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Landscape and Environment Activities

Explore

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

A journey through place and time

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

Useful vocabulary

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

GENERAL

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, Greenmuseum.org, 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

NGV ONLINE EDUCATION RESOURCES

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


Respond

Discovering the landscape and environment through art

This activity involves observing, analysing, describing, researching and interpreting an artwork, then making a creative response to the artwork to share with others.

  1. Select an artwork
    • Record the details of the artwork (artist, title, date, media, size).
    • What initially caught your interest about this artwork?
  2. Observe then record the main structure of the artwork in a quick drawing (15 minutes maximum). Focus on the overall structure or composition of the work, rather than small details. You may wish to annotate your drawing with words or notes to highlight important features.
  3. Describe and analyse the artwork
    • What is the subject matter and how is it represented?
    • Which art elements (for example, colour, line, shape, tone, form and texture) and design principles (for example, focal point, space, rhythm, variety, unity, balance) are most important in the work and what visual effects do they create?
    • What materials and techniques are used to make the artwork? How are they used? List four steps you think the artist may have taken to make this artwork.
  4. Research the artwork
    • Identify and note at least three information sources that help your understanding of this work. Starting points may include:
      NGV Collection Stories
      Books, exhibition catalogues or art journals from your school, or public library
      websites
    • List five interesting facts that you learned from your research and explain what each has added to your understanding of this work.
  5. Interpret
    • What feelings, moods, ideas or meanings does the artist communicate to you about the landscape and environment in this the artwork?
    • What is it about the artwork that suggests these feelings, moods or ideas?
    • Suggest what might have inspired the artist to make this artwork.
  6. View the original

Visit the National Gallery of Victoria to view the original artwork (check first that it is currently on display). How is the artwork similar/different to how you imagined it from the reproduction?

  1. A creative presentation

Produce a short creative presentation about this artwork for your classmates (three minutes maximum). Your presentation should include at least five researched facts about the artwork. It should also aim to be lively and engaging. It may comprise or include:

    • A role play – for example, the artist making the work, an art critic or tour guide explaining the work
    • An art review for the radio or the newspaper, or a poem or narrative, which might be presented dramatically as a reading
    • An art review or documentary-style presentation for TV or online media, which might be presented as a short video
    • A dance or musical performance or poem inspired by the artwork
    • A visual/audio presentation (for example, PowerPoint, VoiceThread), which includes relevant background information about the artist or artwork
    • A computer game or animation that brings the artwork ‘alive’

Comparative viewpoints

  1. View the artworks and read the entries in the NGV Collection Story – Landscape and Environment.
    • Identify two artworks that you believe make an interesting comparison in how they represent or respond to the landscape and environment (for example, two different views of the same area, or two responses to the landscape that reflect different styles or ideas).
    • Record the details of each artwork (artist, title, date, media, size).
  2. What ideas does each artwork communicate about the landscape and environment? How are these ideas communicated in each artwork?
  3. Explain why you believe these artworks make an interesting comparison in how the artists represent or respond to the environment.

Curate

A digital, poster or model ‘exhibition’

Collections and exhibitions of artworks play an important role in society in communicating ideas and telling stories. This activity involves creating a digital, poster or model ‘exhibition’ of artworks, using artworks from NGV Collection online, to explore a particular aspect of the landscape and environment. This activity could be done individually, in pairs or in a group.

  1. An exhibition concept

View the artworks and read the entries in the NGV Collection Story – Landscape and Environment. Based on these artworks, identify a theme related to the landscape and environment that interests you, or start with one of the themes below as the concept for your exhibition:

    • Imaginary landscapes
    • Inspired by nature
    • A fragile land
    • Interactions with nature – the relationship between humans and nature in the Australian landscape.
  1. Select artworks
    • Make a selection of at least six artworks that you believe tell a story or communicate important ideas related to your exhibition concept. At least four of these artworks must be from the NGV Collection Story – Landscape and Environment, but you might source artworks from other NGV Collection Stories or NGV Collection online http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/ngv-collection
    • Print or save a digital copy of these artworks for display in your digital, poster or model exhibition. (Remember artworks are protected by copyright law, which means you can use images of artworks for educational/review purposes but not for publication display.)
  2. Create an exhibition
    • Create your digital, poster or model exhibition. A digital exhibition could be a presentation in PowerPoint, an electronic whiteboard display, or some other digital format. Alternatively, you can make a poster or a three-dimensional model to ‘exhibit’ your artworks (see the three-dimensional model used by NGV curators and exhibition designers for planning the exhibition John Brack. http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/johnbrack/education/imagebank.html).
    • When you are creating your digital, poster or model exhibition consider how to most effectively place or group artworks in your exhibition to tell a story and communicate ideas. For example, will the artworks be displayed chronologically or grouped according to themes or ideas?
    • Your digital, poster or model exhibition should include labels for all the artworks listing the artist’s name, title, date, media, and size of the artwork.
    • Your exhibition should have an interesting title, and perhaps a subtitle, to give viewers an idea of what to expect.
  3. Engage viewers with the exhibition story and ideas

Your exhibition should also include some support material to further engage viewers with the exhibition story or ideas. This could take the form of an exhibition brochure introducing the exhibition, an audio guide, and/or a series of extended labels.

  1. Present and reflect
    • Take the class on a ‘tour’ of your exhibition, explaining your selection and display of artwork and supporting material, and how you believe this engages people with a story and ideas related to the landscape and environment.
    • What challenges did you encounter in telling a story or communicating ideas related to the landscape and environment through artworks in an exhibition?

Create

Observing and recording nature

This activity involves observing and recording aspects of the landscape or natural environment.

It would be useful preparation for this activity to look at observational drawings of the landscape and environment by different artists, including sketchbook images.

See drawings by Edward Latrobe Bateman, Georgiana McCrae, Tommy McRae, Fanny Anne Charsley, Eugene von Guérard, Louis Buvelot and Russell Drysdale in NGV Collection Online. http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/ngv-collection/artist-a-z

Search online for other resources related to using sketchbooks. http://www.artjunction.org/sketchbook.php

  • Visit a landscape that interests you and make a series of at least eight observational drawings of this environment.
  • Drawings should be made in pencil or pen on separate pieces of paper or in a small sketchbook. The aim of this exercise is to observe and record important features of this environment, looking at both ‘macro’ (large scale) and ‘micro’ (close up) views of the landscape.
  • Begin by identifying an interesting view. You might want to use a viewfinder to help you isolate an interesting area.
  • Using line and areas of tone, record the main forms in the landscape. You will not be able to record every detail so focus on the main structures that are important in the landscape.  Aim to accurately observe the shapes and relative size and placement of different elements in order to create a realistic sense of space and scale. Use line and tone to suggest textures of different features such as clouds, vegetation and rocks.
  • Create at least one other view of this scene from a different viewpoint (higher, lower closer or further).
  • Make some more focused studies of interesting details in the landscape. For example, rock formations, particular trees or species of plants.
  • You might wish to add annotations to your drawings to describe colours, light or weather.

A layered landscape

This activity involves creating a mixed media artwork in response to a landscape or environment of personal interest. ‘Observing and recording nature’ (above) could be used as a starting point for this activity.
It would also be useful preparation for this activity to explore artworks related to the landscape and environment by contemporary artists such as John Wolseley, Imants Tillers and Bea Maddock.  Consider how these artists research their subject matter and use a variety of materials and processes to create highly individual responses to the landscape and environment that are richly layered in both visual form and meaning.

  • Research a landscape or environment that is of interest to you to familiarise yourself with the history (including the Indigenous history) of the area, its geographical features and significance, and its flora and fauna. How has the area changed over time? Are there important stories about the area? Is the area under any environmental threat? Has this area been the subject of work by other artists?
  • Compile a list of resources including your own drawings, photographs and observations of the area that reflect the physical, cultural, historical and personal significance of the landscape.
  • Identify which aspects of this landscape and environment interest you the most. Use this as a starting point to create a personal response to the landscape, using mixed media. Your artwork should include a layering of visual elements, media and ideas to create a visually interesting artwork that presents the viewer with a number of perspectives on the landscape. Your work might be two or three dimensional, and may include visual representations of the landscape, text or found objects.
  • Create a class display of the finished results. Discuss what each work communicates about the landscape/environment, and how this has been achieved.