The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 4: British Gardens (1100-1830)

Early designers of landscape gardens

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579. The first artists who practised in the modern style were Bridgeman and Kent. Bridgeman was the fashionable designer of gardens in the beginning of the eighteenth century, and may be considered as having succeeded to London and Wise, London having died in 1713. Horace Walpole conjectures Bridgeman to have been 'struck and reformed' by the Guardian, No. 173. He banished verdant sculpture, and introduced morsels of a forest appearance in the gardens at Richmond; 'but not till other innovators had broken loose from rigid symmetry.' It was, however, reserved for Kent, the friend of Lord Burlington, says Daines Barrington, to carry Pope's ideas more extensively into execution. It was reserved for him 'to realise the beautiful descriptions of the poets, for which he was peculiarly adapted by being a painter; as the true test of perfection in modern gardening is, that a landscape-painter would choose it for a composition.' Kent, according to Horace Walpole, appeared immediately after Bridgeman began to make innovations on the old style. Among these innovations the capital stroke was the destruction of walls for boundaries, and the introduction of hahas: the harmony of the lawn with the park followed. Kent appeared at this moment, and saw that all nature was a garden: 'painter enough to taste the charms of landscape, bold and opinionative enough to dare and to dictate, and born with a genius to strike out a great system; from the twilight of imperfect essays, he realised the compositions of the greatest masters in painting.' 'Kent,' continues his lordship, 'was neither without assistance nor without faults. Pope contributed to form his taste; and the gardens at Carlton House were probably borrowed from the poet's at Twickenham.'