Australian Fine Artist

During the late 18th century the Picturesque became a determining factor in the development of the quintessential English landscape garden. Two men central to this development were Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-1783) and Humphrey Repton (1752-1818) whose interpretations of the Picturesque reflect the social and political changes that were occurring, and the influx of knowledge due to the Enlightenment. Additionally, the Industrial Revolution provided an increase in wealth in the middle classes who commissioned gardens with Picturesque designs to reflect their social status. The Romanticist movement also attributed to the changes in taste towards the Picturesque landscape garden designs of Brown and Repton. Paintings such as View of Ipswich from Christchurch Park c.1746-9 (Figure 1) by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) and later works like Wivenhoe Park, Essex, 1816 by English Romanticist artist John Constable (1776-1837) are evidence of how the Picturesque was depicted in landscape painting. The widespread debate and argument, along with the influence of the Romanticist Movement, and a host of other social and political issues initiated a trend in landscape gardens. As a result, a combination of these exemplars became instrumental in the development of the Picturesque. Brown and Repton’s adoption of the Picturesque captured the zeitgeist of 18th century England, and the broad range of influences that changed English gardens has continued their impact into the 21st century.

Figure 1. Gainsborough, Thomas. (1727-1788). View of Ipswich from Christchurch Park. 1746-49. Oil on Canvas. 27 x 35.25 inches.

Poussin-ideal landscape-1645-50-oilcanvas-73.62x47.24inch

Figure 2. Poussin, Nicolas. (1595-1665). Ideal Landscape. 1645-50. Oil on Canvas. 73.62 x 47.24 inches.

lorrain-the enchanted castle 1664-oiloncanvas-size

Figure 3. Lorrain, Claude. (1600-1682). The Enchanted Castle. 1664. Oil on Canvas. 151.3 x 87.1 cm.

Friedrich

Figure 4. Friedrich, Caspar-David. (1774-1840). The Abbey at Oakwood. 1802. Oil on Canvas. 110.4 x 171 cm .

The Picturesque is derived from pittoresco from pittore ‘painter’, from the Latin pittor. Indicating that the Picturesque evolved from a romanticized view of nature influenced by artists such as Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) (Figure 2) and Claude Lorrain (c1600-1682) (Figure 3) (Brook 2008, 110). The German Romanticist movement typified by artist Caspar-David Friedrich (1774-1840) also influenced the development of the Picturesque in England, as Romanticist artists and writers rejected Enlightened thinking from Rome and France in an attempt to re-engage with their cultural heritage (Boreham 2014). In The Abbey in the Oakwood 1808-1810 (Figure 4) Friedrich used dramatic light and shadow around a central theme of church ruins, hinting at the Sublime and Beautiful of Burke. Friedrich, John Constable and J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) influenced each other due to their mutual interest in nature. For example, Constable preferred nostalgic, carefully composed rural scenes such as Dedham Vale 1802, and Wivenhoe Park 1816 (Figure 5), indicating how Romanticist landscape artists influenced the development of Picturesque gardens by various designers including Brown and Repton.

dedham Vale 1802-contstable

Figure 5.  Left: Constable, John. Dedham Vale, 1802. Oil on Canvas. 48.03 x 57.09 inches.
Right: Constable, John. Wivenhoe Park, Essex. 1816. Oil on Canvas. 56.1 x 101.2 cm.

stowe house

Figure 6Left: Stowe House. Photograph. Copyright 2013 Baz Richardson.
Right: Temple of Ancient Virtue, Stowe House. Photograph. Copyright 2009 JHB. Flikr.com.

As early as the 16th century people like Sir Henry Wotton (1568-1639), Joseph Addison (1672-1719) and Alexander Pope (1688-1744) were discussing changes in garden design leading to the Picturesque. Their insights influenced William Gilpin (1724-1804) and Horace Walpole (1717-1797), which informed the concepts of Brown and Repton. Gilpin defined the Picturesque in his publication Essay on Prints 1768, describing it as a median between the beautiful and the sublime, in comparison to A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful 1757 by Edmund Burke (1729-1797). Gilpin theorized that the Picturesque was only achievable by humans creating it, making it a suitable subject for reproducing in a painting, and that ruins were far more picturesque than a pristine Palladian manor by Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) (The Picturesque 2015). In his publication Dialogue Upon the Gardens of the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Cobham at Stowe in Buckinghamshire 1748, he contrasted its Picturesque gardens to what he called the clipped absurdity of the formal gardens of France (Crane 2007).

strawberry hill-walpole

Figure 7. Ripe for entertaining: a view of the house from a lime grove. Strawberry Hill. Photograph. Copyright 2013 Ed Cumming.

Horace Walpole’s interests in painting, poetry, and gardening were the basis for his interpretation of the Picturesque in The History of the Modern Taste in Gardening 1780. Walpole, who was influenced by Milton’s Paradise Lost 1667, converted his home Strawberry Hill (Figure 7) from a cottage to the imitation of a Gothic castle and gardens after travelling on Grand Tour of Gothic cathedrals during the 1740s. He wrote in his journals of his interest in Chinese architecture and design, which was later replaced by the love of the Gothic. Walpole owed his inspiration to William Kent (1685-1748), who introduced the idea of bringing the countryside into the garden, and was a tutor and supporter of ‘Capability’ Brown (Batey 1991). Actively involved in the landscaping of many estates including Houghton and his home at Strawberry Hill, Walpole was an important contributor to the development of the Picturesque (Harney 2012).

hogarth-chswick

Figure 8. Hogarth, William. (1697-1764) and George Lambert (1700-1765). Family in the Garden at Chiswick House. 1742. Oil on Canvas. 81 x 104cm.

Uvedale Price (1747-1829) stated in An Essay on the Picturesque as Compared with the Sublime and the Beautiful; and, on the Use of Studying Pictures for the Purpose of Improving Real Landscape, 1794 that the study of nature in paintings would educate landscape designers about the grouping of natural objects to achieve the Picturesque. Price cited artists Claude and William Hogarth (1697-1764) as ideal examples for the Picturesque landscape garden (Price 1794). Along with Payne Knight (1750-1824) and Repton, Price furthered the debate about the nature of the Picturesque, whilst often berating ‘Capability’ Brown (Baigent 2012). Interestingly, Chiswick’s gardens, painted by Hogarth and George Lambert (1700-1765) (Figure 8), were mostly designed by Brown’s tutor, William Kent. It was Price’s opinion that the Picturesque was an additional category to the Sublime and Beautiful of Edmund Burke, who was influenced by Hogarth’s theories regarding a ‘Line of Beauty’ and ‘Ideas of Taste’. These ideas developed from the Enlightenment science of Isaac Newton (1643-1727) and the first-century poet Lucretius (c.99-55BC). Although suppositious, Price’s definition of the Picturesque and practical advice became an accepted way of interpreting the English landscape (Ballantyne 1992, 320-329).

Payne Knight travelled to Italy in 1767, joining Uvdale Price where the two studied and explored sites of historic and geographic significance. Knight’s interest in the Picturesque began in 1773 when he looked for a landscape design to enhance the Gothic exterior of his home. After further trips through Italy and Europe, Knight published The Landscape, A Didactic Poem, in Three Books. Working with Uvedale Price, Knight assailed the Picturesque landscape garden designs of both ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphrey Repton. A rift later developed between Price and Knight because of opinions cast in his book, and Knight continued his attacks on Brown’s open lawns and clumped trees, in contrast to his views about ‘natural’ Picturesque landscape (Clarke 1947). This argument would draw in Repton, Brown, Price, and artists like Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) expanding the debate to include the relationship between the Picturesque, the Beautiful and Sublime, and the definition of taste (Wilder 1974, 60-77, 136-140).

The Picturesque was publicly preferred by members of the Whig Party (c. 1678-1859) to distinguish themselves from the French absolute monarchy and the subsequent French Revolution. According to them, the Picturesque landscape garden could only originate in a purely English liberal political system. (Egbert 2002). Although in practice, many of their estates such as Stowe House tended to use both Picturesque and Classical formal elements, irrespective of political views (Wickham 2012, 113-125). By stating that the development of the Picturesque could only occur in a liberal English environment, the Whig Party overlooked a wider range of social changes. These include the origins of the Ha-Ha in Europe, extensively used at Stowe, Romanticist landscape painting, and the development of the Picturesque elsewhere such as Germany and Russia (Dixon Hunt 2004).

enclosure

Figure 9. Enclosure. Photograph. Copyright 2016 Quizlit Inc.

A significant influence on the Picturesque began during the 15th century with the Parliament Acts of Enclosure creating legal property rights over what had previously been common land. During the 18th century, the Acts advantaged the emerging wealthy classes as a result of the Industrial Revolution, reflecting their raised social status on expanded estates (Wickham 2012, 148-149). Landscape designer Humphrey Repton was initially a supporter of Enclosure but later changed his views due to what he claimed was apparent misuse and lack of taste by the nouveau riche. Historic records indicate that contrary to many fears, the Enclosure Acts neither disadvantaged or advantaged, one sector of society to any degree over another, in some cases it improved conditions and in others, it removed generations’ old lifestyles (McDonagh 2012, 112). The acquisition and visual separation of land (Figure 9) was, however, mostly advantageous to the wealthy at the expense of the rural working poor, as it gave landholders more property for Picturesque landscaping to include long vistas and parkland (Beckett 1998, 141-155).

Ha-Ha-©Miles Hadfiled-The Art of Garden 1965

Figure 10. Ha-Ha. Mansbach. S.A. 1982. An Earthwork of Surprise: The 18th Century Ha-Ha.

A defining element in the Picturesque landscape garden for Brown and Repton was the Ha-Ha (Figure 10). This reengineered idea from Europe was developed for control of livestock and uninterrupted views rather than employing fences or hedges. It had been attributed to military use, and ditches around French gardens as early as the Middle Ages, and created a conversation point in the gardens at Versailles (Mansbach 1982, 217-219). Although not apparent at the time, the introduction of the Ha-Ha would be an important step in the introduction of the Picturesque landscape garden to England. A fundamental principle of the Picturesque landscape was the long vista with no clear delineation between house, parkland and natural environment which the Ha-Ha made possible (Ibid, 217-221). One of its finest examples was created for Stowe House by ‘Capability’ Brown (Figure 14). Variations in the design allowed Classical additions such as The Temple of Venus (1731-31) by William Kent to Brown’s work at Stowe. John. C. Loudon explained the importance of the Ha-Ha in The Landscape Gardening and Landscape Architecture of the Late Humphry Repton, Esq. 1811. Loudon pointed out that the advantage of the Ha-ha was the impression of boundless views particular to larger Picturesque English landscape gardens (Loudon 1840). The use of the Ha-Ha proved to be successful in gardens designed by both Brown and Repton.

chiswick-kent

Figure 11. Chiswick Villa. Photograph. Copyright 2014 Carolyn McDowell.

kent-rousham garden

Figure 12. Gardens at Rousham. Photograph. Copyright 2014 Carolyn McDowell.

Tutor to Capability Brown, architect William Kent was influenced by his Grand Tour of Italy and was a keen champion of Palladian style architecture. His journals that included drawings and notes formed the basis for his garden designs in England. Kent also developed networks with people like Thomas Coke, who commissioned him to work on Holkham House in Norfolk, and Lord Burlington, to work at Chiswick House (Figure 11). Kent’s blend of Classical architecture and Picturesque garden designs is clearly evident at Stowe, Rousham House (Figure 12) and Badminton. Timothy Mowl, in his book William Kent: Architect, Designer, Opportunist described Kent’s gardens as cleverly contrived apparitions of nature (Mowl 2006). Kent also designed many of the interiors and gardens at Rousham House that can be described as something between the poetic and the picturesque, resembling a painted scene because of the blend architecture with formal and natural landscaping.

wilson-croom-brown

Figure 13. Wilson, Richard. Croome Court, Worcestershire. c.1758-59. Oil on Canvas. 129.2 x 165.8cm.

Petworth-showing the ha-ha

Figure 14. Petworth House, West Sussex showing Brown’s use of the Ha-Ha. Copyright 2016 Excelsior Systems Ltd..

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, began as a gardener under the guidance of William Kent at Stow House in
1741-2. After displaying his ability to design architecture and gardens he became popular with the nobility for his holistic approach to the landscape. At the time, a rejection of French influences was spreading as interest in English Neo-Gothic and Picturesque landscape gardens grew. Brown’s designs indicate his awareness of Hogarth’s theories about flowing lines and taste in the landscape, and colleague artist Richard Wilson (c.1713-1782) ideally captured Brown’s skills in his painting Croom Court, Worcestershire c.1758-59 (Figure 13). Brown responded to the growing demand for natural landscape gardens, designing areas that were suitable for grazing and beautiful vistas, which answered the need for land to graze horses for transport, livestock for sale and hay for fodder. His park-like landscape gardens, which included the use of the Ha-Ha reflected the paintings of Claude Lorrain but promoted the richness of the English landscape in contrast to France or Italy. Brown’s landscape designs responded to politicians’ and wealthy landholders’ desire to reflect England as a wealthy, educated and fertile centre of the Industrial Revolution and Enlightenment in their properties. Country houses that included art, English architecture and vast tracts of landscaped parkland, therefore, became symbols of wealth and the concept of beauty and taste in England during the 18th century (Adams 1991, 173-174). The landscapes at Stowe Castle, Rousham, Croome Court and Petworth House (Figure 14), and over one hundred other sites designed by Brown can be described as combinations of the poetic and the Picturesque, resembling a painted scene via their use of local natural elements and English architecture (Phibbs 2003).

watteau-repton

Figure 15. Watteau, Jean-Antoine. Fetes Venitiennes. c. 1718-19. Oil on Canvas. 55.9 x 45.7 cm.

repton-red book examples

Figure 16. Humphrey Repton. Photographs. Red Book for Ferne Hall. Copyright 2014 Parks & Gardens UK.

The successor to ‘Capability’ Brown, Humphrey Repton was one of the first professional landscape designers, whose combination of the theory and practice of landscaping set him apart from amateur garden designers. Repton designed with the taste and lifestyles of his clients in mind, creating notes and design ideas in his ‘Red Books’ for each project such as Babworth Hall and Ferne Hall (Figure 16). Repton thought that the Picturesque garden should be derived from the reality of the landscape and an unadorned artistic representation. In contrast to Price and Knight, who argued for a naturalistic and wild look for landscape design, with less regular and smooth lines Repton countered by mediating between painting and natural ‘untouched’ landscape for an original concept of the Picturesque (Dixon Hunt 1992, 139-168). He referred to Jean-Antoine Watteau’s (1684-1721) paintings as ideal examples of nature in landscape art, where Watteau uses architectural elements in a less formal garden setting. Differing from Price and Knight, who were often scathing in their opinions regarding his designs, Repton developed the Picturesque to suit the conditions. He considered all the elements rather than blindly following a set of parameters in an unsuitable setting, and often supplemented ‘Capability’ Brown’s designs with his concepts of the Picturesque (Black 2005, 65-66). Repton’s ability to combine the Sublime and Beautiful of Burke with the Picturesque, and his considered view of the landscape’s needs, are clear indications of how professionally he approached each project. The garden, according to Repton, had to be seen from multiple points, distinguishing it from a painting, which had one point of reference. Whether a large estate or a small house garden, he considered every vantage point and issue before committing to altering the landscape, for him the land had to appeal to the mind as well as the eye. In his later career, Repton drew on Classical and formal garden styles and architecture to complement and add to his repertoire. For him, the Picturesque was a process of applying good taste and well considered design to the landscape.

The interpretation of the Picturesque landscape garden by Brown and Repton was a result of a combination of political and social developments in England during the 18th century. These included the influx of information due to the Enlightenment, an increase in wealth, the Romanticist Movement, political reactions to the French Revolution; and the Industrial Revolution and Grand Tour. Although differing in their definition of the Sublime, Beautiful, and Picturesque, authors and tutors like Edmund Burke and William Kent were also influential. By taking on aspects they considered complemented the English landscape, Brown created a style that included open spaces and architectural features inspired by Kent and along Hogarth’s flowing lines; and Repton combined the best features of former schools of thinking to create a mix of style and good sense. The long vistas of lakes, bridges, ruins, lawns, Ha-Has and groves of trees that typify the English landscape garden, became increasingly popular in the 19th century. What Brown and Repton achieved was to capture the mood of the times to incorporate these features and the English ‘character’ into the environment by envisioning them in the Picturesque garden.
References:

Adams, W. 1991. The Landscaping of England. In Nature Perfected: Gardens Though History. 173-174. http://edocs.library.curtin.edu.au/eres_display.cgi?url=dc60261348.pdf&copyright=1.

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Illustration List:

Figure 1.     Gainsborough, Thomas. (1727-1788). View of Ipswich from Christchurch Park. 1746-49. Oil on Canvas. 27 x 35.25 inches. http://www.historicalportraits.com/Gallery.asp?Page=Item&ItemID=1299&Desc=View-of-Ipswich-from-Christchurch-Park-%7C-Thomas-Gainsborough.

Figure 2.     Poussin, Nicolas. (1595-1665). Ideal Landscape. 1645-50. Oil on Canvas. 73.62 x 47.24 inches. Museo Del Prado, Spain. http://www.nicolaspoussin.org/Ideal-Landscape-1645-50.html.

Figure 3.     Lorrain, Claude. (1600-1682). The Enchanted Castle. 1664. Oil on Canvas. Size 151.3 x 87.1 cm. National Gallery London. http://www.claudelorrain.org/The-Enchanted-Castle.html.

Figure 4.     Friedrich, Caspar-David. (1774-1840). The Abbey at Oakwood. 1802. Oil on Canvas. Size 110.4 x 171 cm . Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin. http://patricksmithphotography.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The_Abbey_in_the_Oakwood.jpg.

Figure 5.     Left: Constable, John, (1776-1837). Dedham Vale, 1802. Oil on Canvas. Size 48.03 x 57.09 inches.
Constable, John. Wivenhoe Park, Essex. 1816. Oil on Canvas. Size 56.1 x 101.2 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA.
http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/features/slideshows/constable-great-landscapes.html#slide_1.

Figure 6.     Left: Stowe House. Photograph. Copyright 2013 Baz Richardson. https://www.flickr.com/photos/bazrichardson/.
Right: Temple of Ancient Virtue, Stowe House. Copyright 2009 JHB. Flikr.com. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbakerpics/4001183578.

Figure 6.     Left: Stowe House. Photograph. Copyright 2013 Baz Richardson. https://www.flickr.com/photos/bazrichardson/.
Right: Temple of Ancient Virtue, Stowe House. Copyright 2009 JHB. Flikr.com. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbakerpics/4001183578.

Figure 7.     Ripe for entertaining: a view of the house from a lime grove. Strawberry Hill. Photo Copyright 2013 Ed Cumming. The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardenstovisit/10173016/Strawberry-Hills-gardens-as-Walpole-would-have-wanted.html.

Figure 8.     Hogarth, William. (1697-1764) and George Lambert (1700-1765). Family in the Garden at Chiswick House. 1742. Oil on Canvas. Size 81 x 104cm. http://bjws.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/william-hogarth-1697-1764-paints.html.

Figure 9.     Enclosure. Copyright 2016 Quizlit Inc. Under license from Flikr.com. https://quizlet.com/1736818/industrial-revolution-vocabulary-blozzon-a1-flash-cards/.

Figure 10. Ha-Ha. Mansbach. S.A. 1982. An Earthwork of Surprise: The 18th Century Ha-Ha.
In Earthworks: Past and Present 42 (3): 217-221. doi:10.2307/776581 From Hadfield, Miles. 1965. The Art of Garden. http://www.jstor.org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/stable/776581?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.

Figure 11. Chiswick Villa. Carolyn McDowell. 2014. http://www.thecultureconcept.com/circle/william-kent-designing-georgian-britain-transforming-style.

Figure 12. Gardens at Rousham. Carolyn McDowell. 2014. http://www.thecultureconcept.com/circle/william-kent-designing-georgian-britain-transforming-style.

Figure 13. Wilson, Richard. (c.1713-1782). Croome Court, Worcestershire. c.1758-59. Oil on Canvas. Size 129.2 x 165.8cm. Private Collection. http://www.richardwilsononline.ac.uk/index.php?a=ViewItem&key=RHsiRCI6IlwiV0dDXCIgSXMgbGlua2VkIHRvIHRoZXNlIFdvcmtzIG9mIEFydCIsIk4iOjM2MSwiUCI6eyJ0eXBlIjoiYmFja3dhcmQiLCJyZWxhdGlvbl9pZCI6NCwiaXRlbV9pZCI6IjQ5In19&pg=307#S8nl8JFzcYkAAAFShtdX2A/1607.

Figure 14. Petworth House, West Sussex showing Brown’s use of the Ha-Ha. Photograph. Copyright 2016 Excelsior Systems Ltd. http://www.aboutbritain.com/PetworthHouse.htm.

Figure 15. Watteau, Jean-Antoine. (1684-1721). Fetes Venitiennes. c. 1718-19. Oil on Canvas. Size 55.9 x 45.7 cm. Scottish National Gallery. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jean-Antoine_Watteau_-_Fêtes_Venitiennes_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg.

Figure 16. Humphrey Repton. (1752-1818). Photographs. Red Book for Ferne Hall. Copyright 2014 Parks & Gardens UK. https://parksandgardensuk.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/humphry-repton/.

© Copyright 2016 Janice Mills. No part of this essay may be reproduced without the consent of the author.

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