Portraits of the Landscape

In Hans Maes (ed.), Portraits and Philosophy. New York, NY: Routledge (2020)
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Portraits are defined in part by their aim to reveal and represent the inner ‘character’ of a person. Because landscapes are typically viewed as lacking such an ‘inner life,’ one might assume that landscapes cannot be the subject of portraiture. However, the notion of landscape character plays an important role in landscape aesthetics and preservation. In this essay, I argue that landscape artworks can thus share in portraiture’s goal of capturing character, and in doing so present us with essential tools for revealing the often ineffable character of place. I explain the implications of this view for debates about scientific cognitivism in environmental aesthetics, representing the narrative dimension of landscape character and integrity, and appeals to the character of place in historic and environmental preservation.



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Erich Hatala Matthes
Wellesley College

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