Top 10 Landscape painters of all time

This week is time for a little fun as I am swamped with my first full week of teaching and I have very little time or energy to devote to a more meaningful essay.

Since I generally consider myself mainly a landscape painter I feel eminently qualified to break down the top ten landscape painters of all time with a short synopsis why I think them thus (and an image or two of a great work by each) This kind of list might not generate the furor induced by top 10 fashion blunders but hopefully someone beyond the sound of my own pecking on the keyboard will get a kick out of it. (list to be used for recreational purposes only)

  1. JMW Turner – Still the best. 20,000 plus works helps. He uses landscape as a vehicle for color, space and crazy mark making and represents the sublime and romantic ideals that defined his era to a T. Stop in New Haven, CT at the British art center if you want to see what I mean. Also look at his later sketches to truly understand his mastery. Click here for more Turner.

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  2. George Inness – Pushing Turner in recent years for the top spot. I didn’t understand his work that well when I was younger but if you sit and stare at his work and let your eyes adjust like waiting in a dark room, wonderful things emerge. Held back from the top spot because his work is sometimes a letdown in person compared to reproductions. Click here for more Inness.

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  3. Anselm Kiefer – How can he not be considered a landscape painter? You feel pretty small and humbled in the presence of his lead splattered enormous works. Size gets him huge bonus points for having the guts to work so large and bold. Click here for more Kiefer.

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  4. Monet – Skip the coffee table book stuff and dive into his giant water lily masterworks. I like to be challenged by artwork and if you stand in front of these giant paintings for 20 minutes you’ll be challenged and rewarded. See also; cathedrals! Mostly poster sites online.

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  5. Andrew Wyeth – A recent trip to the Brandywine Museum in Chads Fords reminded me how stunning his work can be. His sense of abstract design coupled with an unbelievable attention to detail and a facility that is quite simply maddening puts him bravely on this list. Take a trip to The Brandywine Museum in Chads Fords, PA. Not many images easily seen online.

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  6. Bunny Harvey – I saw a show of hers at the RISD Museum when I was a student and that was all I needed. Contemporary flavor with graceful flair for tradition makes for a potent combination. Click here for more Harvey.

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  7. Horace Pippin – A little known self taught “folk” artist in the vein of Grandma Moses. Not exclusively a landscape painter but his work resonates with such an incredible sincerity its hard not to be moved by them. Very hard to see in person because his pieces are rarely shown in the big museums but they should be. Click here for more Pippin.

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  8. Sargent – See watercolors. Pick jaw up off the ground. Wipe drool from chin and wonder why he did all those sickly sweet and boring (but flashy) portraits. Laugh out loud because he’s better at watercolor than you’ll ever hope to be. Click here for more Sargent and look at 1910-1920.

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  9. May Stevens – I saw her work in a show at the Boston MFA and in the vein of Anselm Kiefer her scale is intense as is her unique approach of word and image. Very hard to find images of her work online.

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  10. Emil Nolde – Surprised? Very little know are his watercolor landscapes done in secret during the Nazi regime which forbade him from making art. They seem to capture the intense joy that must have been had in their secret creation. Click here for more Nolde.

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  • Honorable Mentions; Cezanne, Hopper, Homer, Diebenkorn

Comments 24

  1. Christian Demmings wrote:

    I completely agree with Turner as #1. He’s been one of my favourite painters since I realized I liked paintings. Our little gallery here in Fredericton is lucky enough to own a Turner. An exhibition of British drawings from the 17th to 20th century is opening here on the 25th, and it includes some Turner sketches. Killer!

    Posted 20 Nov 2007 at 10:02 pm
  2. Glen Derksen wrote:

    Everyone has a right to their opinion but I have to totally disagree with your selection. There are so many more talented landscape artists.

    Posted 20 Aug 2009 at 2:36 pm
  3. Jason wrote:

    Who makes your list?

    Posted 04 Sep 2009 at 7:57 pm
  4. John Meng-Frecker wrote:

    Thank you so much for this inspirational list. MANY of my favorites are on it. I completely agree about Turner, Wyeth, Inness, John Singer Sargent. I was stunned to see the texture of May Stevens and I love the colors (and story) of Emil Nolde with whom I was not familiar. I will try to find out more.

    Posted 29 Jan 2010 at 8:36 pm
  5. Dustin O'Hara wrote:

    I think this is a pretty good list but you definitely need some different people in here. Corot being my first choice and Constable. Corbet and Cezanne as well.

    Posted 24 Mar 2010 at 12:13 pm
  6. elizavalerie wrote:

    I’m so happy, thank you for the great references. And you a lecturer as well! I’ve been trawling the internet for ages looking for some inspiration. Thank you.

    Posted 05 Oct 2010 at 6:04 pm
  7. elizavalerie wrote:

    O.M.G. Have just noticed the dates on these postings! I hope you’re ok. Well. I’m knew to the internet.

    Posted 05 Oct 2010 at 6:30 pm
  8. gjergj shoshi wrote:

    very lovely and expressive landscapes.
    I think these artists are all professinal and
    I like :turner,inness,kiefer and nolde!

    Posted 10 Dec 2010 at 5:46 am
  9. dodies@mac.com wrote:

    I love your selection. would have to include O’keefe for her sensitivity and Stephen Hannock for new works – his scale is incredible.

    Posted 14 Apr 2011 at 11:51 am
  10. Roger Willey wrote:

    I love the work of Andreas Auchenbach. Paintings that are a window open to the world that once was….they are a real pleasure to view. Thanks for posting your top ten.

    Posted 11 Sep 2011 at 9:29 am
  11. Dave wrote:

    I agree with an earlier comment ; the obscure American painters selected are no match for the greater masters such as,Breugal the Elder, Claude Lorrain, Caspar David Friedrich,Samual Palmer,John Constable,Paul Cezanne, ( no Van Goch?!!! )

    I suggest the above takes some art history classes.

    Posted 11 Nov 2011 at 10:43 am
  12. Jason wrote:

    Can I clarify that this list is not the empirical list of all time but rather my opinion of such a list. I am well versed in the annals of art history and I chose to leave some of the obscure European mentioned artists because I dont like them as much. We can disagree but please please leave the insults aside.

    Posted 11 Nov 2011 at 11:15 am
  13. alena wrote:

    nice

    Posted 10 Dec 2011 at 12:11 pm
  14. r minton wrote:

    I enjoyed this list. It is hard to come up with a definitive 10 best but this offering was good for a morning inspiration. Everyone should google Dorothy Knowles, possibly the best living landscape painter today.

    Posted 17 Dec 2011 at 10:37 am
  15. Chris wrote:

    No Bierstadt??

    Posted 02 Jan 2012 at 12:14 pm
  16. Matthew Cornell wrote:

    Great list. Great variety of taste. Love the Horace Pippin choice and the Sargent watercolors. I like your explanations of why you like the work. Regardless of what anyone else says, its your opinion and you are entitled to it and your description of the work makes it all valid.

    Posted 05 Jan 2012 at 12:43 am
  17. Shaman wrote:

    No Frederic Church?????!

    Posted 08 Feb 2012 at 6:32 pm
  18. Stephen Craven wrote:

    I think you need to broaden your education on the subject of great landscapes. How can you leave out F.E. Church, T. Moran, and some of the other Hudson River painters. Also the very important works of the late Wilson Hurley. I cannot comprehend talking about great landscape painters without bringing up these mens work.
    Thank you,
    Steve

    Posted 05 May 2012 at 8:44 pm
  19. Jason wrote:

    Before the next person comments on how stupid I am to leave this artist or that artist off the list…

    Let me remind you this is just a FUN list! I am aware and very knowledgeable of ALL the artists you self appointed experts have reminded me of…

    I SIMPLY DON’T LIKE THEM AS MUCH AS YOU DO! Thus, I did not feel inclined to include them in my non-empirical judgment.

    Posted 06 May 2012 at 9:30 am
  20. tim wrote:

    Jason, just to thank you for introducing me to Nolde’s landscapes. Just looking at them on Google induces deep happiness. May even take my brushes up again. Kind regards Tim

    Posted 21 May 2012 at 10:04 am
  21. David J Teter wrote:

    Yeah, everybody can relax, no one could put together a list of 10 without leaving someone out. It’s impossible.
    Everyones list is different.

    Posted 02 Jun 2012 at 4:12 am
  22. Lin wrote:

    Hi Jason,

    I don’t know how I got here, but I’m very glad that I did. Thanks for the list and to all the other responders who gave suggestions. I appreciate almost all works, even if it’s not my particular taste. Art is subjective, period. Actually, I’m much more critital of my paintings that I do of others.

    Posted 01 Aug 2012 at 2:20 pm
  23. thomas mcnickle wrote:

    Great fun! I can’t believe that people can take it as anything else but. How about JohnTwachtman….great stuff. How about some more top ten lists like figure, still life, drawings, prints etc.

    Posted 04 Aug 2012 at 4:19 pm
  24. Anita wrote:

    Nice list – broad for such a small number of artists. If you like Nolde, you might really like the early Paul Klee watercolors – I think he visited Morocco?

    Posted 10 Sep 2012 at 1:01 am

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