Picturesque


Picturesque

Picturesque is an aesthetic ideal first introduced into English cultural debate in 1782 by William Gilpin in "Observations of the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc. Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the Summer of the Year 1770", a practical book which instructed England's leisured travelers to examine "the face of a country by the rules of picturesque beauty". Picturesque, along with the aesthetic and cultural strands of Gothic and Celticism, was a part of the emerging Romantic sensibility of the 18th century.

As the title of Gilpin's work suggests, picturesque needs to be explained in terms of its relationship to two other aesthetic ideals: those of the "beautiful" and the "sublime". By the last third of the 18th century, Enlightenment rationalist ideas about aestheticism were being challenged by looking at the experiences of beauty and sublimity as being non-rational (instinctual). Aesthetic experience was not just a rational decision - one did not look at a pleasing curved form and decide it was beautiful - rather it was a matter of basic human instinct and came naturally. Edmund Burke in his 1757 "Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful" said the soft gentle curves appealed, he thought, to the male sexual desire, while the sublime horrors appealed to our desires for self-preservation.James Buzard (2001). "The Grand Tour and after (1660-1840)". In "The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing".] Picturesque arose as a mediator between the opposed ideals of beauty and the sublime, showing the possibilities that existed in between these two rationally idealized states. As Thomas Gray wrote in 1765 of the Scottish Highlands "The mountains are ecstatic.. None but.. God know how to join so much beauty with so much horror." . See also Gilpin and the picturesque.

Background

During the mid 18th century the idea of purely scenic pleasure touring began to take hold among the English leisured class. Gilpin's work was a direct challenge to the ideology of the well established Grand Tour, showing how an exploration of rural Britain could compete with classically oriented tours of the Continent.Glenn Hooper (2001). "The Isles/Ireland". In "The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing".] The irregular, anti-classical, ruins and even ruined people - the ragged poor (viewed from a safe distance of course) - became sought after themes. Can-tinted portable mirrors to frame and darken the scenes they visited, it was named after 17th century landscape painter Claude Lorrain whose work Gilpin saw as synonymous with the picturesque and who Gilpin encouraged emulation. As Malcolm Andrews remarks, there is "something of the big-game hunter in these tourists, boasting of their encounters with savage landscapes, "capturing" wild scenes, and "fixing" them as pictorial trophies in order to sell them or hang them up in frames on their drawing room walls". Gilpin himself asked, "shall we suppose it a greater pleasure to the sportsman to pursue a trivial animal, than it is to the man of taste to pursue the beauties of nature?" After 1815 when Europe was available to travel again after the wars, new fields for picturesque-hunters opened up in Italy. Anna James wrote in 1820 "Had I never visited Italy, I think I should never have understood the word "picturesque". Henry James exclaimed in Albano in the 1870s "I have talked of the picturesque all my life; now at last.. I see it"..

Picturesque tourists were also encouraged to reshape the landscapes as settings for English country houses, exemplified by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Following Gilpin's advice, many landowners began designing gardens with irregular sight lines and prefabricated ruins of 'classical' structures.

Picturesque meaning literally "in the manner of a picture; fit to be made into a picture" was a word used as early as 1703 ("Oxford English Dictionary"), and derived from an Italian term "pittoresco", meaning, "in the manner of a painter," William Gilpin's "Essay on Prints" (1768) defined picturesque as " ... a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture" (xii).

Notable works

*Gilpin's "Three Essays: On Picturesque Beauty; On Picturesque Travel; and on Sketching Landscape: to which is Added a Poem, On Landscape Painting" was published in London, 1792.
*Richard Payne Knight, "An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste," soon followed, and went into several editions that the author revised and expanded.
*A third great essay on the Picturesque was Uvedale Price, "An Essay on the Picturesque, as Compared with the Sublime and the Beautiful; and on the Use of Studying Pictures, for the Purpose of Improving Real Landscape", revised. edition London, 1796.
*Dorothy Wordsworth wrote "Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland, A. D. 1803" (1874) considered a classic of picturesque travel writing.
*William Combe and Thomas Rowlandson published an 1809 poem with pictures called "The Tour of Doctor Syntax in Search of the Picturesque" which was a satire of the ideal and famously skewered Picturesque-hunters.
*Humphry Repton applied picturesque theory to the practice of landscape design. In conjunction with the work of Price and Knight, this led to the 'picturesque theory' that designed landscapes should be composed like landscape paintings with a foreground, a middle ground and a background. Repton believed that the foreground should be the realm of art (with formal geometry and ornamental planting), that the middleground should have a parkland character of the type created by Brown and that the background should have a wild and 'natural' character.
*John Ruskin identified the "picturesque" as a genuinely modern aesthetic category, in "The Seven Lamps of Architecture."
*In modern times, the essay by the English architectural historian Christopher Hussey, "The Picturesque: Studies in a Point of View," 1927 focused modern thinking on the development of this approach. The picturesque idea continues to have a profound influence on garden design and planting design.

References

ee also

*Grand Tour
*Landscape painting
*Context theory
*Edinburgh
*Planting design
*Wye Valley

External links

* [http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/ruskin/atheories/3.2.html George P. Landow, "Ruskin on the Picturesque"]
* [http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/exhibitions/turner/tourism.asp "Turner's journeys of the imagination"]
* [http://www.gardenvisit.com/t/c4s1.html Landscape Style of Repton, Price and Knight]
* [http://www.waddo.net/Academic/thesis.htm Pictures and Poetry. Debunking the Bunk: An Examination of Picturesque Influence] , by Keith Waddington. A Masters Thesis at Concordia University.


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  • Picturesque — ist ein ästhetisches Ideal, das 1782 von William Gilpin in die englische Kulturdebatte eingeführt wurde. Mit seinem Buch Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc. Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Picturesque — Pic tur*esque , a. [It. pittoresco: cf. F. pittoresque. See {Pictorial}.] Forming, or fitted to form, a good or pleasing picture; representing with the clearness or ideal beauty appropriate to a picture; expressing that peculiar kind of beauty… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • picturesque — [pik΄chər esk′] adj. [altered (by assoc. with PICTURE) < Fr pittoresque < It pittoresco < pittore, painter < L pictor, painter < pp. of pingere, to PAINT] 1. like or suggesting a picture; specif., a) having a wild or natural beauty …   English World dictionary

  • picturesque — (adj.) 1703, on pattern of Fr. pittoresque, a loan word from It. pittoresco pictorial (1660s), from pittore painter, from L. pictorem (nom. pictor), see PICTORIAL (Cf. pictorial) …   Etymology dictionary

  • picturesque — vivid, *graphic, pictorial Analogous words: charming, attractive, alluring (see under ATTRACT): conspicuous, salient, striking, arresting (see NOTICEABLE) …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • picturesque — [adj] attractive, referring to scenery arresting, artistic, beautiful, charming, colorful, graphic, photographic, pictorial, pleasant, pretty, quaint, scenic, striking, vivid; concept 579 Ant. hideous, ugly, unsightly …   New thesaurus

  • picturesque — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ visually attractive in a quaint or charming manner. DERIVATIVES picturesquely adverb picturesqueness noun …   English terms dictionary

  • picturesque — picturesquely, adv. picturesqueness, n. /pik cheuh resk /, adj. 1. visually charming or quaint, as if resembling or suitable for a painting: a picturesque fishing village. 2. (of writing, speech, etc.) strikingly graphic or vivid; creating… …   Universalium

  • picturesque — [[t]pɪ̱ktʃəre̱sk[/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED A picturesque place is attractive and interesting, and has no ugly modern buildings. Alte, in the hills northwest of Loule, is the Algarve s most picturesque village. Derived words: picturesquely ADV GRADED… …   English dictionary

  • picturesque — adjective 1 a place that is picturesque is pretty and interesting, especially in an old fashioned way: a picturesque New England village in the fall 2 language that is picturesque uses unusual, interesting, or sometimes rude words to describe… …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English


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