As a painting subject, cityscapes enjoy a relatively short history. Beginning with a Roman fresco dating to the first century A.D., cities showed up in art primarily as backdrops for portraits and biblical themes, or in service of mapping overviews. It wasn’t until the mid-17th century that the city came into its own as a worthy theme.
In “View of Delft” (1660–1661), Jan Vermeer painted an accurate portrait of the Dutch city, touching off a trend of cityscape painting that existed through the 19th century. In their work, the Impressionists took the theme further and shone a spotlight on the atmosphere and dynamics of everyday urban life. As was the case for most realistic painting genres, however, cityscapes took a back seat to abstract and conceptual art through much of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the revival of figurative art at the end of the century that the city reemerged as a compelling subject.
Upcoming travel and art events with Streamline Publishing: