Monday, December 30, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

David Allan (Scottish, 1744-1796).Sir John Halkett of Pitfirrane, 4th Bart (1720 - 1793), Mary Hamilton, Lady Halkett and their Family 1781. Halkett & his 2nd wife Mary are shown with his daughter by his 1st wife, & his 13 younger children, whose names are provided by Allan in a key on the back of the canvas. The Halketts are posing in the grounds of their Fifeshire seat at Pitfirrane House against a background vista of the town of Dunfermline. Completed in 1781, this painting is one of the 1st examples of the "conversation piece" in Scotland, which artist David Allan pioneered there after his permanent return from Italy & London in 1780.  Allan was born in Alloa, on the Firth of Forth, & attended the Foulis Academy in Glasgow for 7 years. In 1767, he moved to Rome, where he lived for 10 years painting ambitious historical pictures, portraits, caricatures, & genre scenes. On returning to London in 1777, he spent 2 years trying to establish himself. Unsuccessful & ill, he returned to Scotland where he specialized in painting family groups.

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Gardeners Working - 1783


1783  'L'Emile', in 'Oeuvres choisies de Jean Jacques Rousseau' (London c1783) Emmanuel de Ghendt (Print made by) ClĂ©ment Pierre Marillier (After)


Saturday, December 28, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

William Hogarth (1697-1764)  The Fermor Children The House of Cards. Children playing in a garden.  And, of course, a dog is in attendance.

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described an ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual or a family.  With no social media or digitally aided disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings. 

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the early 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.   Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & colonial landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments & participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly, but "more natural" country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional socially proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they really could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Gardeners Working 18C


18C Gardeners Working


18C Gardeners Working after Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743) The Earth

Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743) The Earth


Thursday, December 26, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

George Stubbs (1724-1806) John Musters and the Rev. Philip Story Riding out from the Stable Block at Colwick Hall 1777. Dogs already searching for the scent. The University of Nottingham’s Department of Manuscripts & Special collections holds several documents about the history of Colwick Woods & Colwick Hall & the Chaworth-Musters family, who owned the house & the surrounding gardens & grounds.  One item was a sales catalog listing "the valuable contents of Colwick Hall, 2 miles from Nottingham," to be sold at auction in December 1850.  The house, built in 1775-6, was well equipped for entertaining, with champagne flutes, wine coolers, claret jugs, "an elegant china dinner service, beautifully painted in flowers" & even a "curious antique teapot."  There were numerous musical instruments including a grand piano, & the collection of paintings featured works by Caravaggio, Rubens, Reynolds, Canaletto & Gainsborough.  In the dining room there was the other painting by George Stubbs of John & Sophia Musters riding at Colwick Hall, showing the house in the background. All this luxury, however, was largely confined to the family.  The servants’ bedrooms were sparsely furnished & the housekeeper shared her personal room with the household's mangle or wringer washer powered by a hand crank.

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Gardeners Working 1767


1767 Frontispiece of Thomas Mawe [John Abercrombie], Every man his own gardener, 2d ed. London


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

George Stubbs (1724-1806) John and Sophia Musters Riding Past the South Front of Colwick Hall with Dogs 1777.  John Musters (1753-1827), high sheriff of Nottingham in 1777, who in July 1776 married Sophia Catherine Heywood of Maristow (1758-1819).  Devon, was a keen rural sportsman. Fanny Burney described Sophia as "most beautiful, but most unhappy."  Burney noted in her diary in 1779, that Mrs. Musters, "an exceeding pretty woman," was "the reigning toast of the season."  Stubbs's painting of John & Sophia Musters embarking on a ride from the newly rebuilt Colwick Hall, appeared, in 1780s, to be simply a painting of 2 horses.  Only after an 1788 cleaning did the riders emerge & the conclusion was drawn that Sophia's figure had been painted over first. Her husband was removed only subsequently, presumably because the picture looked a bit unbalanced with the lone John Musters accompanied by a riderless horse. Its companion portrait suffered a similar fate. John Musters & the Rev. Philip Story riding out from the Stable-Block at Colwick Hall originally also was a painting of the Squire & his wife. Her figure was replaced in that painting with his clerical friend, apparently because of his wife's passion for court society (as opposed to her husband's more rural interests) plus associated rumors of her possible adulterous activities. Contemporary gossip columns did link her name with that of the Prince Regent. In 1786, the Squire confronted his wife & evicted her from Colwick Hall, recalling artist Stubbs to repaint these portraits. Apparently, her pictorial presence was eradicated to mirror her physical absence. (See H. Wilberforce Bell. 'The Vicissitudes of a Picture by George Stubbs', Country Life. 26; September 1936; B. Sewell. 'The Strange Case of an Absent Wife', The Sunday Times Magazine. 8 December 1974; J. Egerton, George Stubbs 1724-1806 (London, 1984), pp.157-8; and Kate Redford at http://go.warwick.ac.uk/wrap/54814)

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Music in the Garden - 1700s


Sayer & Bennett (British Publishers, 1774-1786) A young woman sitting on a chair in a garden holding up a sheet of music 1781 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

Portrait of Henry and Mary Styleman attributed to Sawrey Gilpin (1733–1807) and Johann Zoffany (1733–1810) and Joseph Farington (1747–1821) 1780-1783.  Commissioned by Henry Styleman (1754-1819) on his marriage 1780 to Mary Gregg (1750-1807).

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Music in the Garden - 1700s

Thomas Medland (British printmaker, 1780 active-1833 died) Women sitting on chairs in a garden under a trellis, one on the left reading, another sewing, with a lute and music lying in the foreground 1797


Friday, December 20, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

Arthur Devis (English Painter, c1712-1787) Edward Gordon, His Sister Mrs Miles, and her (rather supplicant) Husband in Their Garden at Bromley.  Edward Gordon leans against a balustrade. Behind the balustrade & to his right is Mrs Miles in a satin dress. Mr Miles with a gun & dog offers a pheasant. He sits in the area just off the rather formally tiled garden terrace on one of those popular circular wooden benches constructed around a single tree.  And, of course, 2 dogs are in attendance.

In the early 18C a style of portraiture emerged, the conversation piece, which often depicted sitters outside in a garden or parkland setting. One of the greatest exponents of this style was Arthur Devis, who painted the rising gentry, merchant, & professional classes of Georgian England at ease around their own homes & estates. Devis was born in 1712, & studied under topographical landscape artist Peter Tillemans.  He probably would have been copying classical Italian landscape paintings which were already influencing British garden design.  However, Devis developed his own style, more naive than romantic. And, Devis switched to portrait painting, but not the standard rather stuffy posed pictures copying the style of court portraiture.  The smaller "conversation piece" became his speciality.  It’s a cozy,  domestic style of portraiture generally smaller in scale with subjects posed informally often surrounded by their possessions. Devis has over 300 surviving paintings ascribed to him. They often display the "polite" attitudes from manuals of etiquette rather than being "natural" or "lively" portraits in the style of his contemporaries like Hogarth.  Devis doesn’t aim to show the sitters personality but their status.  But mid-18C saw a lot of changes to the way that a professional artist worked. Direct patronage by commission declined, with more artists holding public exhibitions offering works for sale, as was already happening in Paris.  Groups of painters gathered in the Society of Artists & later the Royal Academy, lesser artists joined the Free Society of Artists with whom Devis exhibited in 1761.  Now that artists could show their work relatively freely, they could experiment with new styles & genres; & the "conversation piece" went into decline.  Devis did not switch styles, so gradually found himself unable to compete with more fashionable contemporaries such as Zoffany. The opinionated Horace Walpole was vitriolic about exhibitions of the Free Artists: “This is an execrable imposition & half the pictures old rubbish.” From then on it was downhill for Devis who was no longer not only not fashionable but not even acceptable. One potential buyer wrote, “he desired it might be by one Mr Devis…I am much afraid it will be frightful for I understand, his pictures are all of a sort; they are whole lengths of about 2 feet long & the person is always represented in a genteel attitude, either leaning against a pillar, or standing by a flower pot, or leading an Italian greyhound on a  string, or in some other ingenious pose.”  In other words this sort of thing, which had been alright 10 years earlier, was now only appropiate for the lower orders.  Devis exhibited less & less; & although he took on pupils, he ended up mostly restoring & cleaning pictures.  In 1783, Devis moved to Brighton, & there was an auction of  "Pictures belonging to Mr. Devis of Great Queen Street, Portrait Painter & Picture-Cleaner." He died there 4 years later.  Finally, in the 1970s some art historians noted that Devis was, indeed, “a master of his special craft, that of describing, in small compass, the ideals of a privileged society.”

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

For much more biographical information on Devis, see: A Conversation with Arthur Devis Posted on 11/03/2017 by The Blog of The Gardens Trust

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione's 1688-1766 Western-style gardens in China - N Bamboo Gazebos


Giuseppe Castiglione (Jesuit Italian artist, 1688-1766) Zhuting beimian, Bamboo Gazebos, north side


Giuseppe Castiglione (Italian artist, 1688-1766), was a Jesuit lay brother who served as a missionary in China, where he became a painter at the court of the emperor.  The Jesuits in China asked for a painter to be sent to the imperial court in Beijing.   Castiglione volunteered; and in 1715, the 27-year- old Castiglione arrived in China.  

Emperor Quianlong (Ch'ien Lung) enhanced the vast Summer Palace region in Beijing by having Castiglione design gardens & buildings for the Yuanmingyuan or Old Summer Palace. Castiglione designed Western-Style buildings in the imperial gardens of the Old Summer Palace.  Between 1747-1759, Castiglione’s designs for the Yuen-Ming Yuen, Garden of Perfect Clarity, both the buildings & gardens, were presented to the Emperor for approval & execution. The gardens were set in the midst of a multitude of jets of water, cascades and fountains. Unfortunately, French & English forces plundered Yuanmingyuan in 1860 and only ruins remain. 

Working under the Chinese name Lang Shining, Castiglione served at the Qing court for 51 years, spanning the 3 emperors of the Kangxi, Yongzheng & Qianlong periods, before he died in 1766.   

See

A Suite of Twenty Engravings of the Yuan Ming-Yuan Summer Palaces and Gardens of the Chinese Emperor Ch'ien Lung. (published 1786) at NYPL Digital Gallery.

Twenty views of the European Palaces in the Garden of Perfect Brightness



Wednesday, December 18, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

Arthur Devis (English Painter, c1712-1787) The James Family 1751

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Monday, December 16, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

Arthur Devis (English Painter, c1712-1787) The Edgar Children Charlotte Edgar and Her Sister Elizabeth Edgar & their Dog, of Red House Park, Ipswich

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

Arthur Devis (English Painter, c1712-1787) Breaking-Up Day at Dr Clayton's School at Salford (c. 1738)

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

Arthur Devis (English Painter, c1712-1787) Arthur Holdsworth Conversing with Thomas Taylor and Captain Stancombe & dog by the River Dart (1758)

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

1720s Peter Tillemans A View of the Garden and Main Parterre of Winchendon House, Buckinghamshire


1720s Peter Tillemans A View of the Garden and Main Parterre of Winchendon House, Buckinghamshire, from the East, with Figures in the Foreground


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

1730 William Hogarth, (English artist, 1697-1764)  The Jones Family & dog.  Staff is working to maintain the perfect garden in the background.  And, of course, a dog is in attendance.

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Monday, December 9, 2019

1700 British East Front of Erchfont (Urchfont) Manor


1700 British East Front of Erchfont (Urchfont) Manor with Elegant Figures in the Garden and Swans in the Foreground


Sunday, December 8, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

Arthur Devis (English Painter, c1712-1787) Robert Gwillym of  Atherton with His Family & dog.

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Friday, December 6, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

Arthur Devis (English Painter, c1712-1787)  Portrait of a Family Fishing, Traditionally Known as the Swaine Family of Fencroft, Cambridgeshire

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

1700s Music Parties Outdoors in Gardens & Parks


 1720 Unknown French artist. A Musical Assembly in a Park



 A Country Party of Musicians (after Jean-Baptiste Pater) 1730-50



 Alexander van Haecken (Flemish artist, 1701-1758) A Fashionable Music Party



 Music Party under an Awning (after Jean-Antoine Watteau (French artist, 1684–1721)



 Musicians in Pastoral Setting after Nicolas Lancret (French artist, 1690–1743)


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

18C Personal Branding - Garden Conversation Pieces

Arthur Devis (English 1712-1787) The Trevelyan Conversation Piece Sir John Trevelyan (1735-1828), with His Wife Louisa Simond, Lady Trevelyan, His Son Sir John Trevelyan (1761–1846), & Daughter Helena Trevelyan & dog.

Since the mid-20C, personal branding or self-packaging has described a burgeoning process of attempting to establish a prescribed image or impression in the minds of others about an individual or a family.  With no instant & far-reaching social media or digitally-aided forms of disclosure in the 18C, that wasn't so easy.  But that kind of perception could be reinforced through Conversation Piece portraits.  Pioneered by William Hogarth (1697–1764) & Philip Mercier (1689-1760) in the early 18C, & continued by Arthur Devis (1712-1787), George Stubbs (1724-1806), Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) & others, the Conversation Piece was a new form of portraiture, depicting groups of traditional & aspiring gentry often in country house garden landscape settings.

A growing, affluent middle class was emerging, as Britain’s colonial empire prospered in the 17C & 18C, & its Industrial Revolution began.  The dissolution of England's monasteries in the 1530s had led to new land ownership, and consequently to a new class of non-aristocratic landowners. The power battles between this new class & the old finally led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II in 1660.  Often socially spurned by established aristocracy, these newly-wealthy merchants, industrialists, & landowners assumed more casual manners enlivening both novels & group portraits. These new portrait Conversation Pieces & novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice & Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, attempted to portray a more relaxed narrative of the prosperous middle class rather than the stiff allegories & heroic epic poems preferred by earlier aristocrats. Painters were commissioned to hold a mirror to this emerging English society more intimately portrayed in still sought-after planned environments participating in activities expected of "natural leaders" at their elegantly country house landscapes.  No longer were families simply rather stiffly painted outdoors, as they were in the 17C, when budding science was promoting man as the "interpreter of Nature."  Now the newly-privileged yearned to appear in complex multi-figured compositions, filled with more relaxed representations of traditional, socially-proper customs & activities. The vibrant (& at times wholly fabricated) settings in these works reflect the aspirations of the emerging material culture of Georgian Britain. 

Typically those depicted were members of an immediate family, but in-laws, friends & colleagues could be included; & sometimes, significant deceased relatives also appeared.  Occasionally, artists depicted organized gatherings of elite gentlemen discussing new science or scholarship. The settings of outdoor Conversation Pieces reflected the image the client wanted to present, especially the ideal landscape or more-natural garden, which he wanted to portray as the upper-class setting of his everyday activities.  And so, these Conversation Pieces are a great way to see what those in the 18C aspired to have in their planned, personal landscapes. The subjects of outdoor Conversation Pieces were depicted enjoying a variety of genteel pastimes, whether or not they actually could do the activities. Elites, aspiring or long-established, were painted sharing common activities such as hunting, fishing, outdoor meals & musical parties. Dogs & horses were also frequently included as proper gentry accessories.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Garden History - Capability Brown (1716-1783) & American views of Formal Gardens

Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Ingleby Mannor the Seat of the Honble. Sr. Wm. Foulis Bartt. in ye County of Yorke. Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

What was Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1783) trying to change about the English countryside? Brown’s landscapes are straightforward.  His ‘landscape park’ was informal & ‘natural’ in character, eschewing straight lines & formal geometry. He designed open expanses of turf, irregularly scattered with individual trees & clumps & which were surrounded in whole & part by perimeter belts. His landscapes were ornamented with serpentine bodies of water & were usually provided with a rather sparse scattering of ornamental buildings. At existing gardens, walled enclosures were demolished, & avenues felled.

Apparently Brown wasn't the only Englishman tired of the formal, walled gardens.  Many hundreds of landscape parks had appeared in England by the time of Brown’s death in 1783, mainly created by imitators of his style. Many were entirely new creations, made at the expense of agricultural land; others represented modifications of existing deer parks. As scholars have long been aware, however, this kind of designed landscape did not come into existence, fully-formed, at the start of Brown’s career in the late 1740s & 50s.


The debt Brown owed to William Kent, in whose footsteps he followed at Stowe was obvious.  Brown’s parks represented an evolution of his essentially Arcadian tradition, which sought to recreate elements of idealized classical landscapes such as those in the paintings of Claude & Poussin.



Capability Brown, by Nathaniel Dance, ca. 1769

But early America was Arcadia. In North America, there was no reason to design new landscapes & gardens to recreate that region of ancient Greece isolated from the rest of the known civilized world, where citizens could live a simple, pastoral life. Instead, early Americans planned simple, geometric garden and landscape designs.

Most early American pleasure gardening gentry intentionally adopted a classic, geometric, balance of practical & ornamental gardens for their properties. Their landscape designs did often include avenues of trees leading to the plantation house, like rows of soldiers standing at attention. Capability Brown's new English garden design of the mid-18C with its open lawns & flowing lines in imitation of Nature was not particularly attractive to early Americans, who were busy carving an obvious order out of the "howling wilderness" that surrounded them.


In the Arcadia of America, the ordered, geometric garden offered sanctuary from the threat of wild nature & even escape from real or imagined barbarian outsiders. The great garden of the vast American frontier held some frightening connotations for many early colonists. New Englander Michael Wigglesworth wrote of it in 1662,


A waste & howling wilderness,
where none inhabited
But hellish fiends, & brutish men
That devils worshipped.


Garden historian Rosemary Verey speculated that early American gardens may have retained their geometric formality because “in England the countryside had already been tamed by years of husbandry, while in America each new plantation was surrounded by wild, untamed land, to be kept at bay, not emulated.” Others, such as Elizabeth Pryor, wrote that the alluring beauty of the natural landscape surrounding the shores of the Atlantic may help explain why gardeners were not seduced by the naturalistic style sweeping England.


The New World woods, continuously cleared of underbrush by Indian fires, already resembled the “improved” landscapes of Capability Brown. And, if one wished, it was easy to simulate a natural look in the personal landscapes these early Americans planned around their homes.  European travelers remarked that the groves, clumps, copses, & bosques so carefully cultivated in their countries, were more easily assembled in the colonies.


In 1788, Englishman Thomas Twining visiting Governor John Eager Howard's (1752-1827) country seat "Belvedere" near Baltimore wrote: “its grounds formed a beautiful slant toward the Chesapeake. From the taste with which they were laid out, It would seem that America is already possessed of a …Repton. The spot thus indebted to Nature and judiciously embellished was an enchanting within its own proper limits as in the fine view which extended far beyond them. The foreground possessed luxurious shrubberies and sloping lawns; the distance, the line of the Patapsco and he country bordering on the Chesapeake.” Another visitor to Belvedere claimed to “rejoice in the vistas and the sensations they inspire.”


However, keeping their gardens simple was important for other reasons to the British American coloniests.  The belief that they were consciously ridding themselves of ostentatious excess was a point of honor among many in 18th-century America. Immigrant garden author & nurseryman Bernard M’Mahon (1775-1816) understood this, as he promoted gardens for both use & ornament in his 1806 landmark book The American Gardener's Calendar. If one garden could achieve both goals, all the better. And further, if M'Mahon could appeal to those Americans who actually felt more secure with the old fashioned, strictly geometric gardens from England's past or to those who reacted against all this formality preferring a more natural look, he gladly would sell books, seeds, & plants to both tastes.


Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Westwood in Worcestershire, the Seat of the Honble. Sr. John Pakington Barronet. Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

From 1745 through 1756, the weekly game of the gentlemen in the Tuesday Club in Annapolis was to mock ostentation while trying to set the colony around them into some civilized order.  In an effort to explain this philosophy, Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832), who had gone to school in England & would later sign the Declaration of Indpendence, wrote to an English friend from Annapolis in 1772, “An attempt with us at grandeur or at magnificence is sure to be followed with something mean or ridiculous. Even in England where the affluence o individuals will support a thousand follies, what evils arise from the vanity & profuse excesses of the rich!”


Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Ragly in the county of Warwik the Seat of Popham Conway Esq.  Walled & geometric. From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

Only weeks later Carroll’s father Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702-1782) warned him of much the same trap, “Elegant & costly furniture may gratify our Pride & Vanity, they may excite the Praise & admiration of Spectators, more commonly their Envy, But it Certainly must give a Rationale.” Both of them felt it best to “avoid any appearance of…ostentation.” George Washington (1732-1799) wrote to be wary of ostentation in a letter to Bushrod Washington, on January, 15, 1783, "Do not conceive that fine clothes make fine men any more than fine feathers make fine birds."


Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Saperton The Seat of Sr. Robert Atkyns. Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

Thomas Jefferson & John Adams, after their tour of English gardens in 1786, expressed similar feelings. John Adams (1735-1826) wrote, “It will be long, I hope, before riding parks, pleasure grounds, gardens, & ornamented farms grow so much in fashion in America.”  In the same year, George Washington (1732-1799) wrote to the wife of Marquise de Lafayette (1757-1834) encouraging her to accompany her husband on a return visit to the new American republic. "You will see the plain manner in which we live; and meet the rustic civility, and you shall taste the simplicity of rural life."


Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Sherborn The Seat of Sr. Ralph Dutton Bart. Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

In 1783, Johann David Schoff traveled to Pennsylvania and wrote, "The taste for gardening is, at Philadelphia as well as throughout America, still in its infancy. There are not yet to be found many orderly and interesting gardens. Mr. Hamilton's near the city is the only one deserving special mention. Such neglect is all the more astonishing, because so many people of means spend the most part of their time in the country. Gardens as at present managed are purely utilitarian—pleasure-gardens have not yet come in, and if perspectives are wanted one must be content with those offered by the landscape, not very various, what with the still immense forests."


Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Squerries at Westram in Kent.  Walled & geometric. From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

In American gardens a balance of useful plants & trees planted in a pleasing order was the ultimate goal. When Annapolis attorney John Beale Bordley (1727-1804) retired to Wye Island in the Chesapeake Bay, he was determined to become a self-sufficient patriot farmer.  Bordley substituted homemade beer for more ardent spirits imported from London; kept sheep for the wool; & grew his own hemp, flax, & cotton for clothing. He knew that American dependency on Britain was drawing to a close & wrote a friend in London, “ We expect to fall off more & more from your goods…we are using our old clothes & preparing new of our own manufacture, they will be coarse, but if we add just resentment to necessity, may not a sheepskin make a luxurious jubilee coat?”


Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Syston the Seat of Samll. Trotman Esq. Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

In 1789, Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826), noted clergyman & geographer, wrote of one country seat, “Its fine situation. . .the arrangement and variety of forest-trees - the gardens...discover a refined and judicious taste. Ornament and utility are happily united. It is, indeed, a seat worthy of a Republican Patriot.”



Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Tortworth the Seat of Matthew Ducy Morton.Walled & geometric.  From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

Benjamin Henry Latrobe, upon his initial tour of America between 1795 & 1798, condescendingly noted the out-of-style classical influence prevalent in the Chesapeake. He wrote that the gardens at Mount Vernon were “laid out in squares, & boxed with great precision…for the first time again since I left Germany, I saw here a parterre, chipped & trimmed with infinite care into the form of a richly flourished Fleur de Lis: The expiring groans I hope of our Grandfather’s pedantry.”   Latrobe would certainly have shuttered at the fact, that both George Washington and the very wealthy Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702-1782) planted vegetables next to their ornamental flowers in these little out-of-date geometric gardens.  George Washington's gardens at Mount Vernon were recently torn out & replanted to demonstrate this fact.


Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Tutsham Hall the Seat of Edward Goulston Esqr. Walled & geometric. From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain" 

Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702-1782) was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies, but he planted the geometric beds of his terraced gardens at his home in the capitol of Maryland with an eye toward practicality. Orderly squares filled with vegetables surrounded by low privet hedges decorated the flats of Carroll’s falls garden. Painter Charles Wilson Peale reported, "the Garden contains a variety of excellent fruit, and the flats are a kitchen garden."


Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Upper Dowdeswell the Seat of Lionel Rich Esq.  Walled & geometric. From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

George Washington was once again warning of ostentation in a letter to George Steptoe Washington, on March 23, 1789. "A person who is anxious to be a leader of the fashion, or one of the first to follow it, will certainly appear in the eyes of judicious men to have nothing better than a frequent change of dress to recommend him to notice."

In the early Republic, many gardeners continued to strive for a balance of useful plants & trees & genteel design. On both town & country plots, most gentry, merchants, shopkeepers, & artisans planned gardens that were both practical & ornamental in simple, traditional, geometric patterns. This shared attitude helped shrink the distance between America’s landed gentry & its town merchants & craftsmen. It also helped demonstrate a new concept of government where "all men are created equal." (Of course, that did not extend to women until 1920.)



Engraved by Joannes Kip (1653-1722). Toddington The Seat of the Lord Tracy. Walled & geometric. From "Britannia Illustrata or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces and also of the Principal Seats of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain"

Francois Alexandre Frederic duc de La-Rochefoucauld-Liancourt visiting Drayton Hall in South Carolina in the late 1790s wrote, “In order to have a fine garden, you have nothing to do but to let the trees remain standing here & there, or in clumps, to plant bushes in front of then, & arrange the trees according to their height.” In England, the natural grounds movement owed part of its popularity to the fact that timber was getting scarce in the countryside. The British gentry planted their “natural grounds” with trees, that they needed to grow.

In the introduction to his 1808 book The Country Seats of the United States, Englishman William Russell Birch (1755-1834), who hoped to promote "taste" in America for both architecture & landscape design, saw the result of the American balance of ornament and utility, and he tried to explain it this way, "The comforts and advantages of a Country Residence, after Domestic accomodations are consulted, consist more in the beauty of the situation, than in the massy magnitude of the edifice: the choice ornaments of Architecture are by no means intended to be disparaged, they are on the contrary, not simply desirable, but requisite. The man of taste will select his situation with skill, and add elegance and animation to the best choice. In the United States the face of nature is so variegated; Nature has been so sportive and the means so easy of acquiring positions fit to gratify the most refined and rural enjoyment, that labour and expenditure of Art is not so great as in Countries less favoured."


For more on Capability Brown see: Research Report Series no. 50-2013, Lancelot "Capability" Brown.: A Research Impact Review Prepared for English Heritage by the Landscape Group, University of East Anglia. written by Jon Gregory, Sarah Spooner, Tom Williamson