Research point: Expressive Landscapes

We are asked to look at the work of a range of artists with regards to how they interpret an expressive landscape.   The list includes Frank Auerbach, Salvadore Dali, Max Ernst, de Chirico, Paul Nash,  Graham Sutherland, Emil Nolde, Gustav Klimt, Gustave Moreau, Leon Bakst and Frida Kahlo. 

As this is such a large group of artists, I have decided to feature just one work from each of them.  Several do not need biographies, as they were studied in detail during this course or in Drawing 1 and i am familiar with most of them, with the exception of Leon Bakst. I have also included work from people I am currently studying in more detail like Luc Tuymans, Gerhard Richter and some others whose work I find inspirational as far as their use of colour is concerned.

There are thousands of artists who have painted exceptionally expressive landscapes – perhaps none more so than Cezanne – but we are not asked to include Impressionists, it seems that modernist/surrealist painters are what we should be focusing on here.

First then, the thick impasto technique of Frank Auerbach

Frank Auerbach ‘Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II’, 2004, (oil on board) (Source: Bridgeman Education)

Salvadore Dali

It wasn’t always liquid clocks and anthromorphic shapes. I found some wonderful examples of his landscapes up to 1981 on the Dali catalogue (credited below). This image was not available to download anywhere, so I took a screenshot of it and edited it as a jpeg. There is so much going on in this painting, yet nothing is in your face.

Salvadore Dali – Untitled 1981

Max Ernst

The effect Ernst obtains with this piece below is also obtained using encaustic paints on paper.

Maz Ernst ‘Landscape’ oil on glass (Source: Bridgeman Educaation)

Giorgio De Chirico

There’s something disturbing and alien about these tulips, they look like triffids from the H. G. Wells science fiction story or the Venus Flytrap from Little Shop of Horrors!

Giorgio de Chirico ‘Tulips’ 1947 oil on canvasboard (Source: Bridgeman Education)

Paul Nash

Landscape from a Dream 1936-8 Paul Nash 1889-1946 Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1946 Source:

This painting marks the culmination of Nash’s personal response to Surrealism, of which he had been aware since the late 1920s. As the title suggests, it echoes the Surrealists’ fascination with Freud’s theories of the power of dreams to reveal the unconscious. Nash explained that various elements were symbolic: the self-regarding hawk belongs to the material world, while the spheres reflected in the mirror refer to the soul. Typically, Nash set this scene on the coast of Dorset, unearthing the uncanny within the English landscape. (From

Graham Sutherland

Black Landscape 1939-40 Graham Sutherland OM 1903-1980 Purchased 1980 Source:

This Welsh scene reflects the artist’s anxiety at the threat of war; it was painted during the ‘phoney war’ between 1939 and 1940. Both the title and the ominous twilight effect suggest imminent violence. Later the artist would transform objects found in nature, such as tree roots and branches, into human-like presences. Here it is the stark rocky landscape that rises up as a dark, threatening presence. Sutherland was influenced by the pastoral vision of William Blake and Samuel Palmer (shown in room 8). This painting echoes the breadth of vision Blake showed in times of war, transcending narrowly nationalistic concerns. (From

Emil Nolde

This is such a simple scene, painted thousands of times by artists all over the world but there is something mysterious and almost eerie about Nolde’s version. The orange ochre sunset meeting at the horizon and the crimson clouds in that blue/black sky create such a vibrant contrast with the flat dark blue sea and only the barest hint of waves. Magic painting this one.

Emil Nolde ‘Sea and Evening Clouds’ (Source: Bridgeman Education)

Gustav Klimt

I have a few books on Klimt and never tire of looking at reproductions of his works, especially the tree studies.

Gustav Klimt ‘Still Pond’ (Source
Gustav Klimt ‘Forest of Beech Trees’ (Source

Gustave Moreau

Gustave Moreau ‘Landscape’ (Source: Bridgeman Education)

Leon Bakst

Almost all the images I could find relating to Bakst’s work relate to theatrical set designs.

Leon Bakst ‘Set design for Prelude to the afternoon of a faun’ (Source: Bridgeman Education)

Frida Kahlo

I am well-aware of the massive cult following this artist has gathered over the years but I’ve never been much of a fan.

Frida Kahlo ‘ Self portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States, 1932 (Source: Bridgeman Education)

Luc Tuymans

Luc Tuymans ‘Versailles’ (Source Sotheby’s website- printscreen and edited to jpeg)

“After seeing a film I try to figure out which single image is the one with which I can remember all the moving images of the movie. Painting does the opposite; a good painting to me denounces its own ties so that you are unable to remember it correctly. Thus it generates other images. One shouldn’t be able to remember the real size of a painting because that’s the very core of its power. Before I paint, the image already exists, sometimes it’s an image which is memorized and so there’s a mimetic element, which could also be very filmic.”  From Sotheby’s website

Gerhard Richter

Couldn’t realistically do a post about expressive landscapes without including some of Richter’s paintings, hey? Images below sourced from

Some contemporary artists that produce striking landscapes are:

Jim Musil

His use of vibant warm tones – oranges, reds, pinks – in his landscapes make the paintings glow with incredible inner light.

All images sourced from

April Gornik

April Gornik ‘ Big Storm Light’ 2016 (Source artland Magazine)

April Gornik is a landscape artist who paints monumental canvases showing the majesty of the American landscape. Linked to the objectives of historical groups like the Hudson River School painters, Gornik also seeks to show the power of nature and the feelings of the sublime it evokes in the viewer. Her works are often heavily focused on cloud formations. “Now I make my landscapes so that I can be in them,” the artist has remarked. “That’s why I alter them, that’s why I make them somewhat artificial, because I want to take possession of them.” Even though she is not an environmental activist with her work per se, she is a passionate nature lover and believes deeply in its spiritual power. She has said that “If someone interprets my work as being a protest against our destructive behavior, or an attempt to get people to look outside themselves or see themselves as part of nature rather than having an anthropocentric view, I’m happy to have encouraged that”. (From Artland Magazine)

Scott Naismith

I’ve been an admirer of this Scottish artists’ work for many years – his use of a massive range of colour for his skies is inspirational.   His work is filled with mood and emotion.

Scott Naismith ‘Optimism 3’ (Source


Auerbach :

Dali :

(landscapes particularly up to 1981) (source page for ‘Untitled’ from which i took the screen shot and then edited it to save as jpeg)

Tuymans (source page for ‘Versailles’ from which I took the screen shot and then edited it to save as jpeg)

April Gornik :

Source for image and bio:

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