Inside the Milberg Gallery: Landscape and natural scenery

Posted: Tuesday, 11 February 2020 - 2:41pm

This series highlights collections included in the exhibition, In Pursuit of the Picturesque – British Color Plate Books: 1776 to 1868, now open through March 1 (daily, noon to 6 p.m.) in the Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery.

Written by Stephen Ferguson, Associate University Librarian for External Engagement

“Picturesque” was a prized term that sparked multiple opinions around its meaning. Early contributor Humphry Repton (1752-1818) was an active and opinionated participant. Repton invented “picture gardening” or “landscape gardening” by blending ideas about artificially naturalizing land (gardening) with ideas of the landscape painter (seeking order and harmony).

He wrote, “The perfection of Landscape Gardening consists in the fullest attention to these principles Utility, Proportion, and Unity or harmony of parts to the whole.” His ideas of extended scale, continuity, and characteristic architecture and landscaping embraced the picturesque ideals. 

General View of Bayham (1803) by Humphry Repton. Hand-colored aquatint from Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening: including Some Remarks on Grecian and Gothic Architecture. Collection of Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953. Now on display in the Milberg Gallery.

 

Repton presented his ideas theatrically: a transformative scene. First seen is the Earl of Camden’s land in current use in Kent (above); but under the flap (below), one sees the land as worthy of the Earl – the forest becoming a park; the estate: a domain; the house: a palace.

Bayham without overslip

General View of Bayham (1803) by Humphry Repton. Hand-colored aquatint from Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening: including Some Remarks on Grecian and Gothic Architecture. Collection of Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953. Now on display in the Milberg Gallery.

 

Further, Repton joined and flooded streams to create a river valley. The approaching view is transformed from crops to parkland. Repton insisted the Earl’s dwelling be in character with its surroundings: gothic rather than classical. The palace was never built, but Repton’s plans for the Bayham lake and the forest woodlands were executed evidently.

Note: The In Pursuit of the Picturesque exhibition is featured online at dpul.princeton.edu.

Media contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications