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This extraordinarily beautiful book gathers together and examines for the first time a delightful collection of English gardens rendered by artists from 1540 to the early nineteenth century, many of which are unknown. Sir Roy Strong, widely recognized for his expertise in both art history and garden history, surveys garden pictures ranging from Elizabethan miniatures to eighteenth-century alfresco conversation pieces, from suites of paintings of a single garden to amateur watercolors. He inquires into the origin of the English garden picture genre, its development prior to the invention of photography, its greatest exponents, its reliability as historical evidence of actual gardens, and its place within the larger European tradition of picturing the garden.
The English, Strong observes, were slow in picturing the reality of their gardens. Until well into the Stuart age, the garden in art served as a symbol, and only gradually did this give way to the impulse to record the facts of contemporary garden-making. In the backgrounds of portraits of Jacobean and Caroline garden owners, the garden is no longer an emblem; it becomes instead a document demonstrating the owners’ pride in their gardens made in the new Renaissance manner. By the Georgian age the garden has moved from the back to the foreground of pictures, and whole families place themselves amid the glory of their self-fashioned landscapes. Both house and garden at this point assume a separate identity, each calling for an individual record. And by the nineteenth century, the author shows, the garden detaches itself from owner and house to be recorded for its own sake, as a single image at first, and later in a series. With some 350 fully annotated illustrations, this lovely book offers a unique record of three hundred years of English gardens and what they meant to those who owned and portrayed them.
|I||Pride of Possession: Gardens in Portraits||17|
|II||A Paradise of Dainty Devices: The Emblematic Garden||85|
|III||Portrait of a Place: The Garden Picture||123|
|IV||Every Prospect Pleases: The Garden Panorama||183|
|V||Garden Picture into Landscape Painting: The Triumph of the Park||251|
Posted October 7, 2000
Half of me loves this book, half of me hates it. I am not a great fan of Roy Strong - I find him too dryly academic and very pompous and this tends to spill over into his writing. I had looked forward to the publication of this book seeing as it deals with my own particular area of expertise - that of the role of the garden in works of fine art. It is nice to see the subject finally being accorded some attention. But I was somewhat disappointed that Sir Roy has missed a golden opportunity. There are many, many famous and beautiful paintings in which gardens feature prominently. But this book deals in the majority with tiny fragments of gardens glimpsed behind portraits of rather obscure people. And the timescale of the book is limiting - from 16th to 18th century - and to gardens in England only. There is a very good book by Anthony Huxley called 'The Painted Garden' which looks at gardens across the world and throughout time, and I was expecting Sir Roy's book to be an expanded and more in depth version of this. But, as with all his books, it is couched in a pedantic and overly academic style which doesnt make for easy reading. I love the book because it deals with a very neglected area of garden history, but hate it with just as much passion because of the self congratulatory way it is written and for the missed opportunities it represents.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.