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PRINCIPLES IN THE ART OF LANDSCAPE.
The art of landscape* is wholly the same reason, in the massive a modern art. It is but recently, stateliness, the solidity and firmness indeed, that it could with any plau, of architectural forms. sibility prefer a claim to a place Hence in the two departments of among the arts ; as it is but recently sculpture and architecture, Grecian that any serious attempt has been art particularly developed and permade to reduce it to any artistic fected itself. principles.
How uncongenial both with the It is more than any other of the material and the sentiments proper fine arts, perhaps, an art of peace. to the art of landscape, was such an Only where civil quietness and secu- age and such ideas. This art is the rity, and consequent domestic enjoy. expression more of domestic seclument, reign in a high degree, can it sion and tranquillity,—of the mild, well be cultivated. The warlike the gentle, the yielding graces. It Greek, while he carried other arts implies a state of civil and social se. of design to the highest perfection, curity and confidence. Strong-wallnever dreamed of expressing “im. ed towns thronged with a population mortal sentiments and divine ideas" seeking protection and defense on in landscape; for the sentiments and the one hand, and waste, deserted ideas most appropriate to such ex- fields on the other; states condens. pression, were in a great measure ed into cities, and cities the common by his social habits and condition and fit designations of states ; ag. drives from his bosom. He could gressive warfare for its own sake, chisel sentiments of courage and the prime element and characteristic heroic endurance in forms of match- feature of all state-polity and all less beauty, for they were senti- state-policy; society in its inmost ments which his condition was structure clannish, if not Ishmaelevery way fitted to develope and itish, and in its actual outworkings strengthen; and such products of marauding, pillaging, wasting, even his constructive genius were not so
the humble art of agriculture hardly liable to perish in an age of inces- reached in growth the measure of sant strife and war. The sculptor mere necessary wants, and a wellfound in the solid and enduring mar- tilled, well-stocked field was regard. ble, the fittest material in which ed as a rare and admirable achiev. both to embody the commanding ment of energy and skill. The ideas of his age-an age of martial kitchen-garden of Alcinous, Homer heroism, and also safely to enshrine paints with a poet's enthusiasm, as if the workings of that anticipating ge. a prodigy of art; and in later times, nius which can find in nothing short Plutarch gives us but a sorry view of immortality its end and satisfac. of the development of taste in this tion. The reigning ideas of such direction, when he tells us the coman age naturally delighted, too, formon practice in ornamental gardens
was, to set off the beauties of roses * We think it time to drop, a part of and violets by intermingled leeks the cumbersome expression, landscape
and onions. gardening, and designate the art henceforth directly from the material on which
Roman life, at certain periods of it is employed. Justified as the designa- its history, admitted more readily tion is, by abundant philological analo- the culture of the art. But those gies, use will soon wear off whatever of harshness or strangeness may appear at periods were periods of luxury and first in she expression,
prodigality; and Roman gardens were rather exhibitions of lavish ject to enumerate and describe in profusion in proprietors, than of true brief terms, the several prominent taste in artists. Mechanical skill stages by which the progress of the was not undervalued; but it rose no art has been characterized. It will higher than bare imitation. The be seen at once from the descrip. highest name that the Romans could tion, that these stages naturally sucgive an artist in landscape, was one ceed each other ;-that not only was that designated mere skill in train the order in which they successively ing and paring vegetable growths in. appeared such as was to have been to curious shapes The topiarius anticipated beforehand, but that each was first and chief in the art; and subsequent phase of the art was in his most admired works were mon- duced and determined by the presters sheared out in the spray of ceding. These several stages are, shrubbery and trees. Elevated and The French or Geometric; pure as was their taste for natural The Chinese or Pseudo-natural; scenery, and rich and glowing as The modern English or Pictuare the descriptions given of it by resque ; to which we may add as their poets, yet the Romans seem the last and highest, but yet to be never to have conceived of the pos. realized sibility of true garden and field dec. The Expressive or True Artistic. oration.
The French or Geometric is the Among the ancients, the art of first in order of nature, as it was landscape rose hardly to the first first to appear in time. Even the stage of development. It did not Romans, here and there, seem algain admittance even into their con- most to have attained this stage. ceptions as an art by itself. Regularity, straight lines, plane an
During the barbarous ages that gles, proportion, are the first, most succeeded the decline of Roman unequivocal deviations from irreg. civilization, when every existing art ular nature. Nothing so decisively perished, it was not to be expected indicates that reason, more or less that a new art, much less an art em- perfect, has been at work, than a phatically of peace, should arise. straight line. It tells us at once While the soil was tilled, and lords that rude nature has been met and and bishops decorated to some ex- overcome; and as art pleases us tent their palaces and their courts, ever, even rude art, as compared still no proper art of landscape had only with wild, unreduced nature, existence. Indeed the very name of rectilinear streets and walks give the art has a significant historic im- naturally a pleasivg effect. If a port. While other arts have derived higher culture of the taste experitheir names as their origin from clas. ences no such pleasure, but even sic times, this art proclaims its re- disgust at the square and compass cent nativity in the name it has taken landscape, it is only because it comfrom our own expressive vernacular. pares it with a higher, more truly
We are to date the birth of the artistic method. The less cultiva. art, in its proper sense, down as late ted taste is satisfied; for it has no as the sixteenih century. Since that conception of a higher form of the time it has been cultivated at peri- art. And the first awakenings of the ods with great ardor and success. æsthetic spirit should not be frowned In its progress, like other arts, it has upon because not mature and perhad its schools--its specific phases fect. If the straight-lined sculpture and characteristics, determined to it of Egypt is despicable by the side by the character of the age or peo- of the free Grecian art, it is not so ple by which it has been cultivated. by the side of utter barbarism. If It will not be irrelevant to our ob- it was much to rise from the stiff
Egyptian to the graceful Grecian, it passive nature, who had done her was more to wake up art from the best to mold her features into smiles dead sleep of barbarism, and give it of ease and grace, is scraped and real although immature life.
shorn and sliced under the hard Illustrations of the geometric style rule of level and plummet, till she of landscape, are found every where literally gives up the ghost-is rein the first awakenings of taste. duced to mere unexpressive matter. The traveler in France meets it at Art has triumphed over nature, inevery turn. In city and in country deed; but in so doing has destroyed alike, in garden and park, orchard itself. Instead of living, expressive and forest, we find nothing but art, it has become spiritless artifice. straight lines. The magnificent en- Free invention, the true soul of art, trance into the city of Paris, and its has given place to mere mathematicopy, the entrance into Milan in cal formulas; and ingenious execuLombardy—the bold conception and tion has become mere mechanical work of Napoleon-fill every mind skill, the drudge of models and with admiration. Here true artistic numbers. propriety demands the rectilinear It was not to be expected that the style; and hence the highest and free spirit of man would rest satistruest taste is satisfied. In Great fied with this utter annihilation of Britain, also, are to be found not un- natural expressiveness and beauty, frequent specimens of this style ;- in an endeavor only to make it more the remains, perhaps, of French in. perfect. It is not, perhaps, surprifluence on the English mind in past sing that in its effort to correct itself, ages. It would have been well if it so obviously in the wrong, it should had reached, also, some of the high fall back on the opposite extreme. roads whose serpentine course now Indeed, the Chinese or Pseudo-natuawakens in the hasting traveler oth- ral style was rationally to be exer emotions than those of æsthetic pected as the second stage in the pleasure. In our own country we progress and development of the find it every where in place and out art. The mechanical stiffness of of place. It is not seldom in place; the rectilinear style, so utterly opfor, as already intimated, the geo- posed both to the character of the metric style of landscape is some. material of the art-living nature, times required by true principles of -and also to the character of the taste. Order, regularity, system, sentiments for the most part to be are the first principles of city life; expressed by it, naturally drove men and these are expressed properly in their dissatisfaction with it, to the and naturally in rectilinear forms. closest imitation possible of irreguMany of our towns are thus appro. lar nature. The compass and the priately and beautifully laid out and chain were now rejected. Every decorated. But we find this style, thing was to be done as it should also, in places altogether unmeet. happen, just as it was supposed to An infantile taste, dissatisfied with take place in nature. At least, nathe absence of all art, and yet in- ture was to be imitated as exactly as capable of rising to the true and per- possible; and the standard of perfect, reaches the first stage only, and fection in the art was the utter conis content. It has no conception of cealment of all art. The Chinese any higher, and of course does not carried out the principles of this seek it nor miss it. Hence every style to the farthest extent and most where, we find alike, yard and gar. consistently. The landscape, under den, cemetery and common, all laid the hands of the artist, was to be a off by rod and chain. Fences, trees, perfect miniature of the natural shrubs, walks, all range ; and poor, world. There were to be rivers
and lakes and grottoes and valleys should dictate. In fact, the ex.
tensive advocacy and patronage. There was much that was plausi- Even Kent, the parent of the mod. ble in this view of the art of land. ern English landscape, with all his scape. It shunned the repugnant high training as an artist, adopted it, features of the mechanical or geo with some modifications which his metrical school. It admitted of a taste as a professional painter forced show of art in the lower sense-of him unconsciously to introduce, in the indication of human ingenuity all his landscapes, and carried it out and skill. Indeed, the landscape to the last of its principles. Even created by these principles, evinced Kent was Chinese enough to set out often admirable accuracy of obser. dead trees to imitate nature. And vation and finish of execution. It Lord Kames dwells on the descrip. was, however, only the geometrical tion of the style with unconcealed eye of the practical engineer that satisfaction. Some modern writers measures accurately distances and regard it as the true art of land. angles, and the skill of the mere scape, and seem to imagine that the mechanic that works by models. only alternative of rejecting it is to
The principles of this style, more. embrace the repulsive stiffness of over, were easily applied. There the French method. was no need of plan or study of ef- The reasoning by which the the. fect. The whole work was to pro- ory is supported need not be se ceed hap-hazard—precisely after the verely investigated in order that its supposed course of nature. Seeds sophistry and fallaciousness should of future shrubs and trees were to be discovered. It has precisely the be dropped just where it was most plausibility and conclusiveness, and convenient at the time to dispose of no more, of that of the musical them. Enclosures could be made dreamer who, setting out with the any where and in any shape. Groves, position that all harmony of sweet orchards, streams, every thing, were sounds is in nature, should hence to be disposed as the merest chance conclude at once that the only true
way of producing it by man is to in the geometric school, the landcongregate all sound-uttering things scape was conceived and planned in the natural world, and by force from its outlines on paper as laid off or persuasion put all together on one by scale and dividers; in the Chigrand musical effort: and the effect nese, plans were all laid aside, and of this Chinese art of landscape on the landscape grew up in all the a truly refined taste, is much the freedom and unconstraint of unconsame that we might imagine the ef. scious nature, or what amounted to fect to be on a well-harmonized ear the same, nature was the copy and of such a burst and swell of utier. the landscape was the miniature ; ance from all that is noise-making now the landscape was conceived in the living and material universe. and planned, noi from maps nor
The transition from this method from the actual world, but from the to the picturesque or modern Eng. imagined representation in color and lish was easy and natural. It was in crayon. At first straight lines readily seen and felt that not all of alone were to rule, then no lines at nature was beautiful; at least that all, at least none imaginary or artithe grand and lovely of the great ficial, and now the lines of perspecactual world could not be daguer. tive, light and shade, and harmo. reotyped into a garden. The idea nious coloring. The guide and of expression was now fully de- rule was simply harmonious effect. veloped ; and there was no danger While the map-like precision, the of falling back upon the unexpress. stiffness and leanness of the rectiiveness of the rectilinear style. Na. linear school, gave place to a pictuture was not to be utterly destroyed resque richness and variety, the conin landscape, nor yet servilely copied trasts and surprises in which the in her mere outward dress, and that Chinese delighted also gave way to by fragments and rents. The study that harmonious composition, which of nature had discovered that she is a first and indispensable charachad a voice by which she could reach teristic of true art. the heart, and that the way to feel This style may be denominated the true force of her varied tones, the modern English, to distinguish was not to crowd all her utterances it from that which prevailed in together, and thus turn what was Great Britain before the times of sweet and harmonious by itself into Knight and Price; or the Pictuan element of harsh discord; but to resque, as indicating the point from search out her most perfect individ. which the view of the art is taken, val harmonies, and transfer them and from which it is judged. It is where their effect could be freely the style now generally recognized experienced. Claude Lorraine and by the numerous writers on the art, the two Possinos had shown how and by most of the professed artists the harmonies of the natural world in landscape. One of the latest could be displayed on canvas ;—not and best writers of this school, is by exact, servile imitation of any Mr. Downing; whose works, every one natural scene, but by combina. where characterized by a refined tion of what was perfect and lovely taste and sound judgment, have as found feature by feature, in die greatly contributed to the improve. verse scenes ; and the art of land. ment of landscape in this country, scape, now, for the first time, ad. and are every where justly esteem. vancing into the field of true art, ta. ed of the highest authority. The king its measure and its rule from following extracts from his leading the canvas, demanded congruous work on this subject, exhibit in brief combination, and required all to be the conception of the art as now for subservient to harmonious effect: the most part entertained here and