During the romantic period, several French painters concentrated on picturesque landscape views and sentimental scenes of rural life. Jean François Millet was one of a number of artists who settled at the village of Barbizon, near Paris; taking a worshipful view of nature, he transformed the peasants into Christian symbols (see Barbizon School). Camille Corot, a painter of poetic, silvery-toned woodland scenes and landscapes, included visits to Barbizon among his extensive travels, portraying the lyrical aspects of nature there, as well as in other parts of France and Italy.
English romantic painting
Romantic landscape painting also flourished in England; the trend began early in the 19th century and is exemplified in the works of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner. Although distinctly different in their styles, both artists were ultimately concerned with depicting the effects of light and atmosphere. Despite Constable's factual and scientific approach—working outdoors, he painted numerous studies of cloud formations and made notes on light and weather conditions—his canvases are poetic, expressing the cultivated gentleness of the English countryside. Turner, on the other hand, sought the sublime in nature, painting cataclysmic snowstorms or depicting the elements—earth, air, fire, and water—in a sweeping, nearly abstract manner. His way of dissolving forms in light and veils of color was to play an important role in the development of French impressionist painting.
German romantic painting
Of Germany's romantic artists, Caspar David Friedrich was the leading figure. Landscape was his favored vehicle of expression. He imbued his hypnotic pictures with religious mysticism, portraying the earth undergoing transformations at dawn and sunset, or in the fog and mists, perhaps alluding thereby to the transience of life. Philipp Otto Runge also devoted his brief career to painting mystical landscapes. Morning (1808-1809, Kunsthalle, Hamburg ) is part of an otherwise unfinished allegorical landscape cycle, The Four Phases of the Day.
American romantic painting
America's first truly romantic artist was Washington Allston, whose paintings are mysterious, brooding, or evocative of poetic reverie. Like other romantics, he was inspired by the Bible, poetry, and novels, as is evident in numerous works. Several artists working between 1820 and 1880 are now distinguished as the Hudson River School; their enormous canvases reveal their reverence for the beauty of the American landscape. Thomas Cole, the most noteworthy of these painters, charged his scenes with moral implications, as is evident in his epic series of five allegorical paintings, The Course of Empire (1836, New-York Historical Society, New York City).
In mid-19th-century landscape painting there appeared a new trend, now defined as luminism, an interest in the atmospheric effects of diffused light. Among the luminist painters were John F. Kensett, Martin J. Heade, and Fitz Hugh Lane. A sense of “God in nature” is apparent in their pictures, as in the earliest works of the Hudson River School. In contrast to the smaller and more intimate luminist works—for example, Kensett's scenes along the Rhode Island shore—Frederick E. Church and Albert Bierstadt painted the spectacular scenery of South American jungles and the American West on enormous canvases.