The Garden Guide

Book: Designs for the pavilion at Brighton, 1808
Chapter: An Inquiry Into The Changes In Architecture

Imitation of nature in works of art

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Much has been said, of late, concerning the study of nature in all works of art; but, if the most exact imitations of nature were the criterion of perfection, the man who paints a panorama, or even a scene at the theatres, would rank higher than CLAUDE or POUSSIN. In that early stage of painting in England, when the exhibitions were first opened, they were crowded with portraits in coloured wax, artificial flowers and fruits, and boards painted to deceive and surprise by the exactness of their resemblance; but they never excited admiration like the MARBLE of WILTON, the wood carved by GIBBON, or the animated canvas of REYNOLDS. Mr. BURKE observes, that "it is the duty of a true artist to put a generous deception on the spectators;" but in too close an imitation of nature, he commits an absolute fraud, and becomes ridiculous, by the attempt to perform impossibilities. If it is the mark of a low imagination to aim at the VASTNESS OF NATURE, an endeavour to copy the MINUTI� OF NATURE is not less a proof of inexperience and bad taste, since both are equally inimitable. "Si la Nature est grande dans les grandes choses, Elle est tres grande dans les petites." [If Nature is great in great things, she is very great in little ones.] The model furnishes hints, not portraits; yet such is the love of exact imitation in common minds, that copies are made from copies, without end.