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Landscape Hints
Discovered recently are these digitized before-and-after landscape illustrations by Humphry Repton, the prolific and influential English landscape designer of the 18th and 19th centuries, taken from what must be the only complete online facsimile of his important texts.

That book, with the wonderfully wordy title of Sketches and hints on landscape gardening : collected from designs and observations now in the possession of the different noblemen and gentlemen, for whose use they were originally made : the whole tending to establish fixed principles in the art of laying out ground, published in 1794, can be found at the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.

Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton

Flip over a flap and a new landscape paradigm just might appear.

Writes gardenhistorygirl — who first alerted us to their online presence:

Long before cable TV popularized instant makeovers of houses, gardens, wardrobes, bodies and souls, Humphrey Repton knew the power of the 'before' and 'after'. His famous Red Books were presentation sketches for his potential clients; lovingly detailed watercolors with flaps that lifted or swept to the side to show in turn the existing landscape and how he proposed to improve it. They are still treasured in museums, national and municipal properties, and private homes across England.


More before-and-after landscapes follow.

Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton

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Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton

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Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton

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Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton

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Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton

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Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton

A quick word about these two images, for they are hilarious. The landscape alteration here does not seem to involve any physical changes but rather just the addition of livestock — farm animals as decorative elements, living sculptures even, transforming the English countryside into a mythical Romantic idyll.

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Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton

Or you add some sheep.

One wonders if the direct descendant of this pastoral tradition is the current vogue of visualizing landscapes adaptively reused for the coming climate-changed, post-oil, post-water world. And here we're thinking of Farmadelphia, Chicken Wing, Animal Messaging Service, etc. — landscapes which are populated by a new breed of Henry David Thoreaus.

Flip over the digital flap and you find Romantic hero-ecologists practicing an imagined earlier sustainable way of life adopted for an aestheticized vision of the future.

4 COMMENTS —
  • arcady
  • March 20, 2008 at 12:13:00 PM CDT
  • "Or you add some sheep..."


    And in 1747 Horace Walpole would write from Strawberry Hill than he had "some Turkish sheep and two cows, all studied in their colors for becoming the view". He apparently also tied bows about their necks in view-becoming colors. But then one would expect no less from a man who liked to answer the door wearing a cravat carved by Grinling Gibbons.

    Thanks for the link!


  • Tammy
  • March 20, 2008 at 6:50:00 PM CDT
  • this just made my day - love the livestock additions.


  • Plinius
  • March 24, 2008 at 2:56:00 PM CDT
  • Good spot, Arcady. There's a memorable Repton quote in John Brewer's 'The Pleasures of the Imagination' (p629). Repton said that landscape was about "appropriation... that charm which only belongs to ownership, the exclusive right of enjoyment, with the power of refusing that others should share our pleasure." He didn't mince his words, did he?!


  • Matthew Franklin
  • April 25, 2008 at 9:48:00 AM CDT
  • I remember looking at these for my Architecture Diploma. I was trying to landscape a disused bomb store.

    I thought the ideas behind Repton's presentation of 'before and after' was wonderful especialy considering the age of the pictures.

    It's nice to see them again and they show how valid landscape and the environment were then and still are today.

    Many thanks


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