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

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Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827).
The Doctor Sketching the Lake
Pen and watercolor drawing for "The Schoolmaster's Tour" in The Poetical Magazine (May 1810) with text by William Combe; reprinted in book form as The Tour of Doctor Syntax in Search of the Picturesque (1812)
4 11/16 x 7 9/16 inches (120 x 192 mm.)
Gift of J. P. Morgan, Jr.; 2006.24: 2

William Gilpin's success in popularizing the Picturesque inspired this parody by Rowlandson working in collaboration with the hack writer William Combe. Following Gilpin's example, the curate-schoolmaster Dr. Syntax visits picturesque locales in hopes of making his fortune by publishing a book about his artistic adventures. He views fashionable attractions, such as a country churchyard and a Gothic ruin, but the hapless pedant overlooks the true beauty of his surroundings and instead blunders into a series of comic predicaments and ridiculous situations. This pratfall in the Lake District is a typical example of the accidents he endures, sketchbook in hand.

James Charles Armytage (d. 1897) after John Ruskin (1819–1900)
Lake, Land, and Cloud. Steel-engraving. Frontispiece in vol. 3 of Ruskin's Modern Painters: Their Superiority in the Art of Landscape Painting to All the Ancient Masters Proved by Examples of the True, the Beautiful, and the Intellectual, from the Works of Modern Artists, Especially from those of J. M.W. Turner. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1843–60. 5 vols. Bequest of Gordon N. Ray, 1987; PML 133379

Modern Painters began as a counterattack on critics of the landscape paintings of J. M. W. Turner but grew into a magisterial treatise on art theory and aesthetics, containing stinging social commentary as well as salient observations on literature, philosophy, and religion. Ruskin's ideas greatly influenced the work of Victorian garden designers, such as William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll in England and Andrew Jackson Downing in America. The engraved frontispiece reproduces a Ruskin drawing, an ideal landscape in the Turnerian style.

John Ruskin (1819–1900)
"Of Modern Landscape." Vol. 3, chapter 16, sect. 39 of Modern Painters.
One leaf of the autograph manuscript comprising vols. 1–5 [1853–60]
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1906; MA 393–397

Here Ruskin quotes a passage from Sir Walter Scott's Marmion to illustrate a point about modern attempts to seek beauty in nature: "our delight in wild scenery" is a recent development, quite different from the way nature was viewed in the Classical era, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. He attributed this change of heart to fundamental flaws in Victorian society, the materialistic values of industrial capitalism, the grinding ugliness of suburban wastelands, and other modern miseries. In his opinion, Romantic notions of pursuing beauty in the unsullied countryside and distant past were escapist fantasies prompted by the sordid realities of daily life.

G. L. Smith after Benton Seeley.
The Temple of British Worthies, A Gate-way by Leoni, The Cold Bath, The Grotto, etched plate in Stowe: A Description of the Magnificent House and Gardens of the Right Honourable Richard Grenville Temple, Earl Temple, Viscount and Baron Cobham . . . Embellished with a General Plan of the Gardens, and also a Separate Plan of Each Building, with Perspective Views of the Same. Revised edition. London: Printed for J. and F. Rivington; B. Seeley in Buckingham; and T. Hodgkinson . . . at Stowe, 1768. Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2004; PML 128744

The new phenomenon of tourism at the most famous of all English landscape gardens made an unprecedented success of Benton Seeley's guide to Stowe. Numerous editions from 1744 into the 1830s reflected changes in the garden and created a model for later site-specific guidebooks. The grotto was originally designed by William Kent in the late 1730s as a symmetrical, freestanding structure decorated with flints, colored glass, and shells. Soon covered over with earth, it was then described as a "romantic retirement." By the 1780s, it was more deeply buried, resurfaced with tufa, and planted with vines and conifers for a cavernous effect.

Giovanni Francesco Venturini (1650–1710)
Veduta della cascata sotto l'organo nel piano del giardino. Etching, plate 21 in Giovanni Battista Falda (ca. 1640–1678) and Giovanni Francesco Venturini, Le fontane di Roma nelle piazze e luoghi publici della città. Vol. 4. Rome: Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi, [ca. 1680s].
Gift of Paul Mellon, 1979; PML 76264

In 1661 Gian Lorenzo Bernini altered the gardens of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli to create a tumultuous cascade of water erupting through the garden wall and crashing down onto an axis of rugged boulders. Acclaimed as the most spectacular artificial waterfall of its century, it was a precursor of Sublime extremes in landscape architecture.

William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
Plan for a winter garden at Coleorton Hall, Leicestershire, seat of Sir George Beaumont, in an autograph letter of Dorothy Wordsworth to Lady Beaumont, 23 December 1806
Purchased on the Fellows Fund, 1954; MA 1581.20

In 1806 Wordsworth received an invitation to design a winter garden for the wife of his patron Sir George Beaumont, proprietor of Coleorton Hall in Leicestershire. This project fired the imagination of the poet, who proposed to create a cheerful, comfortable, and secluded place where one could meditate on the change of seasons and cherish hopes of spring. This sketch in his sister's letter shows how Lady Beaumont might stroll through the grounds, which would be protected from the rigors of winter weather by a double bulwark: a line of evergreens and a border of majestic firs.

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