The independent landscape originates in the first half of the 16th Century under the influence of Joachim Patinir (1475/80-1524). The so-called panoramic, world landscape with a characteristic bird's-eye view and three-fold colour scheme (brown, green, blue) as the basis for atmospheric perspective, is successfully promoted by Pieter Bruegel I (1526/30-1569), among others. Biblical scenes remain the occasion for the painting of a landscape, but that also goes for allegories of months and seasons, pastoral poetry and the rural life, inter alia.

The influence of Bruegel continues through to the 17th Century. In the Baroque landscape, the focus is placed on more natural and realistic looking landscapes, with an eye for the miniature painting of botanical details. The landscapes appear as recordings of a moment. Important pioneers of the Baroque landscape are Gillis van Coninxloo II (1544-1606), Paul Bril (1554-1626) and Jan Brueghel I (1568-1625). The latter produces all sorts of thematic variations on the forest landscape in the manner of Coninxloo, with a close-up of a forest scene, in which the vegetation on the edges of the painting is cut off. Paths and rivers, often taken up as diagonals, lead the eye of the viewer into the distance. It is a technique that he also uses in his paradise landscapes.

Mountain landscapes imitating Pieter Bruegel I remain popular in the 17th Century, with specialists such as Tobias Verhaecht (1561-1631) and Joos de Momper II (1564-1634). Seascapes and river landscapes are also of importance in this period.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) primarily paints landscapes in the last phase of his career that are destined for his inner circle. Through his free-hand brush technique and attention for a specific atmospheric condition, these works exude a pastoral atmosphere with their harmony between humans and the world. Rubens influenced landscape painters such as Jan Wildens (1585/86-1653) and Lucas van Uden (1595-1673).

Matthias Depoorter