Tag Archives: godwin

Exercise 3.1 – Reflecting on the Picturesque

Having found that the link provided in the course text is no longer available, I used Google, JSTOR, and Archive.org to provide some relevant information.

The picturesque movement gained traction during the years where hedonistic travelers moved by their own curiosity to explore other countries. Authors lead by Gilpin, wrote in a style to convey geographical knowledge gained when traveling, where they could select in advance the places and locations which were worth seeing and reflecting upon. Gilpin especially when writing in his book ‘Observations on the River Wye’ (Gilpin, 1782) viewed the picturesque as a scene where ‘Enchanting’ and elegant’. Where Gilpin was presented with a manufactured or ‘chosen’ view, he preferred the view not to be too manufactured and modern and did not like ‘regularity’ in their shape and design.

Picturesque is the third column for the communication of ideas to the viewer of a landscape. Godwin first proposed the idea of picturesque during his essays and books detailing his journeys around the British landscape. Unlike Burkes Beauty and the Sublime, picturesque was a gentler idea from the age of romanticism in art and literature. Picturesque does not have the ‘dangerous’ frisson contained within Burkes concepts but instead is a gentler, quieter concept where the scene and view are detailed and manufacturer in a way to give a pleasant warm feeling to the viewer. The picturesque landscape may have fences, gates, and buildings removed and instead an animal or farm worker inserted instead to give a sense of scale to the viewer.

In the same manner as Fay Godwin, the picturesque can be seen as ‘soft warm blankets of sentiment’ (course material p84) where the landscape is idealized in a chocolate box manner. These types of images repeatedly appear in calendars or on postcards and they give a prescribed idea of the location in an ‘unreal way’ (ibid). While these images are not social commentaries on the location they do not provide much insight into the location or any underlying social issues. Many of these images have been repeated incessantly over the years and in some cases, they no longer reflect the actual scene.

This can be seen in the case of the Scottish Highlands where a scene from the film ‘Skyfall’ was filmed; this quiet area is now regularly churned up by tourists wanting to replicate the scene from the film without understanding their own impact on the physical landscape. 

While the picturesque image is one to admire; I for one would like to capture such a scene, there is a personal feeling that the images are too clean, too manufactured, to distant from the actual landscape to provide a realistic link to the viewer, as an art student I feel that the picturesque image communicates an unreal and ideal image unlinked to the day to day existence of the view contained within the scene.


Townsend, D, 1997. The Picturesque. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Autumn, 1997), pp. 365-376.

Scaramellini, G, 1996. The picturesque and the sublime in nature and the landscape: Writing and iconography in the romantic voyaging in the Alps. Geography and Literature, Vol. 38, No. 1,, pp. 49-57.

Gilpin, W., 2005. Observations on the River Wye. Pallas Athene Arts.

The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts. 2018. 19th Century Landscape – The Pastoral, the Picturesque and the Sublime – The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts. [ONLINE] Available at: http://artmuseum.arizona.edu/events/event/19th-century-landscape-the-pastoral-the-picturesque-and-the-sublime. [Accessed 04 September 2018].

Blanton Museum of Art. 2018. American Scenery: Different Views in Hudson River School Painting – Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art. [ONLINE] Available at: http://blantonmuseum.org/exhibition/american-scenery-different-views-in-hudson-river-school-painting/. [Accessed 04 September 2018].

The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950 – Victoria and Albert Museum. 2018. The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950 – Victoria and Albert Museum. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-romantic-tradition-in-british-painting-1800-1950. [Accessed 04 September 2018]./

Art 109 Renaissance to Modern. 2018. Romantic Landscape Painting and the Sublime – Art 109 Renaissance to Modern. [ONLINE] Available at: https://art109textbook.wordpress.com/new-online-textbook-2-2/romanticism/romantic-landscape. [Accessed 04 September 2018].

Early Romantic Landscapes. 2018. Early Romantic Landscapes. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/his/CoreArt/art/romland.html. [Accessed 04 September 2018].

Tate. 2018. Art and the Sublime | Tate . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/display/art-and-sublime. [Accessed 04 September 2018].

The Guardian. 2018. Skyfall location in Scottish Highlands blighted by litter and fly-tipping | Film | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jul/18/skyfall-james-bond-location-scotland-campers-litter-fly-tipping. [Accessed 04 September 2018].