Pr1-R.P : Lorrrain & Turner Foreground, Middle Ground and back ground.

First off I wanted to make a note about aerial perspective. Having read about it properly I now feel I have a greater understanding of it. I must bare it in mind for the future landscape drawings I complete for this course.

Aerial Perspective or Atmospheric Perspective: refers to the effect the atmosphere has on the appearance of an object as it is viewed from a distance. As the distance between an object and a viewer increases, the contrast between the object and its background decreases, and the contrast of any markings or details within the object also decreases. The colours of the object also become less saturated and shift towards the background colour, which is usually blue, but under some conditions may be some other colour (for example, at sunrise or sunset distant colours may shift towards red).

Arial perspective is first seen in art in ancient Greek frescos starting from 30 BC. It is also used in Japanese ink paintings starting around 12th century. It was popularised in western art in the 15th century by Leonardo da Vinci amongst others.

Claude Lorrain (1630-1682) French. Baroque, Rococo:

“the most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw, all is lovely – all amiable – all is amenity and repose; the calm sunshine of the heart” quote made by John Constable.

Claud Lorrain specialised in landscape painting. For most of his life he lived and worked in Italy although he was French born. He is mostly associated with the Rococo branch or the Baroque era. He was an engraver also. He was greatly admired through his life and after as a landscape artist.

He paintings seem to depict either rural ideals or scenes of harbours with large ships returning. People and animals often feature as part of the landscapes. They either occupy the foreground or middle ground. They are small in comparison to their surroundings and serve to embellish the landscapes not as the most important feature.  Although his paintings clearly celebrate the landscapes around him he marketed them as mythical or religious scenes. The figures with in them playing out parts in these stories like actors in his magnificent sets. Landscape painting was not taken to seriously at his time and where deemed unholy.

Picture 7

The Mill 1631 – An unusual lighting showing dawn or dusk. The trees are silhouettes and for ground in the dark. These leaves the sky in the back ground and the mid section mill that is just catching the first, or last rays as our focus. Unusual as normally our attention is pointed to what ever is going on in the front of the paining.


The Mill – Red = foreground, green = mid ground, blue = background

Picture 9

The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba 1648


The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, Red = foreground, green = mid ground, blue = background

Once I started looking a Lorain’s paintings in terms of foreground, middle and background they begin to look more like a stag set. With these three elements drawn on the same backing then spread some distance apart across the depth of the stage. It is apparent the detail becomes less the further back the artist depicts and the objects in the far section are lighter and often tinged with blue. Some thing Lorrian would have observed as the object became further away and the atmosphere there for thicker.

I also notice this artist often uses elements of his composition as props to frame the mid and back ground. This is very obvious in The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba. Another common factor in his rural paintings is the placing of a large tree or group of trees on the three quarter line to brake the horizontal of the sky. He includes a large amount of sky in his paintings so this helps connect the sky to the figures and objects on the ground.

Picture 6

Campo Viccino, 1636 – The same principles of fore, mid and back section apply to this etching. The lines used to create the image aper to become lighter the further back we look. The object become smaller the further back showing perspective.

Joseph Malard William Turner (1775 – 1851) British, Romanticism :

Turner turned his hand to painting in oil, gochee and water colour as well as exploring print making possibilities whistle he lived. Turners work was viewed with mixed reaction in his life time. His more traditional paintings were admired but some of his more atmospheric experimental ones left critics confused and some times outraged. These more abstract works sort to capture extremes of weather and light. It is thought the impressionist painters took there lead from Turners experiments. Turner remains the most popular landscape artist to this day because f his abilities and efforts in showing us the full force of the weather.  Like Constable, his fellow romantic painter contemporary, Turner was in great admiration of Lorrains work and sort to produce works of such merit. However he then took it a bit further. Pushing the boundaries of what was expectable to produce works full of mood.

Picture 13

The Bay of Baiae, with Apollo and the Sible, 1823. – In this painting and other it is easy to see the influence Lorrain had on Turners own work. the subject matter borrows from mythology as reason to create a landscape. The back ground is nicely framed by surrounding hills and again we see two large trees on the three quarter line bridging the gap from land to sky.


Red = foreground Green = mid ground Blue = background

In this paining Turner also uses a part of the ruins bottom left to  lead the viewer into the painting and to the figures acting out the story. This also shows perspective by foreshortening giving the figures a sense of depth in there position in the painting.

Picture 10

Lake Lucerne 1802


Lake Lucerne

The background is very obvious in this water colour of mists descending over Lake Lucerne. The mid ground melts into the back. The layers are less diffident and obvious than in the earlier painting I have been talking about here. I found the foreground quite tricky and think I would actually change my choice to just the left hand conner now I have looked again.

Turner uses receding purples and blues for the back ground mountains and warmer oranges and yellows in the fore and mid. A strong dark brown picks out detail in the fore.

Picture 11

Whitby (date unknowen)


Whitby (date unknowen)

Another water colour where the true foreground seems to me to only occupy one conner. I must point out at this point that in a lot of these paintings I am seeing four or five layers but fore the sake of the exercise I have split them into three.

The small amount of fore gives us a way into the painting and also (I feel) keeps are distance from the unfolding scene. We are not in the action but very much watching from a distance along the shore line.

Here Turner has used arial perspective here by marking the back ground details in a faint translucent way to show they are in the distance viewed through atmosphere.

Picture 12

Genda (date unknowen) Pencil and water colour

I find this drawing really interesting as a practising artist. I all ways love to see the bones behind the work.  The fore ground is marked in with a saturated blue and tickle of red. The colours become slightly translucent in the mid and the background has been delicately suggested with a whisper of white and blue lines. Seemingly such little effort to crate some thing that balances so well. Even in this sketch as with the paintings i am noticing How Turner tends to keep one conner as the first focal point. Some times with more detail very much in the fore. In this case by making it the darkest point of the sketch.

I think I have learnt a fair bit doing this research point. Now time to try to implement it in my own work!


About Emma Perring

Artist, oil painter

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  1. Pingback: Plein Air dans la Voiture | huntemmalogblog

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