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Perfection on Earth

Though the earliest English gardens were planted by Roman conquerors in the 1st century AD, the English garden as we know it today is a designed landscape style that was first developed in early 18th century England as part of the setting surrounding a grand English country house. So successful was this English innovation that it quickly spread throughout Europe, becoming the dominant gardening style, replacing the formalized, symmetrical French style of gardening – itself based on Italian Renaissance examples.

Though indebted to the earlier fashions that had reigned supreme for centuries, the newly-developed and uniquely English garden was a stylistic breakthrough, the likes of which had never before been seen in Europe. Often called “educated nature” by its proponents, this innovative English garden style offered an idealized view of nature influenced by the landscape paintings of Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin. With artificially-made lakes, planted groves of trees, mock Gothic ruins, and new classical temples and follies, one was meant to be transported to the world of an ancient, idealized past.

In this lavishly illustrated lecture historian Curt DiCamillo will discuss the development of the English landscape tradition and demonstrate why the English garden has often been called Britain’s single most important contribution to world culture.