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  Picturesque was an 18th-century concept in Western art, referring to scenes which occupy the mid-ground between the ‘ideal’ landscapes of the 17th century and the ‘sublime’ landscapes of Romanticism. The leading advocate of the picturesque, William Gilpin, in his Three Essays on the Picturesque (1792), defines it as that which stimulates the imagination to reverie or admiration. To call a landscape ‘picturesque’ was to mean that it had picturesque potential, and many artists used a Claude glass to concentrate the picturesque qualities under observation. In an important departure for English landscape painting, Uvedale Price, in his Essay on the Picturesque (1794), argued that consideration of the picturesque would bring landscape painting back to a celebration of nature after its involvement with the academic ‘ideal’. Outside the English context, Piranesi\'s vedula (‘view’) of the ruins of antique Rome obviously calls upon qualities of the picturesque.

The idea of the picturesque influenced not only painting, but also architecture and most notably landscape gardening. In the debates between Richard Payne Knight (1750 - 1824) and , Uvedale Price (1747 - 1829), two theorists of landscape gardening, ‘The Picturesque’ was defined as a category of aesthetics between the Beautiful (which was made of attractive parts) and The Sublime (which induced a feeling of awe). The Picturesque was distinguished by wild ruggedness and irregularity. In landscape gardening this is characterized by variety in texture, the irregular planting of trees in imitation of untrained nature, and in architecture by asymmetry, variety of form and texture, which often found the form of asymmetrical sham castles, with otherwise classical interiors, as well as cottages with the highly decorative features of almost fairy-tale rustic dwellings. PD MG JM



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