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The Evolution of Landscape Painting: From Ancient China to Today, with Kerry Johnstone

Landscape painting is an ancient and venerable art form that has been practiced for centuries across cultures and civilizations. The art of painting landscapes is both a creative and technical practice that requires a mastery of composition, colour, and form. Over time, the techniques and styles of landscape painting have evolved, with contemporary artists like Kerry Johnstone exploring new contexts through this longstanding medium.

A (VERY) Short History of Landscape Painting

The tradition of landscape painting can be traced back to ancient China, where landscape art was considered the highest form of painting. The Chinese believed that landscapes held spiritual and moral significance, and that painting them was a way to connect with the divine. Chinese landscape painting typically featured sweeping views of mountains, rivers, and valleys, often with tiny figures or buildings set against the vast expanse of nature.

In Europe, landscape painting developed in the Middle Ages, primarily as a form of religious art. Artists used landscapes to create backgrounds for religious scenes, and as a way to represent the natural world as a reflection of the divine. During the Renaissance, artists began to focus more on capturing the beauty of the natural world for its own sake, and landscape painting became a popular genre in its own right.

In the 19th century, landscape painting underwent a significant transformation with the development of the Romantic movement. Romantic painters sought to capture the sublime beauty of nature, often depicting dramatic, awe-inspiring scenes like stormy seas or craggy mountains. The Impressionist movement that followed focused more on the play of light and colour in the natural world, capturing the fleeting beauty of everyday scenes like sunsets or gardens.

Kerry Johnstone

Today, landscape painting continues to be a popular and respected genre, with artists using a wide range of styles and techniques to depict the natural world. Contemporary artist Kerry Johnstone, for example, focuses on the beauty of trees, rocks, and moors, using vibrant colours and intricate details to capture the essence of nature.

Johnstone's work reflects her appreciation for the natural world, as well as her concern for environmental issues like deforestation and climate change. Her paintings celebrate trees, from the unglamorous ones hidden in hedgerows to the majestic trees that dominate the landscape. She also portrays the beauty and complexity of rocks, with their varied shapes, plant life, and the way trees and their roots grow in and around them. Johnstone's paintings of moors depict the rich colours and textures of the natural landscape, capturing the essence of this wilderness area.

Through her work, Johnstone demonstrates the ongoing evolution of landscape painting, showcasing how contemporary artists are using the medium to address contemporary issues. By celebrating the beauty of nature and highlighting the fragility of the environment, Kerry's paintings remind us of the importance of preserving and protecting the natural world for future generations.

You can discover Kerry's work at Artizan Gallery in their May 2023 "Natural World" showcase alongside works of embroidery artist Chloë Morter. For more information, visit



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