The fact that landscape painting avoids dealing with the body is the reason, according to Lawrence, why the English have excelled at it. 'It is a form of escape for them, from the actual human body they so hate and fear, and it is an outlet for their perishing aesthetic desires... It is always the same. The northern races are so innerly afraid of their own bodily existence... that all they cry for is an escape. And, especially, art must provide that escape.' This would be one way of interpreting the northern 'Romantic tradition' of landscape painting (which I've discussed here before). And whilst these comments seem almost stereotypically Lawrentian, they point to a real concern that landscape art can represent a refusal to engage with humanity - an accusation that could still be levelled at land artists like Richard Long, walking in the wilderness.
Lawrence goes on to describe the impressionists' escape into light and then the post-impressionists who 'still hate the body - hate it. But, in a rage, they admit its existence, and paint it as huge lumps, tubes, cubes, planes, volumes, spheres, cones, cylinders, all the "pure" or mathematical forms of substance. As for landscape, it comes in for some of the same rage. It has also suddenly gone lumpy. Instead of being nice and ethereal and non-sensual, it was discovered by van Gogh to be heavily overwhelmingly sensual.'
Vincent Van Gogh, Olive Trees, 1889
Source: Wikimedia Commons