Cityscape

Within the context of art, a cityscape is a work that showcases aspects of cities. It is often known as the urban equivalent of a landscape. Cityscapes are reflected by such mediums as paintings, etchings, drawings, or even photographs. Cityscapes are differentiated by town or village scenes that are less urban in nature. Cityscapes reflect various aspects of cities including (but not limited to) buildings, urban parks, city skylines, and city streets.



The city in art has a long history. Some early works date to ancient Rome, for example.  The Baths of Trajan, for instance, depict a bird’s-eye view of the city. Cityscapes were also created during the Middle Ages; however, these works often served as backgrounds for views of portraits. By the seventeenth century, cityscapes became a celebrated genre of art, particularly in the Netherlands. A famed work from this era is the View of Delft painted by Johannes Vermeer between 1660 and 1661. Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Haarlem were also featured during this period.

During the eighteenth century, cityscapes became popular in many other European nations, especially in the Italian city of Venice. Some of the most celebrated cityscapes date to eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, groups like the Impressionists experimented with new techniques to showcase views of the city. The common thread between the various artistic genres in cityscape works is the representation of the city’s physical aspects.

The cityscape as a popular genre declined considerably during the nineteenth century as more abstract and works of modernity took center stage. Even so, some modern artists continued to reflect the city in their works. A few celebrated painters like Edward Hopper continued to incorporate cityscape elements into their works. Some contemporary artists focus on the city as the subject matter of their art today. For instance, Stephen Wiltshire is known for his panoramic city views. The artist Yvonne Jacquette is celebrated for her aerial cityscapes.

The cityscape genre has been favored by many historic painters during their era such as Alfred Sisley, James McNeill Whistler, Childe Hassam, Giovanni Canaletto, and John Atkinson Grimshaw. While there is a plethora of world-renowned cityscape works collected by museums today, some particularly celebrated works include City by the Sea (c.1335 A.D.) by Ambrogio Lorenzetti; Paris Street, Rainy Day (1877) by Gustave Caillbotte; and Moscow (1911) by Mikhail Belyaevsky. Although cityscape paintings have declined in popularity during the past century, photographic cityscapes have become a popular genre of the art form.