Making Picturesque Public Spaces: The Lorrain Technique

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‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, buy more about it is often said. Yet, whilst there might be something in this phrase, we shouldn’t ignore that many Old Masters ceaselessly experimented to find techniques that would reliably delight viewers. Some landscape artists, for example, took this experimentation so seriously that they explicitly considered themselves scientists: John Constable declared that “Painting is a science and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature. Why, then, may not landscape painting be considered as a branch of natural philosophy [the then current name for science], of which pictures are but the experiments?” His contemporary JMW Turner added the suffix ‘P.P.’, short for ‘Professor of Perspective’ to the signature on many of his paintings. That landscape artists today do not speak in similar terms is partly due to centuries of experimentation having led to the development of a series of reliable techniques for creating pleasing pictures. Their very ease and teachability led many artists to consider the possibilities of landscape painting exhausted, and consequently to move into more untamed, challenging fields of art. A reliable body of techniques therefore exist to create pleasing landscapes, and there is surely no reason why planners of today should not apply these tried-and-tested techniques to make, quite literally, ‘picturesque’ places. This post attempts to apply one such technique to landscaping a public space. Continue reading