Online Exhibits@Yale

Moving Earth: ‘Capability’ Brown, Humphry Repton and the Creation of the English Landscape

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As one of England’s greatest aesthetic achievements, the English landscape garden has become a well-known and defining characteristic of the country. With large sweeping expanses of lush green fields, groupings of trees, winding paths, and serpentine-shaped rivers and lakes, the English landscape appears as an ideal form of nature; it is, however, an expertly crafted construct. Countless hours of moving and reconstructing vast volumes of earth, water, trees and shrubbery demonstrate what can be achieved when combined with careful planning, design and an eye towards nature. Moving Earth explores the creation of the English Landscape through the advent of landscape gardening and the pioneering work of Capability Brown and Humphry Repton.

This exhibition opens with examples of early English formal gardens comprised of geometrical patterns, topiaries, and planted parterres and examines the return to nature as seen through literary criticisms and notions from Addison and Pope. The focus of Moving Earth is on the prolific landscape gardener, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and his successor Humphry Repton. To fully consider the development of landscape in Georgian England the exhibition highlights architects, such as William Kent and Sir John Vanbrugh, as well the ‘Picturesque’ controversy and criticisms from Richard Payne Knight, Uvedale Price, and William Gilpin, that surrounded this emerging field.

Presented prominently throughout this exhibition are materials from the Yale Center for British Art, including the Reference Library and Archives, and reproductions from the Rare Books and Manuscripts, Prints and Drawings, and Paintings Collections. Moving Earth showcases the extent and range of materials available for research, and the depth and scope to which these concepts, ideas, and topics can be fully examined. This exhibition features an abundance of both primary and secondary resources available at the Center that provides the foundational basis for research into British art, culture and society.


Curated by Beth Morris, Assistant Librarian, Yale Center for British Art, Reference Library and Archives