Keynote presenter: Dr. Laura Mayer

Title: A Legacy in Landscape: the aesthetic minimalism of Lancelot Capability Brown

Abstract: An exploration of how the language of taste weaved its way through the design revolutions of the eighteenth-century English garden, restructuring social hierarchies and re-writing the landscape. Laura takes us on a brief journey – beginning with the contrived, classically-laced Arcadian layout, through the stylistic free-for-alls of the mid-century Rococo garden – and culminating in the landscape minimalism of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

Brown’s lasting vision for an idealised England continues to frame our perceptions of the natural landscape. It came as a response to the taste for artifice, and this presentation will concentrate on his groundbreaking aesthetics. Brown’s style evolved from the twin principles of comfort and elegance, or in his own words, it embodied ‘all the elegance and all the comforts that mankind wants in the Country’. His landscapes needed to provide for the practical needs of a great estate, but above all they were to appear seamless and graceful. By stripping an estate back to three basic forms – serpentine lakes, bare lawns and informal planting – Laura reveals how Brown’s designs superseded anything that had come before them, and dominated garden design completely.

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