Prismatic Landscapes

Landscapes are one of art's oldest genres– after all, there are few subjects as elemental. But these depictions are far from old-fashioned as artists have always injected creativity and a diversity of approaches into their work. The colors, techniques and forms they employ to do so create a world all their own.

Though it's his only known surviving painting, Zhan Ziqian's 6th-century work Strolling About in Spring is among the world's oldest surviving landscapes. Its lush detailing of distant mountaintops and small forests is rendered in many shades of green and highlighted by fine linework that's emblematic of China's historic style. Flemish master Pieter Brueghel the Elder often looked to everyday peasant life for inspiration, populating scenes of golden, wheat-covered hills with farmers and picturesque villages. Georgia O'Keeffe may be best known for her rapturous flower portraits, but the artist was just as adept at rendering the desert surroundings she called home toward the end of her life. She would regularly take sunset palettes of burnt orange, purple and blue to reimagine the mountains that so often inspired her, abstracting them into grand sweeps of pigment as she did.

The natural contours of the planet and the innumerable plants and animals that inhabit it continue to act as a catalyst for contemporary art. And as the world becomes smaller with increased travel and digital technology, artists are venturing into new territories that reshape how we see it.