One of the many things I've learned from Art History is that those techniques and visions we often attribute to one particular artist or movement were actually slowly developed over time--sometimes decades, if not centuries, in the works. I love attempting to trace down an artist's potential influences. Even if you hit a dead end or your theory turns up completely unfounded, it still provides a useful educational experience, or in other words, You. Were. Wrong.
For today's feature I'm sharing River Landscape with Apollo and the Cumean Sibyl by 17th-century Italian Baroque painter Salvator Rosa. To be completely honest, the mythological subject is of little interest to me. What draws me to this piece is Rosa's rendering of his imaginary landscape. Look at that unrelenting wilderness with its rough cliffs, split birches and overall tempestuous ambiance. Rosa definitely had an eye for the sublime, and some even consider him a precursor to Romanticism. That being said, this landscape would not be an ideal spot to set your Sunday picnic.
Whenever see one of Rosa's landscapes, I always stop to consider how these particular qualities might've influenced select works by Thomas Cole, the great 19th century American landscape painter. Both Rosa and 17th century French painter Claude Lorrain have been cited as major influences on Cole's landscapes, but whereas the Lorrain influence is only immediately apparent in his picturesque depictions of civilization, his foreboding wilderness is greatly indebted to Rosa. Check out Cole's two ambitious series of works, Course of Empire and Voyage of Life, and you've have quite a time singling out the Rosa from the Lorrain. Yeah, some people also see a little J. M. W. Turner or John Martin, but I believe our two Baroque painters held a much stronger influence over his work.
Of course this isn't to belittle Cole's own original contributions to landscape painting, but I just enjoy making these connections. Considering Cole's own influence on his fellow members of the Hudson River School, I'd like to think that a little Rosa is evident in the many beautiful American landscapes they went on to produce. Of course then you'll be separating out the Rosa and the Lorrain and the Constable and the Dusseldorf School, so maybe you're better off just enjoying the pretty scenery.