Artists often draw their inspiration from nature. Many of them will take their canvases, paints, and paintbrushes into the great outdoors so they can paint amid the natural beauty that they wish to depict.
Sometimes they will paint indoors, relying on their imaginations and feelings to guide the works of art they create. From landscapes, animals, gardens, rivers, seascapes and more, artists have a wide variety of natural subjects to depict in their works.
The artists on this list were chosen because of their popularity and high level of artistic achievement.
1. Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Claude Monet was one of the founders of the French Impressionist painting movement. As a young boy with early artistic aspirations, he sold charcoal caricatures to locals and then began attending Le Havre secondary school of the arts.
Under the guidance of artist Eugene Boudin, Monet learned about working in oils and how to paint using outdoors techniques (“en plain air.”) Among Monet’s most famous works are “Le Dejeuner Sur l’Herbe,” which is now hanging in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, “Water Lilies,” and “Haystacks (sunset).”
2. Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
Vincent Van Gogh, a Post-Impressionist Dutch painter, painted in relative obscurity until after his death, whereupon his paintings began to achieve widespread popularity. One of the most famous paintings of Van Gogh is “The Starry Night”, which he created in June of 1889.
The canvas explodes with swirling, thick and vibrant colors, and the original now hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Other works inspired by nature include “Wheatfield Under Clouded Sky” and “Daubigny’s Garden,” both of which he painted in the last weeks of his life.
3. Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
Winslow Homer was an American artist who is best known for his landscape and marine subjects. A self-taught artist, Homer initially worked as a commercial illustrator, but the began working in oils and watercolors, often creating paintings during his working vacations.
Homer’s fascination with the sea is clearly evidenced in such prominent paintings as “Sunlight on the Coast,” which he created in 1890 and which now hangs in the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. Other nature-inspired paintings include “Gloucester Harbor,” “Song of the Lark” and “Cloud Shadows.”
4. Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
Thomas Cole was an American artist who is credited as being the founder of the Hudson River School, a mid-19th-century art movement in America that focused attention on the Hudson River Valley area.
Cole specialized in portraying the beauty of America’s rugged wilderness, as exemplified in “Distant View of Niagara Falls,” which he painted in 1830, and “Home in the Woods,” which he finished in 1847 and which now hangs in the Reynolds House Museum of American Art. Another example of his celebration of nature is “The Oxbow (The Connecticut River Near Northampton.)”
5. Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904)
Martin Johnson Heade, an American painter with a great interest in painting landscapes, spent significant time traveling in the tropics, where he was often inspired to paint flowers and birds. He began to specialize in depicting scenes of salt marshes in the New England coastal area. Examples include “Sunlight and Shadow: The Newbury Marshes,” and “River Scene.”
Some of his more well-known landscape works include “Rocks in New England,” “Rhode Island Landscape” and “Sunrise in Nicaragua.” His fascination with birds and flowers can be seen in such paintings as “Orchid with Two Hummingbirds” and “Magnolia Grandiflora.”
6. Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
Albert Bierstadt, a German-American painter associated with the Hudson River School movement, took many journeys to the American West, which inspired him to depict the rugged beauty of the great outdoors. Accordingly, he is also considered a member of the Rocky Mountain School art movement.
Some of Bierstadt’s most stirring works include “Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Park” which he completed around 1868 and which now hands in the Oakland Museum in Oakland, California, and the breathtaking “Storm in the Mountains,” finished around 1870. Other scenes inspired by nature are his “Lake Tahoe” and “San Francisco Bay.”
7. Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
Paul Cézanne was a French artist and a prominent figure in the Post-Impressionist movement. His bold and gorgeous colors seem to leap off the canvas.
Among his many works inspired by nature are such paintings as “Jas de Bouffan,” a study of trees that he completed in 1887 and which now hangs in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and “Road Before the Mountains, Sainte-Victoire,” which the artist finished in 1902 and which now appears in the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.
8. Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)
Henri Rousseau, a French Post-Impressionist painter who worked in the so-called “Primitive” manner, was a self-taught artist who may be best known for his depiction of scenes of jungles. He famously claimed that he has “no teacher other than nature.”
Some of his more prominent paintings include “Three Apes in the Orange Grove,” which he completed around 1907 and which now belongs to the M.T. Abraham Foundation, and “Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!)”, which the artist finished in 1891. His “The Flamingos” depicts the graceful pink birds among flowers and trees near a body of water and is an excellent example of his nature-inspired work.
9. Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Georgia O’Keeffe, an American artist, specialized in producing large-format paintings that showcased enlarged flower blossoms that were so large, they appeared to be seen under high magnification.
O’Keeffe spent a great deal of time in New Mexico, where she purchased a ranch on Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu. The multicolored cliffs of the area served as a source of great inspiration, leading her to paint a number of landscapes, such as “White Palace.” Examples of her paintings depicting flowers include “Pineapple Bud,” finished in 1939, “Calla Lilies on Red” from 1928 and “Corn No. 2,” an oil painting that she completed in 1924.
10. John James Audubon (1785-1851)
John James Audubon was a French-American artist who was also an ornithologist and naturalist. He invested a great deal of time portraying a wide variety of American birds, showing them in their natural environments. His book, “The Birds of America,” is a major resource in the field of ornithology.
Audubon is credited with having discovered 25 new species of birds over the course of his life. Popular examples of his work include “Golden Eagle,” which he finished in 1834, “American Crow” and “White Gyrfalcons.” A number of places have been named in his honor, including the Audubon Nature Institute and the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, which is located in Audubon, Pennsylvania.
You can see many famous artists’ paintings of nature hanging in museums around the world. To bring more beauty into your life, you may prefer to obtain reproductions of their works that you can hang in your own home to view whenever you please.
About the Author:
Clare Tames is a self-employed freelance graphic designer, formidable cook, an avid reader. She has written on contemporary and classical art in various print publications and is just now beginning a writing career online. She works out of her home office in California, where her two children attend high school.