Portrait of A Landscape: re-framing landscape painting
Being a Canadian artist means you grow up with the images of Canada as painted by the Group of Seven. Lawren Harris began re-framing landscape painting in Canadian Art, and Georgia O’ Keeffe treated the landscape similarly in her work depicting landscapes. As a contemporary Canadian Artist paintings landscapes, I find myself influenced by these two painters as I re-frame the landscapes of Canada as portraits and using symbolism and figurative elements.
Throughout the history of art, landscape painting has been a dominant genre. It has served as a medium for artists to capture the beauty of nature and to express their emotions and ideas. However, in the works of Lawren Harris, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Brandy Saturley, we see a re-framing of traditional landscape painting. These painters have taken a new approach to depicting the natural world, one that emphasizes the abstract, the spiritual, and the personal. In this blog post, we will explore the works of these three artists and how they have transformed landscape painting.
Re-framing landscape painting: Lawren Harris geometric landscapes
Lawren Harris was a Canadian painter who was a member of the Group of Seven, a group of artists who sought to create a distinctly Canadian art. Harris’s paintings often depict the rugged and wild landscape of the Canadian Shield, but they do so in a way that emphasizes the abstract and the spiritual. Harris’s paintings are characterized by their use of bold colors, geometric shapes, and simplified forms. He sought to capture the essence of the landscape, rather than its physical appearance.
In Harris’s painting “Mountains, North Shore, Lake Superior” (1926), we see the mountains reduced to geometric forms. The colors are bold and intense, with the blues and greens of the mountains contrasting with the warm oranges and yellows of the sky. The painting is not a realistic depiction of the landscape, but rather a representation of its spiritual essence.
Harris’s approach to landscape painting was influenced by his interest in Theosophy, a spiritual movement that sought to reconcile science and religion. Harris believed that through his paintings, he could capture the spiritual essence of the landscape and communicate it to others.
North Shore Lake Superior, 1926, Lawren Harris
The Personal Landscapes of Georgia O’Keeffe
Georgia O’Keeffe was an American painter who is best known for her large-scale paintings of flowers, but she also created many paintings of the desert landscape of New Mexico. O’Keeffe’s paintings of the desert landscape are characterized by their bold colors, simplified forms, and attention to detail. Her paintings are not realistic depictions of the landscape, but rather expressions of her personal relationship with it.
In O’Keeffe’s painting “Black Place III” (1944), we see the desert landscape reduced to its most essential elements. The painting is dominated by a large black form that occupies most of the canvas. This form is not a realistic depiction of any particular feature of the landscape, but rather a representation of its essence. The colors are bold and intense, with the black form contrasting with the warm oranges and yellows of the sky.
O’Keeffe’s approach to landscape painting was influenced by her interest in the psychology of perception. She believed that by simplifying the forms and colors of the landscape, she could create paintings that were more expressive of her personal experience of it.
Brandy Saturley: dynamic, expressive, and deeply personal, reflecting her own experiences and perspectives as a Canadian artist.
Brandy Saturley is a contemporary Canadian painter who creates paintings that are inspired by the landscape and culture of Canada. Saturley’s paintings are characterized by their bright colors, simplified forms, and attention to detail. Her paintings are not realistic depictions of the landscape, but rather expressions of her personal relationship with it.
In Saturley’s painting “Balance” (2017), we see a depiction of life perched upon a platter and uplifted by a human hand. The artist suggests the elevation of the spirit through the landscape, and in this case an iceberg with a lone polar bear balanced on the peak. Idealized aurora skies and a background of bold shapes and colours. This piece was presented at the Society of Canadian Artists 50th Anniversary exhibition in Toronto in 2019. The painting graced the cover of the exhibition catalogue, now on file with the National Gallery of Canada, library and archives. The painting is not a realistic depiction of any particular landscape, but rather a representation of the energy and spirit of the Canadian north. The colors are bright and intense, with the white polar bear contrasting with the cool blues, magenta and yellow of the aurora.
Saturley’s approach to landscape painting is influenced by her interest in the culture and mythology of Canada. She believes that by using figurative elements, simplified forms and bright colors, she can create paintings that capture the energy and spirit of the landscape.
Brandy Saturley talks about how these landscape painters have influenced her paintings
Whether the landscapes, forests and farms of southern Ontario as painted by A.J. Casson, or A.Y. Jackson’s Georgian Bay, the grandeur of the rocky mountains as imagined by Lawren Harris, or the raw beauty and Autumn hues of Algonquin park as depicted by the People’s artist, Tom Thomson. The Group of Seven burnished the idea of the Canadian landscape onto our brains, seeping deep into our hearts. I was always drawn to the icy blue palette, idealized forms and light captured in the paintings of Lawren Harris. I was always particularly drawn to his paintings of mountains.
As a Canadian painter looking to create my own distinct artist voice on canvas I began to study the works of the world renowned American painter, Georgia O’Keeffe.
Famous for her depictions of New Mexico landscapes and still life of flowers and skulls, I began to find similarities between the mountain paintings of Harris and the landscape paintings of O’Keeffe. Both with their precisionist style, idealized forms, and feminine palettes; my affinity for the works of these two painters is leading me down a new path of re-framing the Canadian landscape in painting.
A landscape as it is, is something to be appreciated, perhaps captured on camera, but nature is perfection and it has never been my interest to paint the landscape as it appears. I am drawn to the details found within the landscape, the story of the landscape is what interests me most, and it is the story I endeavor to tell on canvas. Our connection to the Earth and to nature, this is something I feel in my bones and want to express on canvas.
With this new series of paintings inspired by the landscape I am taking distinct elements of the landscape, symbols of the land and nature that surrounds and re-framing the elements on canvas, in portrait orientation.
I began 2018 having just returned home form a trip to Maui, Hawaii where I enjoyed the rainforest, landscapes and tracing Georgia O’Keeffe’s footsteps on the island. The first painting of 2018 is an homage to O’Keeffe and inspired by Maui and the Iao Valley.
I guess you could say I am building contemporary portraits of the landscape, and I am excited to see what comes next.