“Claude Lorrain offered England, one hundred years after his death, a vision of the eighteenth century as the country’s second golden age, and Capability Brown as its midwife.”
The Arcadian Landscapes of Claude Lorrain and their Influence in the Development of the English Country House Garden.
Claude Lorrain’s Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Sylvia (1682) narrates the story from Virgil’s The Aeniad. The painting’s allusions to classical literature, the representation of a “Golden Age” through the arcadian iconography of classical buildings, water features and lush vegetation in a pastoral setting were typical of the artist’s work. Claude Lorrain’s landscapes appealed to eighteenth-century British Grand Tourists because of the paintings’ strong association with favourite destinations on the Grand Tour – the Campagna region outside Rome and the historic town of Tivoli.
Claude’s work was collected with great enthusiasm by the British elite returning from their Continental tour. The arcadian landscape tradition became all the “rage” in late eighteenth-century Britain, when a more confident Britain was entering her own “Golden Age.” It was in the country house parks established by the British aristocracy that the pastoral tradition found its most ardent expression. Influenced by Claude’s Liber Veritas, William Kent and his pupil ‘Capability’ Brown were commissioned to replace the formal garden designs at the great country houses with more naturalistic, informal gardens that included features from Claude’s paintings.
Twenty-seven books, published between 1984 and 2016, were used for this dissertation; only one referred to slavery and colonialism as the origin of the wealth needed for the Grand Tour and the development of the Country House and gardens. By addressing the origin of funding, this dissertation seeks to redress a neglected aspect of history.