The Limits of Art History: Towards an Ecological History of Landscape Art

Andrea Gaynor, Ian Mclean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An ecological art history primarily concerns the relationship between the aesthetic and representational functions of landscape art, the environment it depicts and the ecology of this environment. Such investigation should enable us to determine whether particular aesthetic sensibilities or styles are more or less conducive to providing accurate ecological (Le. scientific) information, and what the limits of this information might be. An ecological art history would therefore, of necessity, engage with the science of ecology. Hence it requires an alliance with environmental and ecological historians as well as appropriate scientists. There are few examples of scholars drawing connections between the two, and none on the systematic basis that is needed for an ecological art history. The paper discusses the uses of an ecological art history and the difficulties of developing such a history within current models of the art history discipline and landscape art criticism. The authors argue that the development of Western landscape art may be seen by future art historians as a sign of a dawning eco-consciousness, and the avatar of future eco-cultural practices. Rather than just signalling the colonising vision of humanist ideology, landscape painting might also be a symptom of the opposite: the growing realisation that humans are subject to a natural history. You cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it Albert Einstein
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-14
JournalLandscape Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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