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17th Century Landscape in England





English Landscape

During the 18th century in England, agriculture became more prominent and more successful as bogs were made useful and other land was reclaimed. An Agricultural Revolution.

The Enclosure Act of parliament made it possible for land owners to enclose large tracts of common land.

Increased knowledge in science and technology created better vehicles and roads, promoting the idea of pleasure travel rather than travel only for necessity. From the oxcart to the newer better horse carriage, on smooth roads with suspension (horses also offered a faster means of transportation through intentional breeding practice) – – – finally to Model T.

Travel was a way for direct observation of the landscape.

Painting, literature, design – reacting to visual compositions.

Lead to a change in perception of the landscape, one could now go to make their own painting (or picture) (feel the landscape, rather than simply survey it)



Mode of perception – more than style – moving through rather than being in the landscape.

Aesthetic of increasing abstraction – abstract line, volume, form

Implies a unified composition – fragments of nature whole



John Vanbrugh

1664 – 1726

John Vanbrugh was an architect and was responsible for designs at Castle Howard (1699) and Blenheim (1705). He was a key figure in the development of the Picturesque as landscape design appropriate for the settings of his architecture.

At Blenheim, Vanbrugh was responsible for the bridge. The composition of the lake and bridge reflect the qualities of a landscape painting.

Vanbrugh worked closely with Charles Bridgeman at Stowe and Claremont.


Charles Bridgeman

Died in 1738

Charles Bridgeman was an important promoter of change – from geometric order in garden design to the English Landscape Garden. Although many of his thoughts contained lines and highly controlled plantings he began to indicate the changes to follow. Cultivated fields and forests were included as components of landscape design.

The use of the Ha-Ha allowed an unobstructed visual connection to a broad landscape as if no walls existed. The Ha-Ha was a development devised to hide the boundary of a space, as a dry ditch with a retaining wall.


Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury

1671 – 1713

Cooper was an English philosopher (and politician) who had a major impact on the design of the English landscape. He wrote extensively about moral values and the relationship of moral sense to aesthetics

Cooper’s ideas were based on an idealized vision of nature/wilderness, rocks, caverns, cascades, and grottoes. He strongly opposed the contrivances of the ‘princely gardens’ – those that reflect the French taste, the strong lines, geometry, and planes.


Joseph Addison

1672 – 1719

Joseph Addison spread his views on landscape design through his writing. Addisons writing about landscape design reflected a tendency towards works of nature, and his preferences to landscapes of china, which did not follow lines and geometry.


Alexander Pope

1688 – 1744

Alexander Pope spread his opinions about landscape design through his writing. He expressed interest in the “amiable simplicity of unadorned nature’, and disinterest in the formal gardens characterized by those in France. Genius of the place should guide the landscape design, the local character should inform garden character.




Possibly the most popular landscape garden and the subject of the first guidebook for garden tourists.

Bridgeman, Vanbrugh, (William Kent and Capability Brown) were all employed during various times for the layout of Stowe. Early during the 18th century, Viscount Cobham employed Vanbrugh to make additions to the house and architecture, and Charles Bridgeman to design a suitable garden, to lay out the grounds.

Temple of Ancient Virtue (c. 1734) which was adjoined with the “Temple of Modern Virtue built as a ruin to indicate distaste for the government of the day” (The English Garden, Bisgrove).

Palladian bridge terminated the view across a broad river.

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