Landscape and the picturesque

Changing attitude to landscape

Landscape began to be seen in a new way during the eighteenth Mountain scenery, by Pabloqp20, available through Creative Commonscentury.  Descriptions of landscape were used to create atmosphere and drama. Mountains had previously been seen as dangerous and frightening places, avoided by all but the most courageous travellers. Ideas of beauty were changing, however, and a taste was developing for remote, dangerous and awe-inspiring locations, which aroused sublime feelings.

A good example may be found in Frankenstein where there are a number of notable words and phrases to describe the mountains and their effect on the protagonist:

  • ‘tremendous', ‘awful and majestic', ‘solitary grandeur' and ‘this wonderful and stupendous scene' suggest power, strength, immensity and a sense of fear aroused by mountains;

  • ‘terrifically desolate', ‘sombre' and ‘an air of severity' emphasize the emptiness and sadness of the setting, but not in a negative way;

  • ‘sublime ecstacy', ‘wings to the soul', ‘solemnizing' and ‘melancholy impression' suggest that the mountains can exert an influence which is similar to religious feelings and can change or reflect the individual's mood.

Other natural phenomena, such as mist, wind and shadow and the difficult terrain, add to the attractions of the scene for the romantic sensibility: sights which were irregular, changeable and potentially dangerous began to be valued above those which were static and perfect.

The Romantic view of the picturesque

As opportunities for travel increased during the eighteenth century, a taste for rural scenery began to develop, encouraged by the work of painters who represented scenes of nature, preferably both wild and remote. There was a cult of the picturesque and the owners of large houses and estates began to employ a new kind of landscape gardeners who specialised in creating gardens that looked ‘wild' and ‘natural', often including waterfalls, miniature rocky crags and fake ruins.

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