The Garden Guide

Book: The Principles of Landscape Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 1: Principles of Landscape Gardening

Truth to nature as a design principle

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1483. It is true to nature; that is, the objects or materials are what they appear to be. The trees, which are neither very old nor very young, though in the distance diminished by their remote situation, we discover, by their trunks and contour, to be still trees. They are not shrubs placed near the eye, with a view to produce a false perspective; nor is the fragment of building merely a disguised wall, because it has openings which have once been windows, and it is crowned in one part by battlements. The water is natural, its surface being below the level of the adjoining ground, not raised above it, as is often the case in artificial waters. This completes the truth or reality of the scene. The necessity of adhering to truth is still greater in painting, in which all objects must appear to be natural, not only in forms and colour, but also relatively to the forms and colours around them. Objects, especially those whose forms and dimensions are familiar to us, as men or horses, painted of different heights in the same plane, as, for example, in the distance, of the same magnitude as that in which they appear in the foreground, would, from the acquired habit of measuring unknown by known objects, give a falsehood to the scene, and would appear as animals of a different species, or as monsters. It seems to be from the same principle of being true to nature, that the gradation of scene, or what is called distance, is required or at least is so satisfactory in landscape. The mind, after being impressed with the effect of a whole, delights in examining its parts in succession; the more simple and obvious the arrangement of these parts, therefore, the more readily does the mind acquiesce in their effect. The eye of the artist, seizing on the nearest and most remote parts of a scene, readily marks an intermediate or middle distance; no given extent seems necessary for this purpose:- 'To make the landscape grateful to the sight, Three points of distance always should unite; And, howsoe'er the view may be confined, Three mark'd divisions we shall always find.' The Landscape, by KNIGHT.