“Picturesque” names a style in which garden designers created gardens in the image of idyllic European landscape paintings. Famous examples of these paintings were by Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorraine, who painted scenes of the Italian countryside in the 1600’s. Their art reflected changing philosophy toward nature and wilderness. This romantic style was a reaction to the stiff formality of the French style, and inspired by travelers having seen Chinese gardens.
Look for sweeping curves, naturalistic water features like lakes and rivers, and rolling hills. Ornamentation emphasizes the rustic, the Greek, and the romantic: including rough stone bridges, log benches, temples, and church ruins.
In Europe, the first gardens made in this style date from the early 1700’s. The picturesque became popular across Europe under the influence of British designers William Kent, Capability Brown, and Humphrey Repton. Repton, adapted the style to smaller gardens, making it more accessible to the middle class. Across Europe formal gardens were torn out and replaced with this style.
In 1800’s America, garden designers were drawn to the picturesque, inspired by Hudson River School painters. One of the most famous US picturesque landscapes is New York’s Central Park.
Check out the posts below for other examples of gardens inspired by the Picturesque style.