Flemish (born in Belgium), 1554–1626
Trees on a Rocky Bank, c. 1590
ink on paper
35.2 x 27 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery
Landscape painting in Europe was not embraced as an independent genre until the early sixteenth century. At that time the northern schools, mainly the Flemish and German, along with many Italian painters, assumed the leading role in developing the new genre. The landscape sketch or drawing, executed en plein air (outdoors), played a vital role in the development and refinement of the landscape composition in painting. This drawing by the Flemish artist Paul Bril illustrates how artists began the process of creating the composition with individual studies for their finished painting. In this superb rendering of a tree in its natural setting, the artist has focused on key aspects of vegetation and topography that animate the final composition. The Bril family, which included Paul Bril, his brother, and his father, was one of the most important contributors to the northern landscape tradition in Italy in the sixteenth century.