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The Picturesque Controversy

Classical Landscape

In the late eighteenth century the term “picturesque” described landscape painting and various types of literature, but soon evolved to describe theories underlying landscape gardening and design. “Picturesque” was soon associated with descriptive terms for variety in landscape, such as irregularity, ruggedness, bucolic, chiaroscuro, and rusticity, according to the Reverend William Gilpin in Three Essays (1792). 

The picturesque came to be situated between the sublime and the romantic, but is often difficult to categorize. The works of French painter Claude Lorrain and Italian artist Salvator Rosa became the epitome of picturesqueness visually, and the landscapes of Brown and Repton were compared and criticized for their blandness, repetitive ideas, and artificial features. Although Brown was not alive to defend or provide alternatives to these criticisms, Repton staunchly defended his predecessor, as well as his own work, against the written works of Uvedale Price and Richard Payne Knight. 

The Picturesque Controversy