These images are from Fragments on the theory and practice of landscape gardening by Humphry Repton (London, 1816). Repton was England’s first professional landscape gardener, a term he coined himself. Repton and other gardeners of this period sought to shape the landscape without the outward appearance of control, creating “natural” scenery too perfect to exist in nature.
Repton’s main employment was as a design consultant for wealthy landowners throughout the English countryside, and he used his artistic and writing skills to further his career. When he sketched plans for new landscapes, Repton devised a way to make the illustrations interact with his clients by incorporating overlays which, when closed, show the current state of the property. The client could lift the flaps to see how his or her estate would look after Repton’s proposed modifications.
Although Repton took on hundreds of commissions during his thirty-year career, his writings and watercolors may be his most enduring achievements. His illustrations, along with his written commentary and explanations of his design principles, were collected and published as Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1803) and Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1816).
The first landscape designers were all painters first. William Kent, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (who was called ‘Capability’ because he would famously tell his landed clients their estates had great ‘capability’ for landscape improvement), and of course Humphry Repton are famous examples of the first line of these landscape gardeners or ‘paysagiste’ (literally a landscaper in French).
They made the transition of painting a wonderful, picturesque landscape to actually constructing these fantasies for a well to do landowners, something England was not short of during the Industrial Revolution. They could include countless follies ranging from massive Chinese Pagoda’s and Arabian tents to working vulcano’s (without the lava of course).
The style influenced countless garden architects and as a result became the new hip thing and many ‘French’ baroque gardens were redesigned as a landscape garden (which they of course had the ‘capability’ for)