Pure landscape painting was not considered „real“art and was used mainly as a background for a figur painting. But in Northern Europe, especially Flanders, landscape had grown to be a genre in it’s own right. This interest in the „background“ was awakened with the rise of protestantism. In Protestant Holland artists turned to new themes to replace the religious one and artists like Meindert Hobbema, Salomon van Ruysdael (1603-1670) and Jakob van Ruisdael (1628-1682) had a great influence on the english taste in the following century. „Good taste“ ruled out the horrors of nature and a refined, tamed nature was deemed preferable. This also had an influence on english garden architecture.
Richard Wilson (1714-1782) is considered the „Father of English Landscape Painting“. While he was working in Italy as a portraitist, Zuccarelli advised him to take to landscape painting. He was influenced by Claude Lorraine depicting romantic but less idealised vistas. Before Wilson, artists sketched from nature and returned to their Studios to produce idealised paintings, but Wilson painted plein air and what he saw. On his return to Wales he concentrated on his surroundings, drawing attention to the Welsh landscape. He painted plein-air – depicting what he saw and what was in front of him. Upto then artists had sketched plein air, but returned to their studios to paint. He inspired John Constable and Turner to literally follow his footsteps and to paint from exactly the same spots as he had done. He also made a change to the custom of depicting the country houses, which were, upto then, the main point of interest in the painting. Wilson placed them on a side, like Lorraine did with his edifices, something that Constable also followed. But all in all, in spite of his great influence, he died as a pauper.
I like the fact that he painted plein air and that he later concentrated his attention to the landscape of his home area. This is something I do too although in a much more painterly manner leaving out most details.