A detail from Saying Farewell at Xunyang, by Qiu Ying
A detail from Saying Farewell at Xunyang, by Qiu Ying, c1500-50 Photograph: John Lamberton/Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

On 5 August 1473, a young artist drew the first ever landscape. The date is known precisely because Leonardo da Vinci wrote it on the sheet of paper, as if aware of the revolutionary nature of what he was doing. To look at mountains and trees just for themselves was unprecedented.

Or was it? The invention of landscape painting is one of the great moments of European art. Painting nature is a way to get inside yourself. To this day, people enjoy doing watercolours in the outdoors as a form of meditation. Leonardo’s discovery of the mystery of nature – which you see in all his paintings, with their dreamy rocks and pools – is the invention of a new kind of inner life.

More

Jonathan Jones
Guardian

Advertisements