People use art to help their well-being but also to draw attention to societal changes and issues. The combination of art and nature allows people to explore the natural world, create more profound meaning for themselves, and connect people through understanding and viewing their artwork. This article will discuss the importance of integrating art and nature and how various artists used nature to inspire them.
Throughout time, artists have used nature as a muse or motivation for creating different forms of art. Nature can provide endless forms of inspiration, and it can be a critical theme in many forms of artwork. Henry Matisse said, “An artist must possess nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language.” Artists use nature to express themselves but also to understand their work and themselves on a deeper level. To do this, artists may even use nature within their creations, such as wood, clay, water, and graphite, which are all-natural mediums.
There has also been some research done on the importance of art and nature to the well-being of others. Thomson et al. (2020) found that creative green prescription programs, which combine arts- and nature-based activities, can significantly impact the psychosocial well-being of adult mental health service clients. They recommended that museums with parks and gardens blend programs to incorporate nature, art, and well-being. Kang et al. (2021) found that nature-cased group art therapy positively affects siblings of children with disabilities. This type of art therapy increased their resistance to disease and their self-esteem while alleviating stress.
The Jan Van Eyck Academy in the Netherlands has opened a lab for artists to do their own nature research. They created a facility to support woodworking, printmaking, photography, video, and metalwork while allowing artists to explore their work and relationship with nature. This lab gives the artists a chance to consider nature in various ways, including its relation to ecological and landscape development issues to begin to bridge a gap between humankind, nature, and art. There needs to be more scientific research on the importance of nature and art; however, we see that artists are already beginning to research how nature affects their work and overall mindset.
How have artists used nature in their work?
Renowned artist Vincent van Gogh, was able to bring aspects of nature to life in his paintings. His work has allowed people to understand nature in different forms and bring people together. A recent exhibit of his work brought people together for a visual and thrilling experience.
Nature also inspires modern artists, such as Mary Iverson, who draws inspiration from the natural beauty around her. Her paintings offer a contemporary spin on traditional landscape art, and she uses monuments, national parks, and societal issues (like climate change) as inspiration. She began addressing climate change in her art because she wanted to combine her environmental activism and painting interests.
Another modern artist, Miranda Lloyd, creates contemporary abstract nature art, such as trees, birds, and other naturalistic nature scenes. She uses inspiration from her own backyard and paints many scenes that are inspired by the sea. Miranda is an excellent example of how you can be inspired by nature within and outside of your home.
Additionally, items from nature can be used to create new forms of art. Renowned artist Daniel Popper creates larger-than-life sculptures, and many of them are designed with forms of nature. He currently has an outdoor exhibit at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, called “Human+Nature.” This exhibit connects people and trees through sculptures and other forms of art. As stated on the Morton Arboretum’s website, “People rely on trees for clean air to breathe, shade to cool, and beauty that can bring joy and relaxation, among many other benefits. In turn, trees need people to care for them to thrive and share their benefits, especially in a changing climate.” Individuals can begin to reimagine their relationships with trees as they explore these large-scale artworks. Below are a few pictures from his exhibit!
In our next article about nature and art, we will take a deeper dive into how art can create different forms of purpose for various individuals and discuss places all over the United States that have spaces for art and nature!
Thomson, L. J., Morse, N., Elsden, E., & Chatterjee, H. J. (2020). Art, nature and mental health: assessing the biopsychosocial effects of a ‘creative green prescription’museum programme involving horticulture, artmaking, and collections. Perspectives in public health, 140(5), 277-285.
Kang, S., Kim, H., Baek, K., (2021). Effects of nature-based group art therapy programs on stress, self-esteem and changes in electroencephalogram (EEG) in non-disabled siblings of children with disabilities. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18