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Case ten

Uvedale Price, An essay on the picturesque. London: J. Robson, 1796DeBeer Eb/1796/P
Uvedale Price, An essay on the picturesque. London: J. Robson, 1796
DeBeer Eb/1796/P

The picturesque style

Although Sir Uvedale Price (1747-1829) cannot be described as a writer of gardening manuals, his theoretical contributions to the debate over what constituted a ‘picturesque' landscape greatly influenced practising landscape gardeners. His Essays on the Picturesque (1796) were a reaction to the transformations by ‘Capability' Brown and his imitators of many country estates into smooth undulating stretches of grass, belts of trees and serpentine lakes. Price considered these impoverished and disfigured and set about defining ‘picturesque' as distinct from Burke's categories of the ‘beautiful' and the ‘sublime'.

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Price shared this dislike with his neighbour, Richard Payne Knight (1754-1824), who expressed his views in a long poem, The Landscape (1794), which he dedicated to Price, and then in an essay entitled An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste (1805). Knight desired detail and mystery in landscapes, urging a return to ‘moss-grown terraces', mazes, avenues of yews and ancient buildings and trees. This double page illustration was intended to sway viewers towards the romantic picturesque style.

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