June 19, 2016

“From his earliest work he had felt that the only possible background to a picture was a range of fantastic mountain peaks. […] To him landscape seems to have represented the wildness of nature, the vast, untamed background of human life; so the resemblance of his mountains to the craggy precipices of Chinese painting is no accident, for the Chinese artist also wished to symbolize the contrast between wild nature and busy organized society. Yet between Leonardo and the Chinese there is also a profound difference. To the Chinese a mountain landscape was chiefly a symbol, an ideograph of solitude and communion with nature, expressed in the most correct and elegant forms which the artist could command. To Leonardo a landscape, like a human being, was part of a vast machine, to be understood part by part and, if possible, in the whole. Rocks were not simply decorative silhouettes. They were part of the earth’s bones, with an anatomy of their own, caused by some remote seismic upheaval. Clouds were not random curls of the brush, drawn by some celestial artist, but were the congregation of tiny drops formed from the evaporation of the sea, and soon would pour back their rain into the rivers. Thus, Leonardo’s landscapes, however wildly romantic his choice of subject matter, never take on the slightly artificial appearance of the Chinese.” ~ K. Clark

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