Flemish Landscapes of the 16th and 17th Centuries
Illustrative of an imagined or disappeared world, the landscapes painted by the Flemish masters are as much technical feats as they are exceptional works. Long considered a minor genre of painting, these expanses of nature served as a framework for great history painting before reaching their climax in the 17th century.
Joachim Patenier, a pioneer of the genre, first reversed the relationship between the narrative, which until then had been at the heart of the painting, and the landscape which served as its setting. Artists soon understood the value of this exercise; to offer the viewer observing the painting the same pleasure as if they were looking at nature. Indeed, the whole essence of the genre lies in this semantic coherence. Whether in reality or in painting, landscape refers to "the territory that extends as far as the eye can see". .
Far from the reproach of uninventive imitation, landscape painters in fact established an infallible formula. Firstly, their work consisted of observing nature in every detail, sketching and memorising forms. Secondly, they went through a process of selecting and assembling to create an ideal overview. Pieter Brueghel and his heirs, his predecessors Cornelis Massijs and Herri met de Bles, continued the tradition.
Today, these paintings bear witness to the relationship between man and nature: coexistence, fear and admiration. These landscapes were and remain a means of understanding and embracing the world.