Observations, Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty


Observations, Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty


William Gilpin’s Observations, Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty instructed readers in how to enjoy the landscapes of England’s Lake District, and was illustrated with aquatints (a type of etching) based on Gilpin's drawings. Gilpin encouraged his readers to create sketches from nature and to tweak what they saw in order to create picturesque drawings. Gilpin described the picturesque as a type of view that offered a middleground between the peacefulness of a beautiful landscape and the thrill of a sublime landscape

Gilpin’s popularization of sketching picturesque scenery played a role in William Henry Fox Talbot's discovery of photography. It was when he was sketching the picturesque landscape of Italy that Talbot grew frustrated, and began imagining how much easier life could be if nature could just imprint itself onto a piece of paper.

Many of the landscape views that would be created photographically in the centuries to come followed the formula of
picturesque scenery popularized by Gilpin. Views of Portree offers an excellent example; some of its views seem to come straight out of Gilpin's sketchbooks. Some albums and souvenir books focus on sublime landscapes, while others include both conventions side by side
A full scan of Gilpin’s book is available through the Internet Archive.


William Gilpin (author and artist)


22.0 x 12.3 cm
DA 620 G49 1792


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William Gilpin (author and artist), “Observations, Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty,” Bruce Peel Special Collections Library Online Exhibits, accessed May 31, 2023, https://omeka.library.ualberta.ca/items/show/3052.

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