Landscape Gardens by Sarah Rutherford

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Landscape Gardens by Sarah Rutherford

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Category: Art
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An introduction to landscape gardens, their creators and locations. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 64 Date: September 2017
Publisher: Amberley
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1445669939

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My first experience of a big garden was Versailles as a teenager and whilst I was impressed, I didn't really like it. I felt stifled and strangely underwhelmed by the flatness of it all. As luck would have it I then saw Hampton Court and it was official: I was off big gardens. It would be many years before I revised my opinion. On a trip to Harewood House it was too hot a day to be corralled into the house, so I wandered the gardens and found they were delightful. I felt uplifted. Then a cricket match at Stowe gave me the opportunity to walk the grounds for over an hour. I was completely won over and a devotee of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Sarah Rutherford's Landscape Gardens was an opportunity to put him in context.

Between about 1710 and 1720 we saw the end of the formal garden. In many ways it was a logical step forward: on the continent there was usually sufficient flat ground to accommodate the major formal garden, but it wasn't always the case in Britain and the move to the landscape style grew in Georgian Britain and Ireland. These were gardens only in the broadest sense, ornamental but natural looking and surrounding the country house. They were gardens as nature would have done it, only better, making use of the natural lines and hills. The main components were water, grass and trees. To some extent gardeners were replaced by sheep and cattle who kept down the vast expanses of grass.

The gardens might look natural but they were, of course, man made to a great extent and the finished product depended on the skill and vision of the designer. Sarah Rutherford guides us through the work of the most prominent amongst them. Charles Bridgeman spanned the formal and the landscape garden as he started to soften the harder lines of the formal gardens and 'borrowed' views from beyond the garden. The trend was carried on by Yorkshireman William Kent, although he was still influenced by the classical buildings of Italy. Like Bridgeman his work would be seen at Stowe: it was not unusual for him to rework Bridgeman's gardens.

The landscape garden really came into its own from 1750 onwards. Some gardens were designed by their owners - such as Henry Hoare who designed Stourhead in Wiltshire - but it would be Capability Brown whose work stood out with world class designs in places such as Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire after his first major position at Stowe.

This is a slim book, but Rutherford packs in a lot of information delivered in a chatty, readable form. You're able to put the gardens and their designers in context. There's a helpful list of further reading and web resources along with a very tempting list of gardens to visit. There's a liberal supply of colour images which are worth the covedr price of the book on their own.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeal and you'd like to know more about the man I believe was the greatest gardener of all times we can recommend Lancelot 'Capability' Brown: The Omnipotent Magician 1716-1783 by Jane Brown.

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