Landscape and environment

Information for teachers

The following learning activities related to the theme of Melbourne support:

  • The learning focus and standards in Victorian Essential Learning Standards Level 6 for:
    • Discipline-based learning in The Arts, Humanities and English
    • Interdisciplinary learning in Communication, Thinking Processes
    • Physical, Personal and Social Learning in Civics and Citizenship, Personal Learning
  • The areas of study and learning outcomes in Victorian Certificate of Education studies:
    • Art
    • Studio Arts
    • English
    • VCE Outdoor and Environmental Studies

Teachers are encouraged to select and adapt the learning activities to suit the specific level and learning requirements of their students.

The landscape and environment in art

To create a context for exploring landscape and environment in Australian art, investigate how artists from different places and times have represented or responded to the landscape and environment.

  1. Make a collection of images of historical and contemporary artworks from a range of cultures that reflect different responses to the landscape and environment, for example:
    • all paintings of landscapes from ancient Rome
    • Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century European paintings of historical or religious subjects with landscape backgrounds
    • Seventeenth-century Dutch landscapes
    • Classical landscapes by artists such as Claude Lorrain and Nicholas Poussin
    • Chinese scroll paintings representing the landscape
    • Romantic landscapes of the nineteenth century by artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, John Constable and JMW Turner
    • Impressionist landscape paintings by artists such as Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro
    • Surrealist landscapes by artists such as Salvador Dali and Max Ernst
    • Photographic representations of the landscape by artists such as Ansel Adams and Richard Misrach
    • Environmental art or Land art by artists such as Christo and Jean-Claude, Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy
  2. Discuss key characteristics of each artwork
    • Describe how different artists have represented or responded to the landscape or environment. For example, do you think the intention of the artist was to create an illusion of reality, document an aspect of the natural environment, construct an idealised view of nature, create an imaginary scene, convey a feeling or mood, explore formal concerns (such as colour or light), convey spiritual ideas, or to fulfil some other purpose? 
    • Is there any evidence of humans or human activity in this landscape? Is the human presence or lack of human presence important in the work? Explain.
    • Do you believe the artwork is based on particular observation, knowledge or experience of a landscape or environment? Is this important? Explain.
    • How does each work reflect the time and place it was made, and/or the life of the artist?
  3. What does this survey of artworks reveal about the links between landscape and environment and the visual arts at different times and places? Identify an historical period or culture in which the landscape and environment have been highly valued as the focus of artmaking, and a time or place where they have been less important. What are some of the reasons for this? 
  4. The Australian landscape and environment have played a significant role in Australian art, from artworks by Indigenous Australian artists that reflect powerful connections to country, to early post-settlement landscapes documenting the unique features of the Australian environment and contemporary visions of an environment in crisis. Discuss why the landscape and environment have always played an important role in Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian art.

The landscape and environment in art

Based on the above investigation, compile a list of useful vocabulary for exploring artworks related to the landscape and environment. Provide a written definition for each term. Add images of artworks and/or diagrams to further explain each term, or group of terms.

Composition and landscape conventions:

  • Horizon lineViewpoint
  • Bird’s-eye view
  • Worm’s-eye view
  • Panoramic
  • Topographical
  • Foreground
  • Middle ground
  • Background
  • Linear perspective
  • Atmospheric perspective
  • Picturesque
  • Sublime
  • Repoussoir
  • Staffage
  • Land art
  • Environmental art
  • Botanical art
  • Plein-air

Further research on landscape and the environment


Art and the environment, audio recording of discussion about how artists and their work can play a significant part in raising awareness of the environment and climate change, Late Night Live, ABC Radio

The Australian Landscape – a cultural history, audio recordings of four programs exploring our relationship with some of the essential elements of the Australian landscape – desert, sky and heat, Hindsight, Radio National

Country and landscape, National Library of Australia online exhibition

Curriculum resource focusing on landscape, including brief history of landscape genre, The J. Paul Getty Museum, USA

Curriculum resources related to environmental art,, USA

Landscapes in art curriculum resource, including history of landscape painting and interactive activities, The Museum Network, UK

Ocean to outback – Australian Landscape painting 1850–1950, National Gallery of Australia


Australian Impressionism

Bunjil’s nest – Celebrating Bunjil the eagle, creator spirit of the Kulin Nation

Contempora (Aleks Danko, Ricky Swallow, Fiona Hall)

Crossing borders

Eugene von Guérard

Gordon Bennett

Lives and Times

Margaret Preston

Rosalie Gascoigne

Remembering Barak

Shared Sky

Sidney Nolan

Tradition and Transformation

VCE English Contexts

Landscape and environment activities





Psychogeography (1996); (1998) {printed}
from the Psycho series 1996, in The mutant genome project 1994-
type C photograph
120.6 x 258.4 cm (image) 126.9 x 278.8 cm (sheet)
ed. 1/6
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Optus Communications Pty Limited, Member, 1998
© Courtesy of the artist

Landscape and environment

Australian artists explore, observe and respond to the landscape and nature, recording both the environment and our relationship with it.

Go to Landscape and environment stories
Shearing the rams 1890
oil on canvas on composition board
122.4 x 183.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1932


An exploration of identity, including historical and contemporary perspectives on national, cultural and personal identity in Australian art.

Go to Identity stories
William Barak
Figures in possum skin cloaks 1898
pencil, wash, charcoal solution, gouache and earth pigments on paper
57.0 x 88.8 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1962


Land of the Wurundjeri and the making of Melbourne, from marvellous to modern, told by the NGV Collection of Australian art.

Go to Melbourne stories