[Note: This essay, by Tom Turner, is adapted from his essay in a monograph on Geoffrey Jellicoe published by the Landscape Design Trust in 1998
Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe addressed the Architectural Association on the occasion of his 90th birthday: ‘You may wonder what I have been doing since I resigned as principal of this school, fifty years ago. I would like to tell you: I have been exploring the subconscious’. These words summarised a lifetime of reading, writing, thinking and professional practice. Many of his commissions were architectural, but his dominant interest was in the practice of landscape design as a fine art. Geoffrey Jellicoe’s exploration of the subconscious and psychology was slow and incremental. It did not begin on the day he retired from the AA or on any other day which he could recall. Most probably, I will suggest, it began on his mother’s knee.
If politicians represent their times then Geoffrey Jellicoe can be seen as the Winston Churchill of landscape design. Both men were intuitive and chubby, carrying boyish charm and impish laughter into ripe old age. Churchill led his country in time of war; with a sense of history bordering on the supernatural. His most creative work was done, out of office, during the 1930s. Jellicoe was first President of the International Federation of Landscape Architects but took on the real leadership of his profession only with the publication, in 1960, of the first volume of his Studies in landscape design. Both men loved history, writing and art. On becoming prime minister in 1940, it seemed to Churchill that his whole life had been but a preparation: his ancestry, his military training, his journalism, his responsibility for the admiralty, his disasters, his inter-war cabinet posts, his years in the wilderness, his life of Marlborough. With the completion of The landscape of man, Geoffrey Jellicoe had a strong sense of leading his profession from the front.
The world is moving into a phase when landscape design may well be recognized as the most comprehensive of the arts. Man creates around him an environment that is a projection into nature of his abstract ideas. It is only in the present century that the collective landscape has emerged as a social necessity. We are promoting a landscape art on a scale never conceived of in history.
Jellicoe’s vision crystalised only towards the end of his life. This presents the analyst with two choices. One can begin with the fragment on which the crystal grew or one can work back from the final structure, noting the incidents, flows and concentrations which fed its growth. A chronological advance is easier for the reader, as for the writer. But it is the final form which gives the crystal its interest. Since Jellicoe was nearing an appreciation of its form only in his seventies, I have chosen to work backwards. Designing a landscape for the twenty-first century is a more comprehensive task than directing a world war, though less pressing. This essay is a sketch of a large subject.
Experts, said Churchill, should be on tap rather than on top. When considering the potential of diesel-powered warships, aeroplanes, tanks or radar, Churchill would consult the leading authorities, learn from them and draw conclusions. But he was no scientist and did not read the texts upon which expert opinion rested. Nor was Jellicoe a particular enthusiast for going to primary sources. He would attend lectures, listen to the radio, talk to those he met, buy a few standard works and read the Encyclopaedia Britanica. He was not an avid library-user and had an approach to reading which depended more on synthesis than analysis. This makes it difficult to trace the roots of his ideas. When he refers to another artist or writer, Jellicoe’s opinion may derive from a conversation, a book review, an encyclopaedia entry, a painting, or, occasionally, a well-read copy of a writer’s best-known book. He and Frederick Gibberd used to visit towns together. Gibberd would scurry round with notebooks and camera, recording everything, discovering when it was made. Jellicoe would wander about, gazing with an artist’s eye but making no records. One should keep in mind the prefatory quotation, from David Hockney, to the Guelph lectures on landscape design:
It is very good advice to believe only what an artist does, rather than what he says about his work. Any respectable art historian would never go only by an artist’s words: he would look for evidence of them in his work. I think it was Sickert who said somewhere ‘never believe what an artist says. only what he does’ then he proceded to write a book. After an artist has done the work, its reasonably easy to theorize about it, but to theorize about it beforehand could be disastrous. I don’t think one should do it even if one has the inclination .
One can apply this principle to Jellicoe’s designs and bear it in mind when reading his historical and theoretical works. In the particular case of his interest in psychoanalytical concepts, I think there was a significant reliance on intuition, combined with some reading of the literature.
Jellicoe’s last essays give the clearest account of his interest in the subconscious. ‘Jung and the art of landscape: a personal experience’ opens with the explanation that:
Jung was only a name to me when I first realized that the subconscious could be enlisted, as in all art, to reinforce the conscious and the tangible in landscape design.
He then gives an account of how to engage the subconscious in a design method:
The process is simple. You first prepare a design in the normal way, you find it uninspiring, you place the drawing at a distance and preferably upside down, and you gradually become aware that it suggests a shape foreign but friendly to your own. In this shadowy shape you hope to discern some form that aspires to the perfection we call beauty (in the first three examples that follow are concealed animal forms, humans as symbolism, and allegory). You now reorganize the details of your design to conform (but not recognizably so) to the abstract idea within. Tell no one, if you can, for this is a message from one subconscious to another, and the intellect spoils such things.
This is not abstruse theorizing of the kind which Hockney distrusts. Jellicoe’s words are spoken from the heart and describe his own design method. At about the time this was written, I took a group of students to his flat in Highgate. He laid out, on the floor, a design project which he had been working on and explained the aesthetic problems which had been troubling him. A solution had come to him after gazing at the plans for a time. To refine his inspiration he then turned to one of the artists whose work hung on the wall of his room. He looked to the hushed group of students and asked if anyone could guess which artist it was. We sat in silence for a tense period. A brave student ventured a response and Jellicoe was delighted that she gave the correct answer , as we all were. We were like a group of apprentices sitting at the feet of a master. With love and generosity, he wished to pass on his craft knowledge to another generation.
Jellicoe taught at the University of Greenwich from 1979-1989. He came as a lecturer and visiting critic, usually on six occasions a year. As we walked along the corridor to the crit room in E Block, at 10 am, he would often recall a phrase from the 1914-18 war ‘Here we go - over the top’. Jellicoe was the best critic we ever had: cheerful, bright, perceptive, always encouraging. Sometimes he would look at a baffling scribble and remark ‘I’m not quite sure what it means - but you may be on to something absolutely terrific’. Two points, which confirm my reading of his books, stand out in my recollection of those days. First, his interest in abstract composition: ‘That is too large in relation to that’; ‘Those land forms could talk to each other’; ‘Those lines are neither aligned nor unaligned’; ‘That space needs to breathe’; ‘I don’t think the composition is quite right yet’. Second, I remember his enthusiasm for hidden meanings: ‘The river could be a water snake’; ‘The hippos in the Zambezi River used to blow like that’; ‘That peninsula reminds me of swan’s neck’. Perhaps recalling his own favourite scheme, at Hemel Hempsted, Jellicoe was especially pleased if the students made reference to animal forms. At tea he said: ‘I think it’s such a good system you have here, giving the students an opportunity to explain their work. When I was a student, drawings would be on the wall and the critics would inspect them and make their remarks. It could be very painful’. In the best renaissance manner, Jellicoe drew ideas from the students. His scheme for a public park at Bréschia, in Italy, had three ‘fish-shaped’ hills inspired, I believe, by a set of islands designed by a student for London Docks.
The origin of Jellicoe’s design method, established when ‘Jung was only a name to me’ will be suggested at the end of this essay. Let us first consider what led Jellicoe to believe that Jung’s work provided a theoretical underpinning for the method. For the reason given above, it is quite possible that his first detailed knowledge of Jung came from the Encyclopaedia Britanica. The entry on Jung in the fifteenth edition explains:
As a boy Jung had remarkably striking dreams and powerful fantasies that had developed with unusual intensity... He later developed the theory that these experiences came from an area of the mind that he called the collective unconscious, which he held was shared by everyone. This much contested conception was combined with a theory of archetypes that Jung believed were of fundamental importance for the study of the psychology of religion. In Jung’s terms, archetypes are instinctive patterns, having a universal character, expressed in behaviour and images
Jellicoe preferred the term subconscious to ‘ the more orthodox unconscious, which seems to me to suggest oblivion. The subconscious is very active indeed’. This essay will use subconscious when speaking of Jellicoe and unconscious when speaking of others.
Most societies have believed that individuals are influenced by powers, natural or divine, of which they are unaware. In ancient Egypt natural phenomena, including the Sun and the Nile, were regarded as Gods with an everyday place in human affairs. In other societies myth and religion explain the existence and significance of unseen powers. Conscious thought was interpreted in a wide context. Christian writers, including Thomas Aquinas, believed that processes affect the soul without our immediate awareness. Renaissance science refined and developed traditional beliefs. Descartes’ Discourse on method (1637) concentrated philosophers’ attention on conscious mental processes. Rousseau hoped that by exploring the unconscious he could find out why his moods fluctuated. Goethe believed that the creative imagination depended on a fertile interplay between the conscious and unconscious.
Sigmund Freud, though surprisingly unaware of the concept’s history, gave the unconscious its modern definition and fame. As a scientist, he believed all mental processes to be governed by the natural laws of physics and chemistry. After studying medicine at the University of Vienna he became interested in the psychological aspects of neurology. Freud worked with Charcot in treating hysteria by seeking its origin in patients’ ideas. Freud, taking sex and agression to be the two fundamental instincts, came to believe that many neuroses have a sexual origin. The analysis of dreams was seen as a window on the workings of the unconscious mind
Carl Gustav Jung was Freud’s friend and collaborator from 1907 to 1912. He too studied medicine and worked in Paris. Jung had a vivid imagination and shared Freud’s interest in dreams. The two giants of psychoanalysis disagreed over the sexual basis of neurosis and ceased to be friends. Jung went on to develop a particular interest in the analysis of personality. His initial distinction was between extroversion and introversion. Personality types were then explained in terms of the relative dominance of sensation, thinking, feeling and intuition. Jung’s account of personality drew upon his theory of the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The former derives from an individual’s life history; the latter, which became Jung’s central concept, derives from mankind’s collective history. The collective unconscious can be understood as a set of inherited psychological tendencies, or instincts, which influence our actions beneth the level of consciousness. Can anyone doubt that many of our psychological tendencies are inherited? Jung characterised the tendencies by archetypes: the wise old man, the earth mother, the self, the anima (feminine part of a man’s pesonality), the animus (masculine part of a woman’s personality). The collective unconscious was used to explain aspects of art, literature, religion and mythology. A posthumous book on Man and his symbols contains many illustrations of symbolic art. Jung believed that mankind has a powerful need for art and religion as a means of encountering and accepting the collective unconscious. He was deeply suspicious of the rationalist tradition of scientific thought, partly because the existence of a collective unconscious is not susceptible to experimental verification or testing
Jellicoe became interested in Jung in 1964: ‘The design of the Kennedy Memorial was of such significance that after completion I turned to the writings of Carl Jung to confirm that the path I was following was not a fragment of my own imagination’ . Jellicoe’s design for the Kennedy Memorial drew upon Bunyan’s allegory of a Pilgrim’s Progress.
The path sequence, ascending through the woods from historic meadowland, became an allegory of life, death and the human spirit. Jellicoe’s reading of Jung persuaded him that the allegory lying beneath the design derived from the collective unconscious. It was ‘recognisable to the visitor only through the subconscious’. However, ‘until retirement from an active practice some twenty years later, I had neither the time nor the inclination to do more than ruminate on the abstruse theories of the subconscious’.
The period of rumination embraced the production of his major book. Provisionally entitled the Evolution of Landscape Design, it appeared in 1975 as The Landscape of Man. The change is significant. ‘Evolution’ implies a scientific Darwinian approach. The published title suggests a more humanist and Jungian approach. I purchased a copy as soon as the book appeared and my attention was riveted by the fourth paragraph of the introduction:
All design therefore derives from impressions of the past, conscious or subconscious, and in the modern collective landscape, from historic gardens and parks and silhouettes which were created for totally different social reasons. Fundamentally, these again derived from impressions of the world: the classical from the geometry of agriculture, the romantic from natural landscape. Only the small private garden remains true to its instinctive unchanged purpose of expressing, protecting and consoling the individual. This study is a concise global view of the designed landscape past and present, inclusive of all environment, from gardens to urban and regional landscape. Town planning is included only when it is also landscape-planning.
The references to a ‘collective landscape’, ‘historic gardens’ and ‘landscape-planning’ intrigued me. I had begun writing on these subjects and took the reference to a ‘collective landscape’ to be in line with my own views. Unfortunately, Jellicoe did not quote Jung and I misunderstood his use of the term. Even ten years later I had not detected its Jungian origin. My own book on Landscape planning had referred to ‘the modification of single objective projects to improve their impact on the collective landscape’ and had concluded that the goal of landscape planning is ‘to improve the collective landscape’. I used ‘collective landscape’ in a planning sense, to mean ‘the sum of landscape public goods’. Jellicoe uses it in a psychological sense, parallel to Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious. I should have been more careful - my enthusiasm for landscape planning caused a temporary blindness towards Jellicoe’s central concern, for landscape design as a fine art .
Jung used personality archetypes to explain his views on the collective unconscious. Geoffrey Jellicoe needed a related but different set of archetypes to analyse the collective landscape. The change of title to The landscape of man had little affect on the book’s structure, though it did affect the introduction and conclusion. Chapter 1 traces the evolution of designed landscape. Palaeolithic man was aware of ‘mysterious forces... expressed in the worship of a Mother Goddess... [with] no geometry, right angle or vertical straight line’ . Man the hunter then gave way to man the agriculturalist. Neolithic Man cleared forests and ‘began to cultivate the wild wheat and barley’. An evolutionary analysis continues throughout The landscape of man, drawing both Herbert Spencer and Charles Darwin. In 1983 Jellicoe returned to his evolutionary concerns with the Guelph lectures on landscape design. He explained that:
The argument is that the designed landscape has always been a projection of the human psyche into its natural environment. The creative powers of the subconscious have in the past consistently informed those of the conscious and it is towards their revival that these lectures are mainly directed. To understand the subconscious it is necessary to probe into instinct, with which it is synonymous.
Jellicoe then identified five archetypes, ‘each carrying an imprint of the experience of an era’. He described them as Transparencies instead of archetypes:
The Five Transparencies derive from man’s collective experience of making, using and experiencing landscape. They coexist in the collective unconscious. Any or all of them can influence a landscape design. Emphasising one or other Transparency may generate a specific style of landscape design, but the sequence of Transparencies does not equate with the sequence of design styles. It was under the influence of the fifth Transparency that ‘for the first time in western history landscape architecture was to become an art in its own right’. This was from the mid-sixteenth century to the present day. Shortly after the Guelph lectures appeared, I asked Jellicoe if any particular authors had influenced his Transparency concepts. He referred to Grant Allen and John Dewey, but not to Jung.
Allen’s Physiological aesthetics is mentioned in the Guelph lectures. The book was published in 1877 and is dedicated to ‘the greatest of living philosophers, Herbert Spencer’. Writing before Darwin, Spencer upheld the theory of evolution and applied it to the analysis of many psychological and sociological issues. At first Spencer believed in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. After reading Darwin he acknowledged the principle of natural selection and coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’. Using Spencer’s approach, Allen set out to answer a question from Ruskin as to ‘why we receive pleasure from some forms and colours and not from others’. Allen’s explanation was that ‘our existing likes and dislikes in aesthetic matters are the necessary result of natural selection’. Allen makes no mention of Transparencies but he believed aesthetic judgements to have a basis in man’s evolutionary history.
Dewey was one of the greatest and most prolific of American philosophers. When I asked which of Dewey’s books he liked, Jellicoe replied that he had read about him rather than consulted original texts. Like Allen, Dewey was interested in the theory of evolution, psychology and art. He conceived ideas as tools which develop in response to problems faced in everyday life. In 1934, Dewey published a book on Art as experience in which he argued that aesthetic theory must take account of modern art and modern science. Dewey believed that:
I have said that the qualities of space and time reciprocally affect and qualify one another in experience.
Science has brought with it a radically novel conception of physical nature and of our relation to it.
As long as art is the beauty parlour of civilisation, neither art nor civilisation is secure.
Art... insinuates possibilities of human relations not to be found in rule and precept, admonition and admiration.
The above views, I suggest, helped Jellicoe to formulate his Voyager transparency. The Transparency is explained in the third Guelph Lecture, on Space/Time in landscape design:
This thesis of space/time and man’s response to it, however, is more than a study of physics alone, for it sets out to ask a question only partially answered by the artists. Lecture IV will argue that provided all (metaphorically speaking) aspects of human nature are understood and integrated into the designed environment, would the troubled psyche, as in the past, ultimately be its own saviour in a universe in which self-identity might otherwise disappear?
The Voyager Transparency, following Dewey, roots aesthetic perception in man’s ecological history and seeks to take account of modern art and modern science. Jellicoe also saw landscape art as a salve for the psychic stress of living in an uncertain world. His first major opportunity to experiment with these concepts came with a commission from Stanley Seeger. The client was a prince of his times, a paragon of late twentieth century artistic patronage: the inheritor of a multi-billionaire oil-man, gay, publicity-shy, timorous for his personal security, always shifting from country to country and home to home, roving in space and time. Such is the life of a modern Medici. Jellicoe’s approach struck a chord with his client:
Stanley Seeger recognised that history is a continuum of the past, present and future, and that an objective in landscape design is not to smother history, but to build on it. The landscape at Sutton Place is of the mind as well as the eye: a study in humanism emanating from the interior of an historic mansion enriched with modern art.
Nearly two years after the plans were made and work had commenced, there emerged the concept of a grand allegory that had unconsciously directed the composition. The allegory is one of Creation (the lake landscape), Life (the gardens) and Aspiration (the Nicholson Wall).
Although the concept emerged ‘two years after the plans were made’, we can be confident that Jellicoe took it to have been, at a subconscious level, the force which generated the design. It comprised elements from the collective unconscious and from Jellicoe’s own life. Giovanni Bellini’s Allegory of the Progress of the Soul was the work which linked the two. It ‘shows how pure geometry can create the sublime out of natural landscape’. A far greater opportunity came with the Moody Historical Gardens, Galveston, Texas. Jellicoe explains:
With two such different experiences of the subconscious [Sutton Place and Shute House], I was well placed for a combination of the two for the proposed historical gardens of the Moody Foundation. While astronauts at the nearby Houston Space Centre will be experiencing space and time outward and upward, at the gardens we shall be doing so inward and downward. We shall penetrate the superficial delights of this our material world, pass through the weird worlds of the different levels of the subconscious, and, in reaching our own goal, touch on the immensely greater realities of Jung’s belief in the ultimate unity of all existence.
Jellicoe then quotes Jung:
All the most powerful ideas in history go back to archetypes. This is particularly true of religious ideas, but the central concepts of science, philosophy and ethics are no exception to this rule. In their present form they are remnants of archetypal ideas, created by consciously applying and adapting these ideas to reality. For it is the function of consciousness not only to recognise and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses but to translate into visible reality the world within us.
This quotation from Jung is followed by Jellicoe’s own account of the Moody Gardens:
The Moody Historical Gardens are intended to be both ‘a translation into visible reality of the world within us’ and ‘an expression of the ultimate unity of all existence’. Although not specifically mentioned by Jung, it is argued here that landscape cultures can also be traced to a single archetype or essence. In the Moody Gardens the source is the water (in China the yin) and the corollary is the magic mountain (the yang). Together they are an abstract idea which unifies the disparate objects of the visible world.
So here we have it. The archetypes which make the collective landscape comprehensible are first cousins to the archetypes which Jung used to explain the influence of the collective unconscious on personality. Jellicoe researched the subject when writing The landscape of man. With help from Allen and Dewey, he used this knowledge to formulate a set of, Jungian, Transparencies and a theory of landscape art. Sutton Place was the trial ground. Galveston was the lush fruit. Jellicoe said ‘It would have been the grandest landscape in the modern world’. Spens wrote that ‘In the final analysis it is this first scheme for the Moody Foundation which surely must be Jellicoe’s finest epitaph, a distillation which he proposes will take the art of landscape forward into the third millennium’. Had it been built, Galveston would be ‘the place of the book’: The landscape of man. One could then make a ‘film of the place of the book.’
Galveston was the culmination of 70 years practice in landscape design. Let us now work backwards to discover where the quest began. Jellicoe states directly that ‘the Kennedy Memorial was of such significance that after completion I turned for the first time to the writings of Carl Jung’. A full account of the Kennedy Memorial appeared in Jellicoe’s Studies in landscape design 3 (1970), following a study of ‘The landscape of symbols’ which has a footnote reference to Jung’s Man and his symbols. I think it a safe guess that Jellicoe owned a copy of this book and that it was his first of Jung’s books he consulted. Jung died in 1961. Man and his symbols appeared in 1964. Jellicoe’s reference is to a 1967 edition. Since the first reprint was in 1968, 1967 may be the year in which Jellicoe came across the book. It was edited by Carl G. Jung and after his death by M-L von Franz. According to the introduction, Jung devoted the last year of his life ‘almost entirely to this book’. For landscape, and other, designers it is a work of tremendous power.
Jellicoe’s essay on ‘The landscape of symbols’ begins with the Lascaux caves and proceeds to discuss the circle, the cross, the spire, the square and giants. He concludes that ‘in the evolution of landscape now taking place, we are probably more sympathetic to the age of primitive man than at any other period in our existence’. Despite the footnote reference to Jung, there is no discussion of the collective unconscious. The essay reads more as a sequel to his 1962 address ‘Square one’, given to the International Federation of Landscape Architects in Churchill Hall, Haifa, Israel, which traces the symbolism of the square from ancient times to the reappraisal which must follow from Einstein’s ‘conception of space and time as a unified design’.
Jellicoe’s next essay on ‘The landscape of allegory’ deals with the Kennedy Memorial project. After reviewing historical examples of allegory in art, the essay proceeds to an account of the project, delivered to students at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1967. Although Jellicoe quotes from Clark’s Landscape into art, I suspect that he read Jung when working upon the speech. He explains that, in Kyoto, ‘There is something here out of reach of the intellect, which may not even consciously recognise at all the presence of things beyond the visible world’. This may be compared with the following passage from Jung’s Man and his symbols:
The symbols point in different directions from those we apprehend with the conscious mind; and therefore they relate to something either unconscious or at least not entirely conscious.
To the scientific mind, such phenomena as symbolic ideas are a nuisance because they cannot be formulated in a way that is satisfactory to the intellect and logic.
To provide a visual counterpart for the conscious and unconscious worlds, Jellicoe illustrated his lecture with two sets of slides: one in colour, the other in black and white to show ‘the grey world which lies behind the visible world’. He then explained the allegory and its genesis during a visit to Japan. The allegory runs from the river, across the meadow of Runnymede, through the wicket gate, through a primitive wood with granite setts representing ‘the multitudes for whom Kennedy stood as champion for individual freedom, up to the stone which is ‘symbolic of a catafalque, borne on the shoulders of the multitude and on to the seats representing the President and the First Lady. Jellicoe gave this account despite having advised his student audience that ‘if you are proposing to create a landscape allegory, you must not, by explaining it, bring it within reach of the intellect (as I am recklessly doing tonight) for then it could easily be so dissected as to become trite’.
We can now take a further step back. The sentence, quoted on page 2 of this essay, ‘Jung was only a name to me when I first realised that the subconscious could be enlisted.’ is followed by an explanation: ‘Paul Klee was my mentor’. The concluding paragraph of ‘Scale, Diversity and Space’, in volume 1 of Studies in landscape design, runs as follows:
Before we conclude, however, we must pause to reflect on the work of Paul Klee, whose direct influence on landscape may possibly exceed that of any other modern painter, not excluding Picasso. As an artist Klee is peculiarly deceptive, but let no one critical of the arts be deterred by the apparent childishness of his scribbles and patterns. In his struggle to obtain a hold upon feeling, Klee is almost contemptuous of the predominance of intellect in the modern world. The appeal to the subconscious is paramount.
Klee taught at the Bauhaus from 1921 until 1931. As a teacher he found it necessary, as Herbert Read said, to formulate ‘the principles of his art, which are the basic principles of all modern art’. Klee believed that ‘Art does not render the visible; rather, it makes visible’. He conceived dot, line, plane and space to be set in action by a discharge of energy within the artist’s mind. According to Herbert Read, Klee believed that the creative process occurs below the level of consciousness. Read was editor of the The collected works of C.G. Jung. Since other writers on Klee do not explain his work in quite this way, it seems probable that Jellicoe took the Jungian explanation from Read. This would put back the date at which Jellicoe came under the influence of Jung. Jellicoe cites Klee as the inspiration for the Water Gardens in Hemel Hempstead (1957), which is also the first project described in his 1991 essay on Jung and the art of landscape: Top
The design was technically orthodox, but stillborn. How to bring it to life and thus win the affection of the people? It was then, with Paul Klee as inspiration, that I first had the idea of concealing a ghost within the visible. As seen from a distance, the design suggested an abstract serpent.
The origin of Jellicoe’s interest in Klee was explained in an interview:
Up to the time after the war I had been passionately interested in historic works, paintings and so forth. It wasn’t until I met Frederick Gibberd about 1948/49 and saw his collection of modern paintings and couldn’t understand them in the slightest, that suddenly through talking with him, discussing things with him, a completely new window was opened for me. In his home, which was next door to us in Grove Terrace, he had prints by Paul Klee and Nicholson and he was beginning a collection, which is now a very good one, of modern works. I then started buying modern paintings for myself.
This may have been Jellicoe’s first contact with Klee as an artist. But he had long been familiar with modern art and architecture. When teaching at the Architectural Association in the 1920s and ‘30s, the students had introduced him to Corbusier and modernism. One can only assume it to have been that influence which led to Jellicoe’s design for the Caveman Restaurant in the Cheddar Gorge. It was acclaimed as one of Britain’s first works of modern architecture and garden design in England. Yet it does not appear in the Guelph Lectures. When the lectures were published I said that I was surprised by the omission. Looking a little bemused, Jellicoe said ‘Yes, it’s not there’. He may have seen the project as a pastiche, detached from the rest of his work. I do not see it this way. The restaurant had a glass roof which also served as the floor of a fish pond. One was intended to look up through the water and imagine oneself in the miasmal soup from which life on earth evolved. It was an allegorical and fanciful design.
The Guelph Lectures give an account of Ditchley Park. Jellicoe received the commission in 1936. He was recommended to his clients as the author of Italian gardens of the renaissance. This brings us, at last, to what I take to be the origin of Jellicoe’s interest in symbolism, allegory and the subconscious. Italian gardens opens as follows:
Pandora never loosed a livelier spirit than the one for ever parting Fancy from Design. In those rare moments when the demon sleeps, is born a work that stands for all time. So came into being the finest of the Italian gardens, where, in a world of beautiful thoughts, Fancy and Design roam undivided.
This paragraph outlines a creed from which Jellicoe never wavered. His belief that Fancy and Design must remain undivided came from a boyhood love of the classics. He and a friend wrote Latin verse and delighted in allusion to the Greek Myths. A love of poetry and the arts was learned on his mother’s lap. She smiled on him, as did the goddess Fortuna. Instead of going to the trenches with the generation that immediately preceded his own, Jellicoe only turned 18 in 1918 and was able to combine his two loves, for fine art and the classics: he enrolled at the Architectural Association. In later life he often recalled that ‘I received a pretty good classical education’. The remark covered his schooldays, his student life and the long summer of 1923 when he and Jock Shepherd worked together on Italian gardens. Shepheard drew. Jellicoe wrote. Neither could match the other’s skill.
But let us return to ‘Fancy and Design’. Fancy was once a standard term in literary criticism. Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of the English language (1755) defined Fancy as a synonym for Imagination. Both terms referred to the verbal playfulness characteristic of poetry. Reason produced the content; Imagination, or Fancy, gave it form. Under the influence of nineteenth century Romanticism, and Coleridge in particular, Fancy and Imagination took on separate meanings. ‘Imagination’ was used for the fundamental creative ability which generates a work of art: the power to interpret sensory experience, to apprehend order and to synthesise form. ‘Fancy’ came to used for the less weighty skill of amusing and delighting an audience, often with associative references to the classics and historic works of art. Coleridge explained that Milton had a highly Imaginative mind, while Colwley’s was Fanciful. I think Jellicoe used Fancy and Imagination in the manner proposed by Johnson, rather than Coleridge.
In Italian gardens, Jellicoe wrote:
The bases of abstract design, running through history like a silver thread, are independent of race and age. Their one unchanging form of expression is through pattern, both a wholesome admission of human limitation, and a sturdy foundation from which afterwards to build. Pattern is the architectural prototype of the formality of life, and in the same way is modified by the circumstances of moment, principally those governing the relation of formality to informality.
In the Epilogue to the Landscape of Man, Jellicoe wrote:
In landscape design, the first projection of individual personality has been the complex of home, garden and forest tree... Man’s new relation to environment is revolutionary and the landscape designer, unlike the artist, is conditioned by many factors that debar immediate experiment. We must therefore turn to the artists for a vision of the future, gaining confidence in the knowledge that the abstract art that lurks behind all art lives a life of its own, independent of time and space.
Though separated by half a century, these observations are clearly related. Jellicoe speaks of a creative power, which is a ‘projection of individual personality’ and he also believes in the existence of priciples ‘of abstract design, running through history like a silver thread’. At the end of his career, as at the start, Jellicoe believed there were two essential components of a landscape design: the indivudual creative power and the principles of abstract design - or Fancy and Design.
The Neoclassical Age, seeking rules of taste, had looked to classical times for guidance on the form and content of art. Under the influence of Romanticism, Imagination came to be viewed as the fundamental creative power which gives rise to a work of art. Art was seen as personal expression of emotion, welling from individual consciousness. Fancy became progressively trivialised, leading to the description ‘Fancy goods’. Fancy was at a pretty low ebb in 1925, except perhaps in the language of poets. Modernism contributed to the trend. Exponents saw ornament as crime. Since then, partly under the influence of Jung, there has been a growing interest in symbolism, allegory, anthropology and comparative religion. They can be regarded as aspects of man’s collective experience. Jellicoe’s espousal of ‘Fancy’ reveals a non-modernist enthusiasm for the origins of western art. Mankind is a single family with African roots. The philosophical and artistic developments associated with post-modernism have revived interest in symbolism and allegory. Sassurian linguistics have led artists, writers and architects to a concern for double-coding and multiple-coding. Jellicoe, though he had only a slight knowledge of postmodern theory, was friends with Mr and Mrs Jencks and was at the forefront of this trend. With trepidation, I once described Jellicoe in Building Design as the landscape profession’s ‘first post-modern designer’. Next day a postcard arrived ‘Dear Tom - thanks the write-up - all the best - Geoffrey’. Since then, I have felt relaxed about applying the label postmodern to Jellicoe, more or less in Charles Jencks’ sense. Its use in architectural criticism is the most likely sense in which Jellicoe would have understood the term. During his career Jellicoe developed the Romantic notion of Fancy into a design approach which draws upon the insights of Spencer, Darwin, Freud, Jung and Einstein. A parallel can be drawn with the design thrust of Jencks’ Architecture of a jumping universe. Jencks even shares Jellicoe’s interest in Coleridge:
The process of creation, as Arthur Koestler has shown in The Act of Creation (1964), demands at least two opposite aspects of the personality: critical reasoning and dreaming aside. These complementary aspects, as Coleridge pointed out in his famous discussion of Imagination, produce ‘a more than usual state of emotion, with more than usual order’, or a work poised between order and entropy.
The BBC made a film about Jellicoe in 1986, in which Jane Brown compared him to Lancelot Brown. I also appeared in the film, speaking about The Water Gardens in Hemel Hempstead. In a part of the interview which was not broadcast I had compared Jellicoe to Humphry Repton. Brown is the more famous man but Repton is the more appropriate comparator. Brown was a stylist with a fixed style - Hussey described him as a practical man in the grip of a theory. Repton and Jellicoe were more theorists than stylists. The key aspect of Repton’s work was his illustrated books and reports. He synthesised what had gone before him and pointed a way forward. One may or may not like the art which developed. But every nineteenth century landscape designer of note studied the works of Repton, down to Frederick Law Olmsted and Gertrude Jekyll. Twenty-first century landscape designers should start with Jellicoe. No other writer-designer provides such a fountain of knowledge and inspiration, leading in so many productive directions. The landscape of man is a work of the highest quality and first importance. The illustrations alone would place it in this category. The text, read with Jellicoe’s other works, outlines an art which may indeed ‘come to be recognised as the most comprehensive of the arts’. In the collective landscape, Jellicoe, inspired by Jung, introduces a fundamental structuring concept. For the art which is to come, Jellicoe may have brought us, in Churchill’s words, to ‘the end of the beginning’. He conceived a landscape of man, designed into the natural landscape, as did Coleridge:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With wall and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery....
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge