The recognition of art, as Loudon justly observes, is a first principle in Landscape Gardening, as in all other arts; and those of its professors have erred, who supposed that the object of this art is merely to produce a fac-simile of nature, that could not be distinguished from a wild scene. But we contend that this principle may be fully attained with either expression — the picturesque cottage being as well a work of art as the classic villa; its baskets, and seats of rustic work, indicating the hand of man as well as the marble vase and balustrade; and a walk, sometimes nar-row and crooked, is as certainly recognized as man's work, as one always regular and flowing. Foreign trees of picturesque growth are as readily obtained as those of beautiful forms. The recognition of art is, therefore, always apparent in both modes. The evidences are indeed stronger and more multiplied in the careful polish of the Beautiful landscape,* and hence many prefer this species of landscape, not, as it deserves to be preferred, because it displays the most beautiful and perfect ideas in its outlines, the forms of its trees, and all that enters into its composition, but chiefly because it also is marked by that careful polish, and that completeness, which imply the expenditure of money, which they so well know how to value.
If we declare that the Beautiful is the more perfect expression in landscape, we shall be called upon to explain why the Picturesque is so much more attractive to many minds. This, we conceive, is owing partly to the imperfection of our natures by which most of us sympathize more with that in which the struggle between spirit and matter is most apparent, than with that in which the union is harmonious and complete; and partly because from the comparative rarity of highly picturesque landscape, it affects us more forcibly when brought into contrast with our daily life. Artists, we imagine, find somewhat of the same pleasure in studying wild landscape, where the very rocks and trees seem to struggle with the elements for foothold, that they do in contemplating the phases of the passions and instincts of human and animal life. The manifestation of power is to many minds far more captivating than that of beauty.
* The beau ideal in Landscape Gardening, as a fine art, appears to us to be embraced in the creation of scenery full of expression, as the beautiful or picturesque, the materials of which are, to a certain extent, different from those in wild nature, being composed of the floral and arboricultural riches of all climates, as far as possible; uniting in the same scene, a richness and a variety never to be found in any one portion of nature; — a scene characterized as a work of art, by the variety of the materials, as foreign trees, plants, etc., and by the polish and keeping of the grounds in the natural style, as distinctly as by the uniform and symmetrical arrangement in the ancient style. — A. J. D.
Into this definition of the natural style Mr. Downing condenses his whole philosophy. It is a curious and interesting definition. Those who would compare it with other views may consult Waugh's "The Natural Style in Landscape Gardening," Chapter I.
All who enjoy the charms of Landscape Gardening, may perhaps be divided into three classes: those who have arrived only at certain primitive ideas of beauty which are found in regular forms and straight lines; those who in the Beautiful seek for the highest and most perfect development of the idea in the material form; and those who in the Picturesque enjoy most a certain wild and incomplete harmony between the idea and the forms in which it is expressed.
As the two latter classes embrace the whole range of modern Landscape Gardening, we shall keep distinctly in view their two governing principles — the Beautiful and the Picturesque, in treating of the practice of the art.
There are always circumstances which must exert a controlling influence over amateurs, in this country, in choosing between the two. These are, fixed locality, expense, individual preference in the style of building, and many others which readily occur to all. The great variety of attractive sites in the older parts of the country, afford an abundance of opportunity for either taste. Within the last five years, we think the Picturesque is beginning to be preferred. It has, when a suitable locality offers, great advantages for us.
The raw materials of wood, water, and surface, by the margin of many of our rivers and brooks, are at once appropriated with so much effect, and so little art, in the picturesque mode; the annual tax on the purse too is so comparatively little, and the charm so great!
While, on one hand, the residences of a country of level plains usually allow only the beauty of simple and graceful forms; the larger demesne, with its swelling hills and noble masses of wood (may we not, prospectively, say the rolling prairie too?), should always, in the hands of the man of wealth, be made to display all the breadth, variety, and harmony of both the Beautiful and the Picturesque.*
There is no surface of ground, however bare, which has not, naturally, more or less tendency to one or the other of these expressions. And the improver who detects the true character, and plants, builds, and embellishes, as he should, constantly aiming to elicit and strengthen it — will soon arrive at a far higher and more satisfactory result, than one who, in the common manner, works at random. The latter may succeed in producing pleasing grounds — he will undoubtedly add to the general beauty and tasteful appearance of the country, and we gladly accord him our thanks. But the improver who unites with pleasing forms an expression of sentiment, will affect not only the common eye, but much more powerfully, the imagination, and the refined and delicate taste.
But there are many persons with small cottage places, of little decided character, who have neither room, time nor income, to attempt the improvement of their grounds fully, after either of those two schools. How shall they render their places tasteful and agreeable, in the easiest manner? We answer, by attempting only the simple and the natural; and the unfailing way to secure this, is by employing as leading features only trees and grass. A soft verdant lawn, a few forest or ornamental trees well grouped, walks, and a few flowers, give universal pleasure; they con-lain in themselves, in fact, the basis of all our agreeable sensations in a landscape garden (natural beauty, and the recognition of art); and they are the most enduring sources of enjoyment in any place. There are no country seats in the United Stales so unsatisfactory and tasteless, as those in which, without any definite aim, everything is attempted; and a mixed jumble of discordant forms, materials, ornaments, and decorations, is assembled—-a part in one style and a bit in another, without the least feeling of unity or congruity. These rural bedlams, full of all kinds of absurdities, without a leading character or expression of any sort, cost their owners a vast deal of trouble and money, without giving a tasteful mind a shadow of the beauty which it feels at the first glimpse of a neat cottage residence, with its simple, sylvan character of well kept lawn and trees. If the latter does not rank high in the scale of Landscape Gardening as an art, it embodies much of its essence as a source of enjoyment — the production of the Beautiful in country residences.