Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Developmental History of Landscape Painting in Modern Nigerian Art: The Lagos State Example

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Developmental History of Landscape Painting in Modern Nigerian Art: The Lagos State Example

Article excerpt


Art in any form or media is a device used for representing ideas, recording events, tracing physical advancements and capturing fleeting moments and feelings inspired by nature and human activities generally. In this regard, landscape art functions as a tool of historical documentation of the physical environment (and development) and validates the dynamics of human experiences and environmental changes overtime. Landscape painting, one of the visual art genres, is an art that dates back to the pre-independent era in Nigeria.

The story of landscape painting in Nigeria is encapsulated within the history of modern Nigerian art, which is traceable to the European influence on Nigerian visual expression. Europe, Britain precisely played a major role in the birth of landscape painting in Nigeria. This is because landscape painting is one of the components of easel painting which was never a tradition in Nigeria until the colonial experience. In addition, the early painters that could be considered as the forerunners of the art of landscape painting in Nigeria were trained in Britain.

It appears that several developments in different parts of Nigeria may have cumulated into the beginning of landscape painting in the country. According to (Ajiboye, 2005:48), John Rowland Ojo, an art historian and painter whose academic career was at the Obafemi Awolowo University spoke of a watercolour society which existed at his old school, Christ School, Ado-Ekiti in the late 1940s. The excerpt below vividly captured the picture of landscape painting in those early days in Christ School.

"In Christ School, Ado-Ekiti, I and my junior colleagues were introduced to landscape painting in water colours in the Wednesday afternoon hobby class by a geography teacher who came from England on six-month relieve duty. He painted the hilly country side, travelling as far as Idanre and Ikare; his water colours were in the best tradition of English landscape painting in water colour" (Ojo, 2002:2).

The exploits in landscape painting in Nigeria at these early times may not be limited to the aforementioned. There is however little record of the contributions of these earliest Nigerian modern painters to landscape painting in the pre-independent era in Nigeria except in few writings by foreigners like J. A. Danford, a colonial administrator and Uli Beier, a German ethnographer who was deeply involved in Nigerian art. Other writings similar to these are not commonly found in the body of literature on modern art in Nigeria. Definite records as to how and when the landscape painting tradition started in Nigeria are not easy to come by, as shown by the bulk of literature on the development of modern art in Nigeria.

The story of landscape painting, like that of modern Nigerian art, cannot be detached from the geographical and cultural dimensions of Lagos State. The State is usually considered as the orb of artistic activities and the most advanced in modern Nigerian art, both in practice and historically (Oyelola, 1998:21; Ochigbo, 2006:281; Spiesse, 2003:76; Babalola, 1995:8; Filani, 2005:26; Okeke-Agulu, 2011:13). Nigeria has produced many prolific landscape painters, and the most popular names in that genre are resident in Lagos State where they practice and have become well known (Okediji, 2012:34). Through literature, field study, interviews and purposively selected landscape paintings, this paper aims at constructing the early history of landscape painting in Nigeria using Lagos State as the basis. Also investigated are factors that have shaped the development of Lagos and contributed to the growth of the art genre.

Statement of Research Problem

The history of landscape painting in Nigeria is generally handicapped by inadequate literature. Most information on the genre is scattered in literature that are not intended for it; of which many are reports contained in pages or paragraphs found in different publications. …

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