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gense in the presence of another Dominican monk. The
form of the forest trees, their foliage, the blue mountainous
distance, the management of the light and the subdued
tone of colouring, produce an impression of grandeur,
solemnity, aad depth of feeling, pervading the whole
composition of the landscape, which is of exceeding sim-
phcity. Titian^s feeUng of nature was so lively, that not
only in paintings of beautiful women, as in the background
of the "Venus in the Dresden Gallery, but also in those of a
severer class, as in the portrait of the poet Pietro Aretino,
he gives to the landscape or to the sky a character corre-
sponding to that of the subject of the picture. In the
Bolognese school, Annibal Caracci and Domenichino re-
mained faithful to this elevation of style and character. If,
however, the sixteenth century was the greatest epoch of
historic painting, the seventeenth is that of landscape. As
the riches of nature became better known and more care-
fully studied, artistic feeling could extend itself over a wider
and more varied range of subjects; and, at the same time^
the technical means of representation had also attained a
higher degree of perfection. Meanwhile, the landscape
painter^s art becoming more often and more intimately con-
nected and associated with inward tone and feeling, the
tender and mild -expression of the beautiful in nature was
enhanced thereby, as well as the belief in the power of the
emotions which the external world can awaken within us.
When, conformably to the elevated aim of all art, this awaken-
ing power transforms the actual into the ideal, the enjoyment
produced isaccompaniedby emotion; theheartistouched when-
everwelookintothe depths either of natureorof humanity (^2oj.

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OF THE 16th asj) 17th centubibs. 81

"We find assembled, in the same century, Claude Lor-
laiue, the idyllic painter of light and of aerial dis-
.4;ance; BuysdaeFs dark forest masses and threaten-
ing clouds; Gaspar and Nicholas Poussin's heroic forms
.-of trees; and the faithful and simply natural repre-
.sentations of Everdingen, Hobbima, and Cuyp {^^^).
This flourishing period in the development of art com-
prised happy imitations of the vegetation of the north of
.Europe, of southern Italy, and of the Iberian peninsula:
.the painters adorned their landscapes with oranges and
.Jaurels, with pines and date trees. The date (the only
member of the magnificent family of Palms which the
artists had themselves seen, except the small native
European species, the Chamserops maritima) was usually
represented conventionally, with scaly and serpentlike
iarunks(^22j^ and long served as the representative of tropi-
cal vegetation generally, — ^much as Pinus pinea (the stone
pine) is, by a still widely prevailing idea, regarded as exclu-
sively characteristic of Italian vegetation. The outlines of
lofty mountains were yet but little studied : and naturalists
and landscape painters still regarded the snowy summits,
which rise above the green pastures of the lower Alps, as
inaccessible. The particular characters of masses of rock
were rarely made objects of careful imitation, except
where associated with the foaming waterfall. We may here
jremark another instance of the comprehensiveness with
which the varied forms of nature are seized by a free and
artistic spirit. Eubens, who in his great hunting pieces has
depicted with inimitable truth and animation the wild
jnovements of the beasts of the forest, has also apprehended,
with peculiar felicity, the characteristics of the inanimate

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8ft LANDSciPB piniTma.

snrface of the earthy in the arid desert and xocky plateau
cm which the Escnrial is built (^'*),

The department of art to which we are now referring
might be expected to aidvance in variety and exactness as
the geographical horizon became enlarged^ and as voyages
to distant climates facilitated the perception of the rela-
tive beauty of different vegetable forms, and their con-
nection in groups of natural families. The discoveries
of Columbus, Tasco de Gama, and Alvarez Cabral in Cen-
tral America, Southern Asia, and Brazil, the extensive corn-
merce in spices and drugs carried on by the Spaniards, Por-
tuguese, Italians, Butch, and Flemings, and the establish-
ment, between 1544 and 1568, of botanic gardens (n6t
yet however furnished with regular hothouses), at Pis%
Padua, and Bologna, did indeed afford to painters the opportib-
nity of becoming acquainted with many remarkable exotic pro-
ductions even of the tropical world; and single fruits, flowerS|
and branches, were represented with the utmost fiddity
and grace by John Breughel, whose celebrity had com-
menced before the close of the sixteenth century; but until
near the middle of the seventeenth century there were no
landscapes which reproduced the peculiar aspect of tba
torrid zone from actual impressions received by the artist
himself on the spot. Tie first merit of such representation
probably belongs (as I learn from Waagen), to a painter of
the Netherlands, Franz Post of Haarlem, who accompanied
Prince Maurice of Nassau to Brazil, where that prince, who
took great interest in tropical productions, was the Stift-
holder for Holland in the conquered Portuguese possessions
from 1637 to 1644. Post made many studies from natuie
near Cape St. Augustine^ in the bay of All Saints, on Ite

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Bhores of Uie Rio San Francisco, and on those of the lows
part of the river of the Amazons (i^). Some of these we»
afterwards executed by himself as pictures, and others were
etched with much spirit. There are preserved in Denmark,
(in a gallery of the fine castle at Frederiksborg), some
large oil paintings of great merit belonging to the same
epoch by the painter Eckhout, who, in 1641, was also
in Brazil with Prince Maurice. In these pictures, palms,
papaws (Carica papaya), bananas, and heliconias, are most
characteristically pourtrayed, as are likewise the nativB
inhabitants, birds of many-coloured plumage, and small

These examples were followed by few artists of merit
until Cook's second voyage of circumnavigation: what
Hodge did for the western islands of the Pacific, and our
distinguished countryman, Ferdinand Bauer, for New Holland
and Van Diemen Island, has been since done in voy recent
times in a much grander style, and with a more masterly
hand, for tropical America, by Moritz, Ragendas, Count
Clarac, Perdinand Bellermann, and Edward Hildebrandt ; and
for many other parts of the earth by Heinrich von Kittlila,
who accompanied the Eussian admiral Lutke, on his voyage
of circumnavigation (*^.

He who with feelings alive to the beauties of nature in
mountain, river, or forest scenery, has himself wandered in
the torrid zone, and beheld the variety and luxuriance of the
vegetation, not merely on the well-cultivated coasi^s, bat also
on the declivities of the snow-crowned Andes the Hima-
laya or the TTeilgherries of Mysore, or in the virgin forests
watered by the network of rivers between the Orinoco and
fhe Amazons, can feel, — and he alone can fedj, — ^how almorf

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infinite is tlie field which still remains to be opened to land*
sc&pe painting in the tropical portions of either conti-
nent^ and in the islands of Sumatra^ Borneo^ and the
Philippines ; and how all that this department of art has yet
produced, is not to be compared to the magnitude of the
treasures, of which at some future day it may become pos-
sessed. Why may we not be justified in hoping that land-
scape painting may hereafter bloom with new and yet un-
known beauty, when highly-gifted artists shall oftener pass
the narrow bounds of the Mediterranean, and shall seiz^
with the first freshness of a pure youthful mind, the living
image of the manifold beauty and grandeur of nature m the
humid mountain valleys of the tropical world?

Those glorious regions have been hitherto visited chiefly
by travellers to whom the want of previous artistic train-
ing, and' a variety of scientific occupations, allowed but
little opportunity of attaining perfection in landscape
.painting. But few among them were able, in addition
to the botanical interest excited by individual forms of
flowers and leaves, to seize the general characteristic impres-
sion of the tropical zone. The artists who accompanied
great expeditions supported at the expense of the states
which sent them forth, were too often chosen as it were by
accident, and were thus found to be less prepared than the
occasion demanded; and perhaps the end of the voyage was
approaching, when even the most talented among them,
after a long enjoyment of the spectacle of the great scenes of
nature, and many attempts at imitation, were just beginning
.to master a certain degree of technical skill. Moreover, in
voyages of circumnavigation, artists are seldom conducted
into the true forest regions^ to the upper portions of the

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.course of great rivers, or to the suininits of the mountam
chains of the interior. It is only by coloured sketches taken
on the spot, that the artist, inspired by the contemplation of
these distant scenes, can hope to reproduce their character
in paintings executed after his return. He will be able
to do so the more perfectly, if he has also accumulated
a large number of separate studies of tops of trees, of
branches clothed with leaves, adorned with blossoms, or laden
with fruit, of fallen trunks of trees overgrown with pothos
and orchideae, of portions of rocks and river banks, as well
fis of the surface of the ground in the forest, all drawn or
painted directly from nature. An abundance of studies of
this kind, in which the outlines are well and sharply marked
will famish him with materials enabling him, on his re-
turn, to dispense with the misleading assistance afforded by
plants grown in the confinement of hot-houses, or by what
are called botanical drawings.

Great events in the world^s history, the independence of
the Spanish and Portuguese Americas, and the spread and
increase of intellectual cultivation in India, New Holland,
the Sandwich Islands, and the southern colonies of Africa^
cannot fail to procure, not only for meteorology and other
branches of natural knowledge, but also for landscape paint-
mg, a new and grander development which might not have
been attainable without these local circumstances. In South
America populous cities are situated 1S,000 feet above the
level of the sea. In descending from them to the plains,
all dimatic gradations of the forms of plants are offered to
the eye. What may we not expect from the picturesque
study of nature in such scenes, if after the termination of
dvil discord and the establishment of free institutions.

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tpttiaiio feeling dmll aA length awaken in those elevate!
Ughlands I

, AH that bdongs to the expressiDn of human emotion anA
to the beauty of the human form^ has attained perhaps its
highest perfection in the northern temperate zone^ under the
skies of Greece and Italy, By the combined exercise of
Ufiitative act and of creative imagination^ the artist has d^
nved the types of historical painting, at once from the depths
of his own mind^ and from the contemplation of oth^beingii
of his own race. Landscape painting, though no merely
imitative art^ has^ it may be said, a more material sub^
stratum and a more terrestrial domain : it requires a greater
mass and variety of direct impressions, which the mind
must receive within itself, fertilize by its own powers,
•ad reproduce visibly as a free work of art. Heroic knd^
scape paiftling must be a result at once of a deep and
comprehensive reception of the viable spectacle of extemd
mature, and of this inward process of tlie mind.

Nature, in every region of the earth, is indeed a reflex of
the whole ; the forms of organised being are repeated every-
where in fresh combinations ; even in the iqr north, herbs
covering the earth, large alpine blossoms, and a serene
azure sky, cheer a portion of the year. Hitherto, hnd*^
scape painting has pursued amongst us her pleasing
tapk, familiar only with the simjder forms of our nattvc
floras, but not therefore without depth of feeling or wMi-
out the treasures of creative imagination. Evai in ^toB
narrower fidd, highly-gifted painters, the Caracci, Caspar
Poussin, Claude Lorraine, and Knysdad, have, with magie
power, by the sdeetion of lorms of trees and by effects cf*
lil^t, (bund scope wherein to call iatth, some of the mosk

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Taried and beantifiil productions of creative art. The fani6
of these master works can never be impaired by those which
I Tentm-e to hope for hereafter^ and to which I oonld not
bat pointy in ord^ to recal the andent and deeplj-seated
bcmd which unites natural biowledge with poetry and
wiih artistic feelings for we most ever distingaish, in
landscape painting as in every other branch of art^ be*
tween productions derived from direct observation^ and
those wUeh spring from the depths of inward feeling
and from Uie power at the idealising mind* l^e greai;
andbeautifol works which owe their origin to this crear
tive power of the mind applied to landscape-painting,
bdong to the poetry of nature^ Mid like man himself and
tile imagination with which he is gifted, are not rivetted to
tiie soil or confined to any single region* I allude here
more particularly to the gradation in the forms of trees from
Baysdael and Everdingen, throi^h Claude Lorraine to Poussin
and Annibal GuaccL In the great masters of the art we
perceive no trace of local limitation ; but an enlargement of
the visible horkon, and an increased acquaintance with the
nobler and grander forms of nature, and with the hixuriant
ftdness of life in the tropical wodd, offer the advants^e not
only of enriching the material substratum of landscape paint-
JDg, but also of a&rdingamore lively stimulus to less gifted
wttistBf and of thus heightening their power of production.

I would here be permitted to recal some considerationa
"winoh I communicated to the public nearly half a cmtury
ago^ and whieh have an intonate connection with the subject
"wkMk is at present under notko; they were contained in a
which has been but litfle read. entided''Ide» m

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88 LAia)6CAPB PAnmva.

cmerPhysiognomik der GewSchse'' (126) (Ideas towards a pby.
siognomy of plants). When rising from local phencmienft
we embrace all nature in one view^ we perceive the increase
of warmth from the poles to the equator accompanied by the
gradual advance of organic vigour and luxuriance. Erom
Northern Europe to the beautiful coasts of the Mediterranean
this advance is even less than from the Iberian Peninsula^
Southern Italy and Greece, to the tropic zone. The carpet
of flowers and of verdure spread over our bare and naked
earth is unequally woven ; thicker where the sun rises high
in a sky either of a deep azure purity or veiled with light
semi-transparent clouds; and thinner towards the gloomy
north, where returning frosts are often fatal to the opening
buds of spring, or destroy the ripening fruits of autumn.
If in the fri^d zone the bark of trees is covered with lichens
or with mosses, in the zone of palms and finely-feathered
arborescent ferns, the trunks of Anacardias and of gigantic
species of Ficus are enlivened by Cymbidium and the fragrant
vanilla. The fresh green of the Dracontias, and the deep-cut
leaves of the Pothos, contrast with the many-coloored flowen
of the Orchideee. Climbing Bauhinias, Passifloras, andyellow
flowering Banisterias, entwining the stems of ihe forest trees,
spread far and ^de, and rise high in air ; delicate flowers
unfold themsdves from the roots of the Theobromas, and
from the thick and rough bark of the Grescentias and tl^
Oustavia. In the midst of this abundance of leaves and
blossoms, this luxuriant growth and profusion of dimbihg
plants, the naturalist often finds it difficult to discover to
which stem different flowers and leaves belong; nay, a single
tret adorned with Panllinwi, Bignonias, and Dendrbbium/

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preseivts a mass of vegetation and a variety of plants which,
if detached from each other^ wonld cover a coni^derable space
of gromid.

JBut to each zone of the earth are allotted peculiar beauties ;
to the tropics, variety and grandeur in the forms of vegeta*
tion ; to the north, the aspect of its meadows and green
pastures, and the periodic long-desired reawakening of nature
at the first breath of the mild air of spring. As in the
Musacese we have the greatest expansion, so in the Casuarinao
and needle trees we have t|ie greatest contraction of the
leafj vessels. Krs, Thuias, and Cypresses, constitute a
northern form which is extremely rare in the low grounds of
the tropks. Their ever-fresh verdure cheers the winter
landscape; and teUs to the inhabitants of the north, that
when snow and ice cover the earth, the inward Hfe of plants,
like the Promethean fire, is never extinct upon our planet.

Each zone of vegetation, besides its peculiar beauties, has
also a distinct character, calling forth in us a different order
of impressions. To recal here only forms of our native
climates, who does not feel himseK differently affected in the
dark shade of the beech or on hills crowned with scattered
firs, and on the open pasture where the wind rustles in the
trembling foliage of the birch? As in different organic '
beings we recognise a distinct physiognomy, and as de^
scriptive botany and zoology, in the more restricted sense of
the terms, imply an analysis of peculiarities in the forms of' ■
plants and animals, so is there also a eeftain naturid phy*
siognomy belonging exclusively to each region of the earth.
The idea which the artist indicates by the expressions '' Swiss
nature,'' " Italian sky/' &c. rests on a partial perception erf
local character. The azure of the sky, the form of *6

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llovclsj the liaze resting on the distaace^ the sncculeiicy of
the hefbage, the brightness of the foliage, the outline of the
mountains, are elements which determine the general im*
piession. It is the province of landscs^e painting to ap-
piehend these, and to reproduce them visibly. The artist is
permitted to analyse the groups, and the enchantment at
Wture is resoked under his hands, like the written works
«f men (If I may venture on the figurative expression), into
a &w simple characters.

Even in the present imperfect state of our pictorial repre*
ientations of landscape, the engravings which accompany^
sad too often only disfigure, oiur books of travels, have yet
contributed not a little to our knowledge of the aspect of
distant zones, to the predilection for extensive voyages, and
to the more active study of nature. The improvement in
landscape painting on a scale of large dimensions (as in
jkcorative or scene painting, in panoramas, dioramas, and
leoramas), has of late yeturs increased both the generaliiy
and the strength of these impressions. Hie class of repre*
sei^iations which Yitruvius and the Egyptian Julius Pollux
sitirically described as ''rural satyric decorations,'' which,
VBL the middle of the sixteenth century, were, by Serlio's
Ian of hiding scenes, made to increase theatrical illusion,
iii^ now, in Barker's panoramas, by the aid of Prevost
awl Daguerre, be converted into a kind of substitute tot
UNiderings in various dimates. More may be efiected
in this way than by any kind of scene painting; and this
partly because in a panorama, the iq>ectator, enclosed as in a
nmgic circle and withdrawn from all disturbing realitiei^
nu^ the more readily imagine himself surrounded on all sides
bf nature in another dime. Lnpressiona are thus produced

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whicli in some cases mingle years afterwards bj a wonderful
illusion with the remembrances of natural scenes actually
beheld. Hitherto^ panoramas^ which are only effective when
they are of large diameter^ have been applied chiefly to
views of ^ties end of inhabited districts, rathoir than to
scenes in which nature appears decked with her own wild
luxuriance and beauty. Enchanting effects might be obr
tained by means of characteristic studies sketched on the rug-
ged mountam declivities of the Himalaya and the C!(»rdilleras^.
or in the recesses of the river country of India and South
America; and still more so if these sketches were aided hj
photographs, which cannot indeed render the leafy canopy, but
would give the most perfect representation possible oi the form
of the giant trunks, and of the modeof ramification character
nstic of the different kinds ci trees.. All the methods to
which I have here alluded are fitted to enhance the love of
the study of nature; it appears, indeed, to me, that if large
panoramic buildings, containing a succession of such land*
scapes, belonging to different geographical latitudes and dif-
ferent zones of elevation, were erected in our cities, and, like
our museums and galleries of paintings, thrown freely open
to the people, it would be & powerful means of rendering
the sublime grandeur of the creation more widely known aD4
felt. The comprehension of a natural whole, the feeliiig of
the unity and harmony of the Cosmos, will become at once
more vivid and more generally diffiised, with the multipli-
cation of all modes of bringing the phsenomena of nature
generalJIj before the contemplation of the cgfe and of the mind.

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In. — Cultivation of tropical plants — Assemblage of contrasted
forms — Impression of the general characteristic phjsiog»
nomy of the vegetation produced by such means.

The effect of landscape painting, notwithstanding the
multiplication of its productions by engravings and by the
modem improvements of lithography, is still both more
limited and less vivid, than the stimulus which results from
the impression produced on minds alive to natural beauty
t)y the direct view of groups of exotic plants in hot-houses
or in the open air. I have already appealed on this subject
to my own youthful experience, when the sight of a colossal
dragon tree and of a fan palm in an old tower of the botanic
garden at Berlin, implanted in my breast the first germ of
an irrepressible longing for distant travel. Those who ar6
able to reascend in memory to that which may have given
the first impulse to their entire course of life, will recognise
this powerful influence of impressions received through the

I would here distinguish between those plantations which
are best suited to afford us the picturesque impression of
the forms of plants, and those in which they are arranged
as auxiliaries to botanical studies ; between groups distin-
guished for their grandeur and mass, as clumps of Bananas
and Heliconias dtemating with Coiypha Pahns, Araucarias

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^nd Mimosas, and moss-covered trunks from which shoot
Dracontias, Ferns with their delicate foliage^andOrchideae rich
in varied and beautiful flowers, on the one hand; and on the
other, a number of separate low-growing plants classed and
arranged in rows for the purpose of conveying instruction
in descriptive and systematic botany. In the first case, our
tjonsideration is drawn rather to the luxuriant development
of vegetation in Cecropias, Carolinias, and Kght-feathered
Bamboos ; to the picturesque apposition of grand and noble
forms, such as- adorn the banks of the upper Orinoco and the
forest shores of the Amazons, and of the HuaUaga described
with such truth to nature by Martins and Edward Poppig;
to impressions which fill the mind with longing for those
lands where the current of life flows in a richer stream, and
bf whose glorious beauty a faint but 'still pleasing image is
now presented to us in our hot-houses, which formerly were-
mere hospitals for languishing unhealthy plants.

Landscape J)ainting is, indeed, able to present a richer
imd more complete picture of nature than can. be obtained
by the most skilful grouping of cultivated plants. Almost
Unlimited in regard to space, it can pursue the margin of
the forest until it becjomes indistinct from the effect of
aerial perspective; it can pour the mountain torrent from

Online LibraryAlexander von HumboldtCosmos, Volume 2 → online text (page 7 of 43)