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Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design
May 21 through August 29, 2010

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Jacques Aliamet (1726–1788) after Charles Eisen (1720–1778)
Allegory of architecture. Etched frontispiece in Marc-Antoine Laugier (1711–1769), Essai sur l'architecture. Nouvelle édition. Paris: Chez Duchesne, 1755. Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2008; PML 195080

A master of Rococo illustration, Eisen understood perfectly the author's arguments against Rococo ornament in architecture—a capricious stylistic aberration that should be corrected by a return to nature. A winsome goddess of architecture reclines against the ruins of the classical orders and gestures toward a more truthful and authentic structure, a rustic cabin framed by living trees. Laugier applied some of the same reasoning to garden design in the last chapter of this influential treatise. As much as he admired the work of Le Nôtre in Versailles, he had to regret the relentless insistence on symmetry in that type of formal garden and preferred instead the elegant simplicity of the Chinese style, which had been described by missionaries in their reports on oriental customs and culture.

William Callow (1812–1908)
The Garden at Versailles with the Fishing Temple (Petit Hameau de la Reine, Versailles)
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 1837
7 13/16 x 11 1/4 inches (198 x 286 mm)
Purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund 1978; 2007.82

In 1837 the English artist William Callow, drawing master to the children of King Louis Philippe, received permission to depict private areas of the royal gardens at Versailles. This scene portrays Marie-Antoinette's artificial hamlet of thatched cottages, mill, fishing tower, and two dairies (one functional and one for refreshments) beside a carefully contoured lake. Designed by Richard Mique and Hubert Robert in consultation with the queen during the 1780s, this rustic fabrication became notorious as the place where she played milkmaid at a time of desperate poverty for the peasantry of France. Four decades after the Revolution, Callow represented the domain of a more moderate monarch in a resolutely idyllic view of luminous tranquility.

Carl Gustav Carus (1789–1869)
Fountain Before a Temple
Charcoal, heightened with white gouache, on blue-gray paper, [1854–57]
18 x 11 1/4 inches (457 x 285 mm)
Thaw Collection; EVT 205

Carl Gustav Carus, physician, scientist, psychologist, and artist, wrote a theory of "earth-life painting" inspired by the idea of nature as a "world soul" uniting the human spirit with God. According to the theory, the pure mind of the artist should give birth to divine ideas expressed through a "consecrated heart" and a hand practiced in close study of the landscape. Thus artistic creations would express the inner truth of nature and raise the viewer to a state of mystical contemplation. One of his essays suggests an interpretation of this drawing, in which the dynamic water "excites and enlivens our feelings" while the moon uplifts us "by the thought that the infinite has prevailed over the finite."

Pierre-Philippe Choffard (1730–1809) after Nicolas André Monsiaux (1754–1837).
Approchez, contemplez ce monument pieux où pleuroit en silence un fils religieux. Etched plate in Jacques Delille (1738–1813), Les Jardins: poëme. Nouvelle édition considérablement augmentée. Paris: Chez Levrault freres, 1801. Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2004; PML 129580

First published in 1782, the Abbé Delille's poem extolling the landscape garden went through many editions, six of which are now at the Morgan. The augmented edition of 1801 acquired over one thousand new lines and a new set of Romantic illustrations by Nicolas André Monsiaux. This vision of Alexander Pope in his garden, weeping on the monument to his late mother, faces verses describing the visit of the dying poet to his mother's tomb: "Approach, contemplate this pious monument where wept in silence a faithful son."

John Heaviside Clark (ca. 1770–1836)
Lightning. Aquatint, plate 13 in Clark's A Practical Illustration of Gilpin's Day, Representing the Various Effects on Landscape Scenery from Morning to Night in 30 Designs from Nature. Second edition. London: Priestley and Weale, etc., 1824. Bequest of Gordon N. Ray, 1987; GNR 5625

Scottish artist John Heaviside Clark added color to Gilpin's studies of the times of day, transforming a midday landscape into a sensational nocturnal scene with lightning. The heightened emotional resonance of this adaptation signals a shift toward the Romantic from Gilpin's more analytical and strictly visual eighteenth-century Picturesque.

John Constable (1776–1837)
View of Cathanger Near Petworth
Pencil on two sheets of paper pasted together, 1834
Inscribed by the artist in pencil at upper left, Petworth Sepr. 12 1834 / Cat Hanger
8 1/16 x 13 5/8 inches (205 x 347 mm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Victor Thaw; 1996.146

Constable sought to perfect "a natural painture," rejecting the dramatic Sublime in favor of emotional response to the ordinary wonders of the world and studying the rural landscape as a primitive source of artistic perfection. In 1834 he spent two weeks sketching at Petworth in West Sussex at the invitation of Lord Egremont. "I never saw such beauty in natural landscape before. I wish it may influence what I may do in the future, for I have too much preferred the picturesque to the beautiful." This view of Cathanger Farm is the first dated drawing made during his visit. Looking out over a bend in the River Rother, Constable dwelled on the agricultural landscape of fenced meadow beneath a suggestion of vast sky, "the chief 'Organ of sentiment' . . . the 'source of light' in nature [which] governs every thing."

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.