Uvedale Price Essay On The Picturesque Architecture

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Sir Uvedale Price, 1st Baronet, (born 1747—died Sept. 14, 1829, Foxley, Herefordshire, Eng.), British landscape designer and, with the writer-artist William Gilpin and Richard Payne Knight, one of the chief aestheticians of the Picturesque movement in landscaping.

Price was a wealthy country squire, Knight his friend and neighbour; both were enthusiastic amateur landscape designers and critics of the prevailing trend. The Picturesque movement was openly launched in 1794 with Knight’s didactic poem “The Landscape,” protesting the values of some established practitioners, and Price’s “An Essay on the Picturesque.”

Price was particularly contemptuous of the style popularized by the late Lancelot “Capability” Brown, who eventually came to be regarded as one of the foremost English masters of garden design. Brown’s approach was to create a simple, balanced composition, using a small number of natural elements—a grove of trees, a pond, the slight curve of a hill. Price, in contrast, favoured a profusion of detail and praised the “accidents” of nature—a withered tree, a half-submerged branch breaking the glassy surface of a pool. Brown’s designs were tranquil and relatively formal; Price’s gardens were wild, dramatic, and unkempt. Garden design being referred to at the time as “improvement of grounds,” Price was accused by his critics of “improving by neglect and accident”; Price and Knight together were scornfully called “the wild improvers.”

In his “Essay,” Price considered the Picturesque in two aspects: first as a category of aesthetic values alongside the Beautiful and the Sublime (which had already been embraced by Brown); and second, as a quality of nature per se, one that ought to be looked for in actual practice and preserved or enhanced when found. Price’s most extreme pronouncements argued that gardens should imitate landscape paintings and that the purpose of the gardener, like that of the painter, was to improve upon nature.

A lifelong Whig, Price was created a baronet in 1828.

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