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Painting Influenced Eighteenth Century English Garden

I just finished  a book about Horace Walpole (1717-1797), the English natural landscape writer.  Though he was not a trained horticulturalist, he wrote about gardening and gardened himself.

[left: Lorraine’s Appollo and the Muses (1680), at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.] 

His idea, along with others at that time, was that landscape painting formed an important source for understanding the new natural landscape design that was emerging in England.  Claude Lorraine (1604-1682), the French painter, Walpole  found particularly important for understanding the natural view.

I had to see one of Lorraine’s paintings so on a recent cold December afternoon I visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

On the grand Museum’s second floor I discovered  Lorraine’s painting Appollo and the Muses, dated 1680.

What struck me about the painting was the light and darkness, along with the focus on nature  through  sky, trees, mountain, and water.  The images that refer to Roman deities was necessary to get the painting more acceptance.

Seeing the painting opened up the world of early 18th century English landscape design, where the picturesque or natural view was evolving.  The fame of Lorraine as a landscape artist spread throughout Europe, with Rome as the center .

Horace Walpole and his friend poet and gardener Alexander Pope (1688-1740) would often raise the connection that the new landscape gardening had with  painting and poetry. They considered the three linked together as works of art.

The natural, picturesque landscape view emerged  from the work of such  garden enthusiasts of the 18th century.

Morris Brownell  in his book Alexander Pope and the Arts of  Georgian England wrote, “If we must date the introduction [of the picturesque view of landscape gardening] into England as a significant aesthetic, we ought to date it from Pope.”

Pope was a collector of landscape paintings.

The English gardeners of the first half of the 18th century gardened in a style defined in painting and poetry and they called it the picturesque.

By the end of the 18th century the picturesque view of the landscape  would be the model that English garden designer Humpry Repton expressed in his own work.

And from that time it also influenced American gardeners, especially in the use of the lawn as a setting for the picturesque scene.

Who or what influences how you garden today?


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