The Garden Guide

Book: Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1816
Chapter: Fragment Xxxiv. Extracted From The Report Of Endsleigh, A Cottage On The Banks Of The Tamar, In Devonshire, By Permission Of His Grace The Duke Of Bedford. Situation And Character.

Picturesque landscape gardening

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OF THE PICTURESQUE. This word has, of late, excited considerable interest and controversy; but the word, like many others in common use, is more easy to be understood than defined; if it means all subjects capable of being represented in a picture, it will include the pig-sties of Moreland, as well as the filthy hostels of Teniers and Ostade: but the absurdity of representing all that is visible, without selecting what is most beautiful, cannot be better exemplified than by the following fact. One of our most eminent landscape painters was desired to make a portrait of a gentleman's seat: he saw the place during a land flood, and, when the whole valley was covered by vapour, he made a beautiful picture of a fog, after the manner of Vernet; and thus he painted an atmospheric effect, when he should have painted a landscape. In like manner, a beautiful woman, represented during a fainting fit, may display great ingenuity in the artist; but, surely, this is sickly picturesqueness. The subjects represented by Salvator Rosa, and our English Mortimer, are deemed picturesque; but, are they fit objects to copy for the residence of man, in a polished and civilized state? Certainly not. This, naturally, leads to the inquiry, how far we may avail ourselves of picturesque circumstances in real landscape. These circumstances may be classed under three heads:-steepness of ground-abrupt rocks-and water in rapid motion; for we may consider wood, and lawn, and smooth water, as common to all landscapes, whether in Cornwall or in Lincolnshire. [Repton's landscape gardening style is picturesque in the sense of being composed, like a picture, into foreground, middleground and background. TT]