The Garden Guide

Book: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America,1841
Chapter: Section II. Beauties and Principles of the Art of Landscape Gardening

Flowing curves and irregular lines

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Hence we find all Beautiful forms characterized by curved and flowing lines-lines expressive of infinity,* of grace, and willing obedience: and all Picturesque forms characterized by irregular and broken lines-lines expressive of violence, abrupt action, and partial disobedience, a struggling of the idea with the substance or the condition of its being. The Beautiful is an idea of beauty calmly and harmoniously expressed; the Picturesque an idea of beauty or power strongly and irregularly expressed. As an example of the Beautiful in other arts we refer to the Apollo of the Vatican; as an example of the Picturesque, to the Laocoon or the Dying Gladiator. In nature we would place before the reader a finely formed elm or chestnut, whose well balanced head is supported on a trunk full of symmetry and dignity, and whose branches almost sweep the turf in their rich luxuriance; as a picturesque contrast, some pine or larch, whose gnarled roots grasp the rocky crag on which it grows, and whose wild and irregular branches tell of the storm and tempest that it has so often struggled against.** (* Hogarth called the curve the line of beauty, and all artists have felt instinctively its power, but Mr. Ruskin (in Modem Painters) was, we believe, the first to suggest the cause of that power-that it expresses in its varying tendencies, the infinite.) (** This also explains why trees, though they retain for the most part their characteristic forms, vary somewhat in expression according to their situation. Thus the larch, though always picturesque, is far more so in mountain ridges where it is exposed to every blast, than in sheltered lawns where it only finds soft airs and sunshine.)