The Picturesque and Landscape Theory
Price developed his ideas with his close neighbour Richard Payne Knight, whose poem 'The Landscape' was published the same year as Price's Essay delineating his theories on "The Picturesque" as a mode of landscape.
Well before Price's Essay or Knight's poem, however, the term 'pictoresque' was used in early 18th century France to refer to a property of being 'in the style of a painter.' Pope, in his "Letter to Caryll", brought the word into English as 'picturesque' in 1712. The term was used by various English authors throughout the 18th century (cf. Oxford English Dictionary 'picturesque') before being described by Bagehot in Literary Studies (1879) as "a quality distinct from that of beauty, or sublimity, or grandeur."
For Price, the Picturesque was more specifically defined as being located between the Beautiful and the Sublime. In practical application this meant that his preferred mode of landscaping was to retain old trees, rutted paths, and textured slopes, rather than to sweep all these away in the style that had been practised by Lancelot "Capability" Brown. Price contested, for example, the obsession of "The Beautiful" with Classical and natural symmetry, arguing instead for a less formal and more asymmetrical interpretation of nature.
Price's ideas caught fire and led to much debate in artistic and literary circles: they were parodied, for example, by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey. Price republished the Essay several times, with additional material, and entered into a public debate with Humphry Repton over the latter's approach to landscape design. He similarly fell out with Payne Knight, whose theories of landscape betrayed a more esoteric attitude.
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