Are they part of a narrative, or staffage? Do they provide scale, or enhance the effect? Are the figures part of the landscape, or even the landscape itself?
Painters of the early northern Renaissance founded modern Western landscape painting, and developed the first examples of staffage.
When a landscape artist finds it hard to paint figures well, there is one good solution: work with a figurative painter. The results can be spectacular.
One of the first dedicated landscape specialists who met the rising demand for ‘views’, his figures reveal his true interest in his motifs.
Like Poussin, most of his works are strongly narrative in intent. Did he paint any pure landscapes, or are all his figures actors in his stories?
Would such a great narrative painter really paint landscapes which lack a story?
How Colin Campbell Cooper and George Bellows used figures in their paintings of New York City in the early twentieth century.
His sketches and studies are wonderfully painterly, but was he painting what he saw, or what he envisaged?
Evolution from realism to the more painterly. Then in the late 1890s, city landscapes in which the people are the landscape. Remarkable paintings seen in detail.
Knowing when one of Turner’s paintings is narrative can be very tricky. But there are dangers in over-interpretation. Here are some ideas to assist in their reading.