Monthly Archives: March 2016

Was Lancelot Capability Brown a landscape designer of genius?

2016 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Britain’s most famous landscape architect and garden designer. Lancelot Capability Brown was baptised on 30 August 1716 and when he died at the age of 67, on 6th February 1783, his reputation was sky high. By 1800 his reputation was mud-low. In 2016 Brown’s reputation is, once again, sky high.

In 1987, I had a go at explaining why this happened and, rightly or wrongly, have not changed my mind. You can read the explanation here or listen to an illustrated version on the above video. The short summary is that Brown’s popularity crashed because a change in the predominant understanding of ‘nature’. Even Gertrude Jeykll dissed Brown. His reputation only recovered when Marie-Luise Gothein, Christopher Hussey, Nicholas Pevsner and others appreciated that Brown worked in a classical style. He was not confused about the appearance of ‘wild nature’ or how it should be ‘imitated’.