In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Art and Geography

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Research Resources
  • Journals
  • Senses and the Body
  • Aesthetics
  • Mapping, Fieldwork, and Exploration
  • Urban Spaces and Practices
  • Practice-Based Approaches
  • Participatory Approaches
  • Thinking about Interdisciplinarity

Geography Art and Geography
Harriet Hawkins
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0014


It was the 18th- and 19th-century landscape paintings of J. M. W. Turner and John Constable that first drew geographers’ attention to art practices in any significant way. The mode of analysis was iconography, focusing on the imagery and symbolism of the works, while the thematic focus of analysis was often landscape, coupled with questions of national identity and empire. Since the early 1990s, however, geographers have taken strength and lessons from these early studies to broaden considerably their engagements with art, such that we see four key features: first, a move to include contemporary artworks, in addition to modern and historical works, among the sources geographers study; second, the embrace of a wider variety of artistic media beyond painting practices to include everything from performance art to installation and sculpture; third, an opening out of concerns beyond the thematic frame of landscape to include themes and approaches such as the body, geopolitics, or home; and fourth, a shift in modes of engagement that sees geographers taking up a range of creative practices, working collaboratively as curators and artists, as well as using existing artworks as an empirical source. The combined effects of the cultural turn within geography and the spatial turn within the arts and humanities have seen rapprochement between these two fields for several decades now—such that geographers have recognized the value of cultural sources and cultural modes of analysis within their studies of social life and the environment, while scholars and practitioners of arts and humanities have been working with the analytic potential of place and a range of spatial vocabularies and concepts. In recent years, such “turns,” perhaps as explored in mapping, exploration, and fieldwork, better understood as “returns,” are not just discursive and conceptual but are also increasingly practice based and methodological. As a result, geographers are taking up artistic methods, either alone or in collaboration, and artists are continuing to work with practices of mapping, exploration, or fieldwork. Furthermore, there is a conceptual shift in the discussion, in line with broader trends across geography, such that we find a movement to combine the politics of representation and cultural productions understood as “texts” with questions of bodily experience, practice, and materiality. In the context of geography and art discussions, these broader disciplinary concerns align around an attentiveness not just to artistic products but to the practices and materialities of art making, as well as the audiences’ embodied experiences of the finished artworks. This is to reinforce a longer-term appreciation of the need to engage with geographical studies of art that explore the production, consumption, and circulation of these works.

General Overviews

Given the recent growth of the field of art-geography relations, general introductory texts and comprehensive overviews are few and far between. The field is increasingly diverse in terms of the types of artwork studied (e.g., from oil painting to performance), the geographical themes studied (from landscape, the body, and the senses, to bio art and the monstrous), and the depth of engagement with the artwork that the research displays. Alongside general texts in cultural geography that provide introductions to how geographers have approached the analysis of cultural forms more generally, Daniels 2008 examines the themes and materials studied, Rose 2011 offers a discussion of methods, and Hawkins 2011 and Tolia-Kelly 2012 explore the approaches taken. In a different vein, Meinig 1983, an early paper, examines geography’s relations to the arts, exploring the modes of knowledge and practices that a more humanities orientated geography would require.

  • Daniels, Stephen. “Landscape and Art.” In Companion to Cultural Geography. Edited by James S. Duncan, Nuala C. Johnson, and Richard H. Schein, 430–446. Blackwell Companions to Geography. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008.

    This chapter provides a comprehensive account of the relationships between art and landscape. Given that landscape is one of the foundational themes of the discipline’s relationship to art, this text provides some important history for the topic. The chapter also offers a good discussion of the intersections of other forms of landscape visualization (e.g., postcards and geographic information systems) with artistic practices.

  • Hawkins, Harriet. “Dialogues and Doings: Sketching the Relationships between Geography and Art.” Geography Compass 5.7 (July 2011): 464–478.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2011.00429.x

    Offers an introduction to the field of art-geography relations. Tracing three themes (landscape, space, and participation), the focus of the paper is an argument that geographers’ recent engagements with art have come to incorporate not only “dialogues,” wherein art is taken as an empirical subject, but also “doings,” wherein geographers work collaboratively alongside artists to make work and to curate exhibitions. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Meinig, Donald W. “Geography as an Art.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers n.s. 8.3 (1983): 314–328.

    DOI: 10.2307/622047

    Explores the place and formation of geography as an art. Arguments are developed in the context of the modern-day institutionalization of the disciplines that saw a separation being rendered between geography and the arts disciplines. Meinig questions what geography has to gain from an alignment with the humanities, including calling for geographers to become creative practitioners. Available online by subscription.

  • Rose, Gillian. Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials. 3d ed. London: SAGE, 2011.

    Originally published in 2000. An important guide to the interpretation of visual materials, covering a range of different approaches from semiotics to psychoanalysis and offering some thoughts on audience studies. Rose’s reflections on taking photographs as part of a research project have much value for those thinking about the place of creative methods within geographical practice more broadly.

  • Tolia-Kelly, Divya P. “The Geographies of Cultural Geography II: Visual Culture.” Progress in Human Geography 36.1 (February 2012): 135–142.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132510393318

    A concise and useful overview of recent research on geography, art, and visual culture more broadly. Its subject matter raises questions around the relationship between art and visual culture, as well as noting the range of collaborations between geographers and visual artists. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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