Richard Diebenkornpost-war American artist, is indelibly associated with the Bay Area movement of San Francisco, which emerged in the early 1960s. This cadre of artists challenged the prevailing dominance of abstract expressionism by pivoting back to figurative painting. Diebenkorn initially delved into abstraction during his time on the East Coast. However, upon returning to California, he shed what he saw as a rigid, rule-based approach to abstraction. Instead, he embraced the topography of Northern California as his muse. Diebenkorn harnessed the shapes and colors of this region to structure his paintings. His works exude a sense of place through gridded structures, aerial perspectives, and a palpable reverence for the region’s unique light. These abstract canvases are landscapes of emotion and suggestion.
David HockneyNo exploration of modern and contemporary landscape art is complete without a nod to David Hockney. Although British by birth, Hockney found his artistic home in California. His career, which began at The Royal College of Art in the late 1950s and early 1960s, has been closely tied to the pop art movement and painterly expressionism. Hockney’s journey through landscape art has been a diverse one, spanning watercolors, photo collages, monumental compositions made of multiple smaller canvases crafted outdoors and assembled indoors, and even works created with the aid of software and iPads. While forever linked with the California sunshine, Hockney’s oeuvre also includes landscapes of The Grand Canyon, the South of France, and, more recently, the countryside of Yorkshire, his birthplace in Northern England.
Wayne ThiebaudOften regarded as a West Coast pop artist, Wayne Thiebaud is best known for his deceptively simple and vibrant still-life studies of 1960s American diner fare. In the 1960s, Thiebaud expanded his repertoire to include landscapes. He applied his characteristic candy-colored palette and meticulous technique to these works, experimenting with vertiginous perspectives to capture the essence of California. Thiebaud’s landscapes served as a platform to explore formal questions rather than specific locations. His words reveal his intent: “The attempt is to express as effectively as I can a sense of equilibrium and disequilibrium, so that they are somewhat discomforting. Painting is a dead flat object, and when you’re trying to get some tension, majesty, or ominousness, something has to happen within that structure, to entice people to it with their bodies physically, to experience it.”
Vija CelminsVija Celmins, a Latvian American artist, has earned acclaim for her meticulous renderings of natural elements such as ocean waves, desert floors, and night skies. Her works, encompassing paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints, immerse viewers in infinite detail. Celmins’ fascination with representing the visible world ignited in the early 1960s when she started painting objects in her Los Angeles studio. Her studies of Italian still-life painter Giorgio Morandi influenced her work’s simplicity and reduced tonality. By the late 1960s, she had transitioned from paint to graphite and charcoal, using photographs as source material. She adopted a muted grey photorealistic style, emphasizing the object quality over the subject matter. Her artworks distill vast expanses into mesmerizing, small-scale pieces, inviting viewers to contemplate human consciousness in relation to lived experiences.
April GornikApril Gornik, a landscape artist, creates monumental canvases that showcase the grandeur of the American landscape. Aligned with the goals of historical groups like the Hudson River School painters, Gornik seeks to convey nature’s power and the sublime emotions it evokes. Her focus often centers on ethereal cloud formations. Gornik remarks, “Now I make my landscapes so that I can be in them.” While not an environmental activist in her art, she deeply treasures nature and believes in its spiritual potency. Her works encourage viewers to appreciate nature’s transcendental essence.
Ilse d’HollanderIlse D’Hollander’s intimate paintings reflect a highly developed sense of color, composition, scale, and surface. Her canvases often embrace lyrical abstraction infused with reflection. Her works hint at physical spaces and landscapes, particularly the expansive Flemish countryside near her home. D’Hollander’s paintings, while alluding to the world’s objects and places, seldom resemble straightforward or literal landscapes. Instead, they invite viewers to scrutinize the ambiguity of imagery and the intimacy of scale. Her compositions, marked by monochrome fields interrupted by blocks of color and geometric volumes softened by painterly strokes, reveal the artist’s thought processes and layering techniques.
Peter DoigPeter Doig, a Scottish-born artist with a nomadic childhood that included stints in the Caribbean and Canada, crafts works that evoke enigmatic narratives with haunting atmospheres. Often described as a purveyor of ‘magical realism,’ Doig draws inspiration from photographs to reference memory and record elements. His landscapes, abstract yet tethered to his Canadian upbringing’s snowy vistas, are layered both formally and conceptually. They draw from various art historical references, such as Caspar David Friedrich, Claude Monet, and Gustav Klimt, while exuding a mesmerizing and minimalistic charm.
Etel AdnanEtel Adnan, a Lebanese-American poet, essayist, and visual artist, gained worldwide recognition for her paintings later in life. Adnan’s landscape paintings, particularly of Mount Tamalpais in California, focus on color and light dynamics. Light plays a central role, often stylized and portrayed as the primary compositional motif. Adnan’s work is an exploration of the interplay between color and light, creating harmonious compositions.
Lucas ArrudaLucas Arruda, a Brazilian contemporary painter, is renowned for the atmospheric luminosity of his paintings. His works, often perceived as landscapes, are products of a state of mind rather than depictions of specific locales. Arruda’s landscapes, devoid of distinct reference points, achieve variety through the depiction of atmospheric glows. His compositions, verging on abstraction, are anchored by faintly perceptible horizon lines, creating a sense of distance and atmospheric space. These intimately sized artworks are at once familiar and imaginary.
Harold AncartHarold Ancart, a Belgian artist based in New York City, captivates with his bold colors and strong compositions, reminiscent of abstract expressionism’s works by Clyfford Still. Although many of his artworks are landscapes, Ancart considers them pretexts to explore formal painterly concerns. His landscapes, expansive in horizon and vast in implied space, are distilled to elemental forms. Ancart’s radiant compositions, layered both formally and tonally, evoke moments in modernist painting, extending their minimalism into a jubil