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

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Francis Danby (1793–1861)
The Procession of Cristna
Watercolor and gouache, heightened with white gouache, with gum arabic, some scratching out, on paper
7 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches (190 x 266 mm)
Purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund; 2001.18.

In the summer of 1825, Danby traveled through the mountains of Norway and sketched the terrain. Afterward he remarked, "These kind of scenes are better in pictures than reality, and faith I own I was heartily sick of them." Nevertheless the Norwegian landscape haunted him for years, informing a number of later works, including the present drawing. This sublime fantasy has been speculatively named for Cristna, a lost poem by Danby that he referred to as "no more than a romance." Lacking an extant narrative, the interpretation remains mysterious: Nordic rocks loom over an exotic caravan, dwarfing elephants and a faceless throng of travelers.


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Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840)
Moonlit Landscape
Watercolor on paper; moon cut out and inserted on a separate piece of paper; laid down on cardboard, [circa 1830]
9 1/8 x 14 3/8 inches (232 x 365 mm)
Thaw Collection; 1996.150

Inspired by his belief that "the divine is everywhere," Friedrich painted landscapes of immersion in nature as a mystical experience. His first requirement of a work of art was that it should engage the mind and put the viewer into a "soulful" mood. This is one of two surviving transparencies by Friedrich. The moon is a translucent insertion made to be lit from behind by pulsing lamplight in a dark and silenced room, perhaps accompanied by music. In an image of pantheistic communion, the illuminated moon radiates a mysterious power touching a hallowed human figure, triangulated by the spectator standing in the viewpoint of the reverent artist.


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William Gilpin (1724–1804).
From the album River-Views, Bays & Sea Coasts
Pen and brown ink, brown and gray-brown wash, over preliminary indications in graphite, on paper washed with ochre, 1781
Oval: 6 7/8 x 9 1/8 inches (167 x 234 mm)
Purchased as the gift of Mrs. Enid A. Haupt; 1978.39

The Reverend William Gilpin invented the Picturesque travel book based on his own series of tours beginning in 1768. Recording his first impressions in notebooks and rough sketches while he traveled, he later finished views that provided "general ideas" rather than "exact portraits" to illustrate principles of correct landscape composition. Gilpin pasted many of his drawings into albums, which were given to members of his family until 1785.


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Thomas Girtin (1775–1802)
Melrose Abbey
Watercolor over graphite, ca. 1796–99
13 9/16 x 16 9/16 inches (344 x 422 mm)
Inscribed on back of lining, in pen and brown ink, Melrose Abbey / on the Tweed
Purchased as a gift of Paul Mellon; 1978.22

For tourists in the Romantic era, Melrose Abbey had many of the same charms as Tintern Abbey as well as the additional allure of its scenic location in the Scottish Border Country. Sir Walter Scott advised visitors to view by moonlight the "broken arches" of the abbey, which provided local color in his wildly popular Border ballad The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Ruined abbeys frequently figure in the watercolors of Thomas Girtin, who made several sketching tours in this region. Although he was trained as a topographical artist, Girtin was not so much interested in architectural detail as in the spirit of the place, atmospheric effects, and interpretative touches that might evoke emotion or set a mood. Here he celebrated the bygone magnificence of Melrose Abbey while suggesting that some of its spiritual power remained on site, still a suitable locale for solitary contemplation.


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John Martin (1789–1854).
View of the Temple of Suryah & Fountain of Maha Dao, with a Distant View of North Side of Mansion House. Etching with aquatint added by Frederick Christian Lewis (1779–1856), in Martin's series of views of Sezincote, ca. 1818. Bequest of Gordon N. Ray, 1987; PML 143240

The artist Thomas Daniell (1749–1840) introduced architectural elements from India into the English garden on the basis of scenery and monuments he had sketched in the course of a ten-year tour of the Subcontinent. When Sir Charles Cockerell, a "nabob" made wealthy by three decades with the East India Company, built a new house at Sezincote in a fusion of Hindu and Mogul styles, Daniell transformed a part of the garden into a dream of India in the Cotswolds, with a shrine to the Hindu sun god beside a lotus-shaped pool with sacral fountain. The temple housed a figure of Surya cast in Coade & Seeley's Patent Imitation Stone.


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Noël Le Mire (1724–1801) after Jean-Michel Moreau, called Moreau le Jeune (1741–1814).
[Le premier baiser de l'amour.] Engraving and etching, part of a suite of plates made for Collection complète des oeuvres de J. J. Rousseau. Brussels: Jean-Louis de Boubers, 1774–83. Bequest of Gordon N. Ray, 1987; PML 140140

Julie, accompanied by her cousin, grants a first kiss to her lover in a bosquet, or bower. This memorable scene was a favorite of the novel's illustrators, beginning with Hubert François Gravelot, who received detailed instructions from Rousseau on how to achieve just the right combination of innocence and sensuality. And yet his composition seems staid in comparison to this version by Moreau le Jeune, who admired Rousseau's works and had studied them closely. Moreau understood what kind of bower the author had in mind, not the neatly trimmed trellis imagined by Gravelot but rather this grand arch overgrown by trees, shrubbery, and flowers.

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