The landscape concept has a long tradition as an area of geographical research. While geography focused on landscape as a physical entity in the early twentieth century, the cultural turn late in the century focused greater attention on the cultural and aesthetic significance of landscape. In one of the most important works on landscape in cultural geography, Denis Cosgrove (1998, p. 9) wrote, "Geographical studies of landscape until very recently denied the existence of Merrell Sandal common ground between the object of their investigations and the sensibility implied by the artistic usage of landscape. In fact, they are intimately connected"
The artistic usage of landscape may be traced back to the sixteenth century when the concept became associated with the artistic and literary representation of the visible world (Cosgrove 1998). Landscape became an object for a spectator, intended for contemplation and aesthetic response (Cosgrove 2003). From this tradition, vision was privileged as an important source of information about the environment. The techniques of perspective drawing were employed to give form to natural qualities, values, or ideals. The landscape paintings created by these techniques brought about a new way of looking at places, a new way of experiencing them, and a new way of judging them (Baker 2003). Landscape paintings also created an image of Merrell Boot natural scenery by depicting specific features of the natural world in ways that symbolized classical values of idealized environments.
Landscapes were invested from outside with human meaning (Cosgrove 1998). Cultural conventions shaped what was seen, what meanings or values were attached to particular landscapes, and what reaction was appropriate given the landscape's formal or compositional properties (Whyte 2002; Cosgrove 2003). Particularly with the eighteenth and nineteenth century artistic movements, an appreciation of scenic beauty in reality, as well as in art, was an important social accomplishment, rather like the ability to sing well or compose a polite letter. It required knowledge of the artistic and literary allusions, as well as an educated eye to frame the view from the correct vantage point or prospect, dividing up foreground, middle ground, far distance and side screens.
Such cultural conventions were not innocent. The techniques of art placed the viewer in an invulnerable position of mastery over the landscape, which has been characterized as the "monarch-of-all-I-survey" trope (Pratt 1992). For example, using a vantage point or prospect that was elevated and at a distance to observe the landscape created or perpetuated the relationship of dominance of the viewer over the viewed (Ashcroft et al. 2000; Gillespie 2002; Cosgrove 2003). Enflaming the landscape using the tools of perspective gave the viewer the power to orient the world around him or her and render the landscape static, frozen in a particular view. The landscape is therefore appropriated by the spectator who has the power to evaluate and modify the scene, just as landscape painters had the power to eliminate features that were not pleasing or did not conform to artistic conventions, or add features that were thought to enhance the scene.
While certainly multifaceted and complex, landscape continues to be seen as an important interface between humans and their environment. As such, Whyte finds landscapes to be important "because they are the product of one of the most enduring sets of linkages: the relationships between the physical environment and human society". Geographers have sought to investigate the various meanings of landscape through different forms and have often focused on artistic and literary representations. "To accept the ambiguity and severally-layered meanings of landscape does not excuse us from careful examination of them and of their origins. Rather it obliges us to pay rather greater attention to them than we have done in the past".