision of eternity, from figuration to abstraction.
There are many mysteries: What places are these? What tools did artists use? What relationship did they have to the sciences of their time? What did they feel in contact with natural sites?
In addition to the creations themselves – some famous, others more unexpected – the exhibition includes objects that make it possible to answer these questions, such as artists’ teaching manuals and the tools used in the studio and outdoors. The exhibits enable visitors to follow art lovers into their homes, where landscape depictions were a decorative feature, and artists on their expeditions, in their gardens and further afield.
The themes of the landscape and the still life are hot topics in today’s world, which has been totally transformed by human activity; works of art offer a unique exploration of them and show to what extent art and landscape are interlinked.
Marie Lavandier, director of the Louvre-Lens
Vincent Pomarède, general heritage curator at the Musée du Louvre
Marie Gord, research and documentation assistant at the Louvre-Lens
Exhibition organised with the support of the Mutuelles AXA.