Nature and Art
Nederlandse tuin- en landschapsarchitectuur 1650-1740
Dutch garden and landscape architecture 1650-1740
During the Renaissance, nature was seen as a book crammed with moral and religious lessons. Those with the right approach could read nature like the Bible. Nature was created by God, and man, for his part, can create nature in the form of gardens. Moreover, the landscape designer can fill gardens, that is, cultivated nature, with hidden messages. The ideal is a perfect balance between nature and nurture, between carefully planned groups of trees, shrubs, flowerbeds, paths and ponds on the one hand, and such artefacts as statues, urns, fountains and grottos on the other.
In Nature and Art Erik de Jong has written an erudite account of the development of Dutch garden and landscape architecture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He reveals how thoughts about nature in the raw, and its transformation into a carefully geometrically designed garden, were bound up with developments in politics, religion and literature. In addition, he examines the links between gardens and painting and sculpture and such practical disciplines as architecture, perspective, mathematics and botany.
In the Netherlands, city regents and well-to-do burghers laid out gardens, away from the city centre, which raised their status and even, in the case of princes, their political power. In addition, gardens had a higher purpose. In them, ideas from the Bible and from classical authors could be combined and given concrete expression. And so their fortunate owners could gain familiarity with nature while reflecting on God, the Creation, and man’s place in it.
The art of gardening flowered in the Netherlands during the Golden Age and spread to Germany, Scandinavia, Russia and England. Alongside the gardens of princes and regents were of course botanical gardens meant for the researches and education of doctors, apothecaries and surgeons. In this splendid study, the author has used a wealth of material, ranging from maps, topographical prints and paintings, to travel accounts, horticultural pamphlets and paeans of praise to nature and gardens.