Atmosphere from China to Italy

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Long before Claude Lorraine introduced atmospheric perspective effects in the 1600s Chinese artists of the Song Dynasty had already developed these effects in their landscape painting in the 10th century 600 years earlier. Among their basic tenets was the principle of substance vs. absence. This meant that a misty amorphous air would lie in the space between receding forms, between mountains for example.

I have wondered if merchant/explorers along the Silk Road brought an understanding of effects of atmospheric perspective back to Italy from China. The design coincidences between Byzantine, Persian and Indian painting and, Chinese painting from the 10th century onward are too obvious and numerous to be dismissed. The mixed culture references in rendering geologic and meteorological imagery share many similarities.

J.M.W. Turner looked to Claude as his model for creating atmospheric perspective but, he could also have found the effects in the much earlier work of Fan Kuan.

Example 1. Claude Lorraine example of atmospheric perspective, 1600s.

Example 2. J.W.M. Turner example of atmospheric perspective, early 1800s.

Venice Quay, Ducal Palace, exh. 1844.

Example 3.  After Fan Kuan, demonstrating atmosphere in painting on silk from 1000 CE.

In last week’s blog post I considered Song Dynasty landscape painting and, compared it with my efforts to model such painting ideas in one of my vertical landscapes (example 4).

Example 4.  A tonal Song Dynasty inspired landscape, 18×12”.

This week I scaled up the size of the work from 18×12” to 48×36”.   I began the 48×36” painting as a more expressionistically styled work (step one, example 6). Next, I emphasized more atmospheric perspective here as seen in example 7, step two. These foggy atmospheric effects softened edges, created more edge uncertainty and a deeper feeling of space.


Example 6. Step one of the “Valley Gorge”

Example 7. Step two of the “Valley Gorge”.

At present I am applying the obscuring and romanticizing effects of atmospheric perspective to different works (example 8 present state).

Example 8.  River Bend, oil on brushed silver enameled laminated aluminum, 48×48, present state.


13 Responses

  1. Martha Mickeriz

    Thank you for sharing your research and insight. You have achieved your goal! This painting is just beautiful.

  2. Robert Anthony Montesino

    As always a wonderful and informative article. Question, why have you been choosing to use a silver enameled laminated aluminum for your support? Can the renderings not be accomplish the same effects using canvas or wood even paper perhaps? Just wondering? Again, thank you for sharing the History and the paintings with us.



  3. Mary Nees

    yes! I too have wondered at the “trickle over” effect of the Song painters into the west. Much of their work seemed to come from contemplative practice (in some cases forced on them from political disenchantment and then isolation) but their work still shines. The big difference I note is their view of themselves (tiny figures in huge landscapes) vs. the western assumption of mastery…anyway thank-you David, these blog bits are always instructive, so glad to be reminded of your steps into a piece

  4. Patricia Scanlan

    The atmospheric perspective you create is just so amazing. Very interesting blog of art history.
    I love this.

  5. Nina Lemeeshevskaya

    Thank you, David, for the sharing the way, that brought you to new vision of atmospheric perspective in your very interesting new painting.

  6. Fredric Neuwirth

    Step seven has a great deal more space and distance. Some how I like the water treatmment in step 6. It has a more rugged look, more active less polished.

  7. denise Brown

    thanks for sharing your knowledge and love of landscape. Great videos on PBS!
    I love painting plein air and watercolors.

  8. David Fife

    I love your painting style, but what do you paint on. It looks like a board of some sort. Could you help me out on this please.

  9. Sheila Leach

    I like example 7 best, it conveys a lovely feeling of mystery in the distance ??

  10. Bill

    The art of Gabino Amaya Cacho will always give us something to talk about, it is pure and realistic and it gives us a series of creative characteristics that are not obtained from another style, it constitutes the new artistic wave in Madrid. Many young people have chosen to follow the current of abstract pointillism, which marks a before and after in the history of painting in Spain. I invite you to watch the video and enjoy your talent.

  11. Christine Claisse

    Simply amazing, mesmerizing…
    I love your process, your knowledge and insights are incredible…
    Thank you so much…

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