Landscape. The very word conjures up images in our mind of past scenes enjoyed, of encounters with the physical world, of sunsets admired, of childhood memories of idealised and romantic scenes of storybook castles on high rocky pinnacles, dark forests and placid streams meandering amidst grassy meadows.
Consultation with dictionaries suggests two broad meanings of the term "landscape";
A view or a prospect of inland scenery that can be compre-hended from a single viewpoint
A picture or sketch of the same.
Interestingly, the definition excludes the sea but dictionaries are silent on whether it excludes rivers and lakes as well on the basis that these features are not landscape but waterscape.
Towards Newland Head, near Victor Harbor
Significantly the definition combines both the physical scene and the viewer who sees it, the viewer defining from their viewpoint that portion of the entire scene that comprises the landscape. The viewer may also render an interpretation of what they see in the form of a picture, thereby providing a record of the landscape from that position.
The second definition does not include photographs which can be used to interpret the landscape. The definition thus includes both the perception and interpretation of the landscape.
The term landscape here has the above meaning but with the inclusion of water, whether in the form of a river, lake or the sea. The only proviso being that the land should provide the visible context for the water; i.e. a scene of the sea or a lake without land being visible would not be considered to be a landscape. The inclusion of land, however, regardless of its extent in the scene, will be sufficient for it to be considered landscape.
Scenic quality derives from the term scenery which has its origins in theatre as the backdrop to a play. With its roots in the theatre where scene describes a portion of a play, so a scene can describe a portion of a landscape. Scenery, which describes the decorative backdrops used on a stage, also refers to the general appearance of a place, particularly a picturesque view.
In recent years, scenic quality has become interchangeable term with landscape quality. This is particularly the case in North America where scenic quality is the usual term rather than landscape quality.
Origins of landscape
The etymology of the term landscape has been researched extensively in the literature.
It is believed that the terms landskift, landscipe or landscaef entered Britain some time after the 5th century. These terms referred to a system of human-made spaces in the land - spaces such as fields with boundaries though not necessarily defined by fences or walls. It also referred to a natural unit, a region or tract of land such as a river valley or range of hills as occupied by a tribe or later, ruled by a feudal lord.
The term is similar in meaning to the German landschaft referring to a small administrative unit or region. The term fell into disuse and by the time of the Doomsday Book in the 11th century the word did not appear in any translation from the Latin.
The modern form of the word with its connotations of scenery appeared in the late 16th century when the term landschap was introduced by Dutch painters when referring to paintings of inland natural or rural scenery.
Paul Gabriel A watercourse in Abcoude www.rijksmuseum.nl
According to Jackson (The vernacular landscape, 1986): "From 1577 with Harrison's Description of Britain onwards, a new awareness of the aesthetic nature of landscape emerged as a new kind of topographical writing flourished...". Originally the term was translated landskip which the Oxford English Dictionary referred to as the corrupt form of the word, gradually to be replaced by landscape.
Following a lengthy analysis concentrating on the German term landschaft, Hartshorne (The Nature of Geography, Annals Assoc Am Geog, 29. 1939) defined landscape as referring to "the external, visible, (or touchable) surface of the earth. This surface is formed by the outer surfaces, those in immediate contact with the atmosphere, of vegetation, bare earth, snow, ice, or water bodies or the features made by man."
Hartshorne differentiated the term from region which he considered is larger and more flexible in size. He eliminated sky on the basis that the atmosphere is simply the medium through which the earth's surface is viewed and also excluded underground mine workings, the soil beneath vegetation and rainfall.
However he included moveable objects noting that a view of Broadway without traffic would be incomplete. Hartshorne ignored the inclusion of oceans in landscape. He opposed perception of landscapes by other than sight, e.g. sounds and odours, on the grounds that these do not contribute to a unified concept. In regard to the concept of natural and cultural landscapes that Sauer among others differentiated, Hartshorne stated "the natural landscape ceased to exist when man appeared on the scene". While admitting the term primeval landscape could refer to pre-human landscapes he considered the present natural landscape is "a theoretical concept which never did exist".
During the 1920s and 1930s, attempts were made to construct methodologies that made landscape analysis the essential if not exclusive task of geography. This stemmed from Carl Sauer's view that the role of geography was to systematically examine the "phenomenology of landscape". Sauer viewed landscapes broadly as areas comprising distinct associations of forms, both physical and natural, and regarded landscape study as tracing the development of natural landscapes into cultural landscapes.
By the 1940s, this emphasis had passed as geographers found that the difficulties associated with reconstructing the past were forbidding and at odds with their primary concern with the present world. The concept of a natural landscape became increasingly questioned with knowledge of human impact on the environment. More recent geographers have addressed the subjective attributes of a place within humanistic geography thus crossing the bridge between the objective and the subjective assessment of an area.
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The popular conception of the landscape that is reflected in dictionaries conveys a particular and a general meaning; the particular referring to an area of the earth's surface and the general meaning being which can be seen by an observer.
With greater attention to the environmental perception by psychologists over recent decades, landscape is regarded as the raw material with which to study human perceptions and the human processing of information. Thus Daniels & Cosgrove (The Iconography of Landscape, 1988) defined landscape, not in physical terms but reflected it as an outward expression of human perception:
"a landscape is a cultural image, a pictorial way of representing, structuring or symbolising surroundings."
Meinig combined the physical and the psychological in a wonderful image:
"any landscape is composed not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads."
(The beholding eye; ten versions of the same scene. Landscape Architecture, 66, 1976).
In recent decades the term environment has gained wide usage. Jay Appleton (The Experience of Landscape, 1975) distinguished environment from landscape by referring to the latter as "the environment perceived".
An advantage which the term environment has over landscape is, as Bourassa noted (The Aesthetics of Landscape, 1991), that environment can refer more readily to urban scenes although the term urban landscape is also in common usage. As the term environment embraces the total physical, biological, cultural and aesthetic components of an area, it is generally regarded as too broad and encompassing a term for landscape
The term landscape aesthetics or just aesthetics is frequently used in the literature. Aesthetics has a more controversial origin than landscape. It derived from the Greek aisthesis meaning "sense perception".
The term was used as the title of the book Aesthetica (1750-58) by Alexander Baumgarten (1714 – 62), a minor German philosopher who incorrectly applied the Greek term to a critique of the beautiful or the theory of taste.
Thus the term which originally applied to the broad field of sense perception was restricted to the area of taste. Immanuel Kant in 1781 criticised this use and applied it in accordance with its classical meaning - "the philosophy of sensuous perception" (Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, 1966).
However, the corrupted term aesthetics gained popular acceptance entering England after 1830 and, according to the OED, within a century of the coining of the meaning by Baumgarten, it was in wide use throughout Europe.
The dictionary define aesthetic as "things perceptible by the senses as opposed to things thinkable or immaterial" (Shorter Oxford Dictionary, 1973), "pertaining to the sense of the beautiful or the science of aesthetics" (Macquarie Dictionary, 1981), or "of relating to, or dealing with aesthetics or the beautiful" (Websters Dictionary, 1973).
Aesthetics is regarded as a branch of philosophy, that which "deduces from nature and taste the rules and principles of art, the theory of the fine arts; the science of the beautiful..." (Macquarie) or "[that] dealing with the nature of the beautiful and with judgements concerning beauty" (Websters).
Thus landscapes have often been the subject of inquiry within the broad framework of aesthetics in the quest for understanding of beauty.
Deep Harbor Creek, Fleurieu Peninsula
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