The Experience of Landscape – Jay Appleton

I am currently reading Jay Appleton’s The Experience of Landscape.  This 1975 text delves into the Prospect-Refuge Theory of Appleton’s.  This theory suggests that there are biological, instinctual reasons for our appreciation of landscape.  Appleton writes that we create symbols of prospect and refuge and these symbols filter our aesthetic interest in landscape.

“The strategic value of a landscape, therefore, whether natural or man-made, is related to the arrangement of objects which combine to provide collectively these two kinds of opportunity, [prospect and refuge] and when this strategic value ceases to be essential to survival it continues to be apprehended aesthetically.” (Appleton, 74)

Appleton goes on to analyze landscape in a very formulaic way.  While I find the idea very compelling, it is still a little to simplistic for me.  I always imagined our emotional and aesthetic reactions to be more complex.  I am, of course, not done with the book yet and look forward to the rest of Appleton’s discussion.

Appreciation of Landscape

A great deal has been written about why humans are so moved by the site of landscape.  In my recent immersion into landscape painting I have looked more seriously at the potential reasons for this.  I have begun reading such authors as Jay Appleton, who wrote The Experience of Landscape.  Appleton is known for the “prospect- refuge theory” which describes an evolutionary response to landscape.  Prospect defines our desire to perceive large expanses.  Refuge refers to our need for security and comfort. I am just beginning to read the text more completely, but I have to say that my initial response to this theory is that it is too simplistic.

This is a recent sketchbook drawing, in preparation for a painting. I am combining an appreciation of landscape with a decisive approach to color and form.  There is a relationship to art that I think can inform our appreciation of landscape beyond pure evolutionary concerns, but without descending  into mysticism.