Aerial landscape art  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Aerial landscape art includes paintings and other visual arts which depict or evoke the appearance of a landscape from a perspective above it—usually from a considerable distance—as it might be viewed from an aircraft or spacecraft. Sometimes the art is based not on direct observation but on aerial photography, or on maps created using satellite imagery. This kind of landscape art hardly existed before the 20th century; its modern development coincided with the advent of human transport which allowed for actual overhead views of large landscapes.

The earliest depictions of aerial landscapes are maps, or somewhat map-like artworks, which show a landscape from an imagined bird's-eye viewpoint. For example, Australian Aborigines, beginning in very ancient times, created "country" landscapes—aerial landscapes depicting their country—showing ancestral paths to watering holes and sacred sites. Centuries before air travel, Europeans developed maps of whole continents and even of the globe itself, all from an imagined aerial perspective, aided with mathematical calculations derived from surveys and knowledge of astronomical relationships.

There were other pre-20th century Western artworks sometimes depicting a single town or precinct in a manner that comes closer to real aerial landscape, showing a town or city more or less as it might look from directly overead. These map-like aerial townscapes often employed a kind of mixed perspective; while the overall view was quasi-aerial—showing the disposition of features arrayed as if seen from directly above—individual features of importance (such as churches or other major buildings) were pictured larger than scale, angled as they might look to someone standing on the ground. The map-like functional purpose of these pictures meant that such landmarks ought to be recognizable to a viewer, therefore, a realistic overhead view of the scene would defeat the purpose. The advent of balloon travel in the 19th century encouraged the development of more realistic aerial landscapes, as the first pioneering aviators begin to learn what landscapes and buildings really looked like when viewed from directly overhead.

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