The Landscaped Park

The Landscaped Park

The landscaped park was a British style which would influence gardens throughout Europe from the 18th century onwards.

The style at a glance:

  • Informal layout designed as a classical Arcadia
  • Lakes created to reflect the landscape as well as for recreation
  • Cascades add drama and animation to the scene
  • Temples, grottoes and follies doubled up as tea rooms, and viewing towers
  • Clumps and shelter belts to provide shelter and privacy to the park
  • Shrubberies planted with the newly introduced exotics from abroad
  • The Ha-ha, an invisible boundary to keep livestock away from the house
  • Circuit walks taking you on a tour around the park

It drew inspiration from paintings of landscapes by Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin. The new style that became known as the English garden was invented by landscape designers William Kent and Charles Bridgeman, working for wealthy patrons, including Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham, Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, and banker Henry Hoare; men who had large country estates, were members of the anti-royalist Whig Party, had classical educations, were patrons of the arts, and had taken the Grand Tour to Italy, where they had seen the Roman ruins and Italian landscapes they reproduced in their gardens.
William Kent (1685–1748) was an architect, painter and furniture designer who introduced Palladian style architecture to England. Kent’s inspiration came from Palladio’s buildings in the Veneto and the landscapes and ruins around Rome—he lived in Italy from 1709 to 1719, and brought back many drawings of antique architecture and landscapes. His gardens were designed to complement the Palladian architecture of the houses he built. Charles Bridgeman (1690–1738) was the son of a gardener and an experienced horticulturist, who became the Royal Gardener for Queen Anne and Prince George of Denmark, responsible for tending and redesigning the royal gardens at Windsor, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, St. James’s Park and Hyde Park. He collaborated with Kent on several major gardens, providing the botanical expertise which allowed Kent to realise his architectural visions.

Kent created one of the first true English landscape gardens at Chiswick House for Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington. The first gardens that he laid out between 1724 and 1733 had many formal elements of a Garden à la française, including alleys forming a trident and canals, but they also featured something novel: a picturesque recreation of an Ionic temple set in a theatre of trees. Between 1733 and 1736, he redesigned the garden, adding lawns sloping down to the edge of the river and a small cascade. For the first time the form of a garden was inspired not by architecture, but by an idealised version of nature.

Stowe, in Buckinghamshire, (1730–1738), was an even more radical departure from the formal French garden. In the early 18th century, Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham, had commissioned Charles Bridgeman to design a formal garden, with architectural decorations by John Vanbrugh. Bridgeman’s design included an octagonal lake and a Rotunda (1720–21) designed by Vanbrugh Stowe is frequently used as a setting for TV dramas and films. Here are just a few scenes filmed at Stowe Park:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrations: Ryan O’Neal in Barry Lyndon (1975), Keira Knightly in Pride and Prejudice (2005),
Film director, Amma-Asante and Star Gugu Mbatha-Raw filming Belle (2013).

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

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Mary Moser – Founding Member of London’s Royal Academy

Mary Moser – Founding Member of London’s Royal Academy

Women in Art

Mary Moser (1744-1819) was “one of the most celebrated women in art in 18th-century Britain,” yet today she’s mostly overlooked.

Along with Angelica Kauffmann, Mary Moser was one of only two female founding members of 36 member Royal Academy.

It would be more than 115 years until the next woman, Dame Laura Knight, would be invited to become the next female member.

Mary Moser by George Romney

Moser specialised in flower-painting, which was at the bottom of the hierarchy of academic art, but she was ambitious for professional standing. In this portrait, which shows her at work on an oil painting, she is showing that she wanted to be taken seriously. Moser is placing herself on a par with men who had themselves painted at their easels, dressed in their painter’s robes. She shows that she understands it refers to a tradition of portraits of male artists dating back to the Renaissance.

At the time most male artists asserted their academic status by stressing the intellectual rather than the technical aspects of their work, the oil palette that Moser holds also distinguishes her from the many women amateurs who practised flower-painting using the less taxing medium of watercolour.

The close focus, dramatic colours and sidelong glance also emphasised that her professional status did not need to compromise her femininity.

Moser, Mary; Vase of Flowers; The Fitzwilliam Museum.

Moser’s flower paintings are less a celebration of the wonders of God’s creation as a careful observation of nature. Flowers were a favourite subject as far as consumers were concerned. London printsellers sold countless decorative flower prints, depicting them in baskets, vases, or tied in bouquets. Flower art was also used in pattern books providing templates for ladies to copy for embroidery or for glass painting. Drawings of flowers were also used for Japan work and were copied onto undecorated white china. By the latter part of the eighteenth century, drawing masters specialising in teaching this type of art were much in demand, and many women who had given up flower painting on their marriage found it a useful means of financial support, but it was always uncredited.

Due in part to her father’s connections and patronage by members of the royal family, Moser received several commissions from King George and Queen Charlotte. The most prestigious and famous of those commissions was a floral decorative scheme for the Frogmore House in the 1790s. The “prestigious and lucrative commission” Moser was paid £900, which made Moser “the envy of her male colleagues.” It was also one of her last professional works, as she retired upon her marriage in 1793.

She married remarkably late in life when she was 49 years old. The man she chose was Hugh Lloyd. However, she did not pack up her paint box and retire to the country. But the marriage did not live up to her expectations, and within six months she was on a sketching tour of Europe with miniaturist Richard Cosway.

Cosway left his Anglo-Italian artist wife Maria ho was 20 years Moser’s junior and chose to keep company with Moser. Cosway was a “well known as a libertine and commonly described as resembling a monkey.” The film Jefferson in Paris, which dramatises Maria Cosway’s own romance with the future American President Thomas Jefferson Richard Cosway was portrayed as effeminate, but it seems he was anything but in bed. His diary entries for the time he spent with Mary Moser describe a hot and steamy affair.

Richard Cosway – Self Portrait

Mary Moser’s death in 1819 marked the start of a long stretch of time when, despite no explicit ban, women remained excluded from the Academy.

Lady Elizabeth Butler, renowned at the time for her paintings that reported the realities of the Crimean War, came close to becoming a member in 1871 but according to committee reports, she missed out by a mere one vote.

Image result for lady elizabeth butler

Lady Elizabeth ButlerIt wasn’t until 1936 that Dame Laura Knight became the next woman to be fully elected as an Academician, and although having previously had her work rejected by the Academy on grounds of embarrassing the art establishment with what a critic described as “vulgar” and “obviously an exercise” for a self-portrait, she helped pave the way for greater recognition of women in the arts and the continuation of female membership at the Academy.

Image result for dame laura knight art

Dame Laura Knight

 

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle

Amazon. Click here to get your copy.

Sinclair is set in the London Borough of Southward, the Yorkshire town of Beverley and in Paris and Edinburgh in the late 1780s. Strong female leads include the widow Charlotte Leadam and the farmer’s daughter Lucy Leadam. Sinclair is a story of love, loss and redemption. Prodigal son James Sinclair is transformed by his experience of being shipwrecked on the way to India to make his fortune. Obstacles to love and happiness include ambition, conflict with a God, temptation and betrayal. Remorse brings restitution and recovery. Sinclair is an extraordinary book. It will immerse you in the world of 18th century London where the rich and the poor are treated with kindness and compassion by this passionate Scottish doctor and his widowed landlady, the owner of the apothecary shop in Tooley Street.  Sinclair is filled with twists and tragedies, but it will leave you feeling good.

 

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Against the Grain – 18th Century British Art

Maria Cosway the Artist who Captured the Heart of Thomas Jefferson

Giovanna Bassi – Ballet Dancer, Mother and Spy

Giovanna Bassi – Ballet Dancer, Mother and Spy

The Royal Swedish Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in Europe. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, King Gustav III founded the ballet in 1773 as a part of his project to bring his kingdom to the fore in European culture. Gustav III wanted to create Swedish ballet dancers and to do this he encouraged foreign dancers to live and work in Sweden and Giovanna Bassi (1762–1834), an Italian trained ballet dancer, responded to the king’s request as her brother; the architect Carlo Bassi (1772–1840); was already living there.

Giovanna who had trained in Italy moved to Paris where she was the student of Jean Dauberval the creator of La Fille Mal Gardée, one of the most enduring and popular works of the ballet repertoire today. Giovanna became a star of the Paris Opera then in 1783, at the age 19, she moved to Sweden.

Her technique was entirely Italian; she was described as noble with beautiful black hair.  At her debut in Stockholm, the applause was said to loud enough “to outdo the thunder”, and caused what was to be referred to as the “Bassi fever” to begin. She danced many roles and gave dancing classes for girls from the upper classes, and occasionally performed as an actor at the French Theatre. All this work made Giovanna a very wealthy woman.

She began an affair with one of the king’s close friends, Adolf, Count Munck. Munck was a notorious womaniser, the king even asked him to give sex lessons so that he could consummate his marriage to Sophia Magdalena of Denmark. Munck himself writes in his written account, which is preserved at the National Archives of Sweden, that in order to succeed, he was obliged to touch them both physically. This “aid” resulted in the birth of the future King Gustav IV  in 1778. The story of baby Gustav’s conception did not however remain private and scandal erupted with rumours circulating that Munck was either the child’s father or the lover of both the king and queen. Accusations from the political opposition were circulating as late as 1786 and in 1789 there were still claims that the King had asked Munck to make the Queen pregnant.

Bassi had a daughter, Johanna Fredrika, by Munck in 1787; she was 25 and he was 38. Bassi’s daughter was said to have a strong resemblance to baby Gustav so Munck might have been his father after all. Munck was forced to leave Sweden 1792 when Gustav III died, he was too tainted with scandal and the rumours about the Regent’s parentage just would not go away. Bassi left the Swedish Ballet and followed him to Rome where she expected him to formally acknowledge their daughter and to marry her. He did neither.

During her stay in Italy, she received large sums of money from the Swedish government to spy on their ambassador Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt in Naples who was courting the support of Catherine the Great for a military intervention to change the Swedish government. With Bassi’s help the plot was discovered. The Swedes sent a man-of-war to Naples to seize him but he escaped with the help of the exiled British Queen Caroline and fled to Russia. At home, he was condemned to death as a traitor and his property confiscated. His mistress, Magdalena Rudenschöld, was judged for complicity and pilloried on the Riddarhus Square before being imprisoned for two years in Stockholm.

Bassi returned to Sweden in 1794 and re-entered the Swedish Ballet, but she was only to remain there for a short while. Munck later made her daughter a beneficiary in his will, but Bassi refused to accept it and denied Munck’s claim on her daughter. She made her break with Munck final in 1794, when she married the German-Swedish merchant Peter Hinrik Schön (1765–1821) following her last performance. In her marriage contract, Bassi stipulated that her spouse should acknowledge her daughter with Munck as his, and that her great fortune should remain her personal and sole property. Schön was bankrupt at the time of the marriage, but was afterwards able to buy Ekholmsnäs Manor at Lidingö; an island in the inner Stockholm archipelago, northeast of Stockholm; where Bassi spent the rest of her life as a business woman, attending to her manor, a brick factory and a snuff factory. She lived with her mother and her friend, the actress Elise Dubelloi from the French Theatre in Sweden and had three sons with Schön.  She died a wealthy and successful woman in 1834, aged 72.

Sources: Wikipedia

Illustrations: Ballet Dancer, Jean-Frederic Schall 1752-1825, miniature of Giavanna Bassi

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

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The Controversial Blue Stockings

The Controversial Blue Stockings

The Blue Stockings Society was founded in the early 1750s by Elizabeth Montagu (seen above), Elizabeth Vesey and others as a women’s literary discussion group, a revolutionary step away from traditional, non-intellectual, women’s activities. They invited both women and men to attend, including botanist, translator and publisher Benjamin Stillingfleet. One story tells that Stillingfleet was not rich enough to have the proper formal dress, which included black silk stockings, so he attended in everyday blue worsted stockings. The term came to refer to the informal quality of the gatherings and the emphasis on conversation over fashion.

Diarist, James Boswell wrote, “It was much the fashion for several ladies to have evening assemblies, where the fair sex might participate in conversation with literary and ingenious men, animated by a desire to please. These societies were denominated Bluestocking Clubs”.

It was a loose organisation of privileged women with an interest in education to gather together to discuss literature while inviting educated men to participate. The women involved in this group generally had more education and fewer children than most English women of the time. These women preferred to challenge the traditional view of what was ‘becoming’ such as proficiency in needlework and knitting preferring to read Greek or Latin, and many of the most immodest texts so they had their critics. Among them was one of their own members Mrs. Barbauld. Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743 – 1825) was a prominent “woman of letters” who published in multiple genres; Barbauld had a successful writing career at a time when female professional writers were rare. To find out more about her read my blog No Exaggerated Praise. Barbauld wrote, “The best way for a woman to acquire knowledge is from conversation with a father, or brother, or friend.”
The original bluestocking circle included Hester Thrale, Hannah More, Hester Chapone, Mary Delany, Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland, Elizabeth Carter, Sir Joshua Reynolds and his sister Frances, Fanny Burney, Samuel Johnson, William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath, James Boswell, David and Eva Garrick, Edmund Burke, George Lyttelton, Mrs Ord, Mrs Crewe and Benjamin Stillingfleet the man with the blue stockings.

The group has been described by many historians and authors as having preserved and advanced feminism due to the advocacy of women’s education, social complaints of the status and lifestyle expected of the women in their society as expressed by Elizabeth Montague in 1743. “In a woman’s education little but outward accomplishments is regarded … sure the men are very imprudent to endeavour to make fools of those to whom they so much trust their honour and fortune, but it is in the nature of mankind to hazard their peace to secure power, and they know fools make the best slaves.”
By the early 1800s, this sentiment had changed, and it was much more common to question “why a woman of forty should be more ignorant than a boy of twelve?”
The term ‘Blue Stocking’ today refers to an intellectual woman and the name is used frequently by feminist organisations and businesses, for example:

  • Bluestockings (bookstore), a feminist bookshop in New York
  • Bluestocking (magazine), a Japanese feminist magazine, Bluestocking (Seitō; 青鞜) was a Japanese feminist magazine founded in 1911 by a group of 5 women including Raichō Hiratsuka, Yasumochi Yoshiko, Mozume Kazuko, Kiuchi Teiko and Nakano Hatsuko, all founding members of the Bluestocking Society (Seitō-sha;青鞜社).Many members were referred to and referred to themselves as “New Women” (shin-fujin;新婦人). This term denoted women who wore fashionable Western dress, socialized with men in public, and chose their own romantic partners. Many in the press used this term pejoratively, but the members of the Seitō-sha rejected these negative connotations and embraced an identity as leaders in the reform of gender relations.
    Though originally focusing on women’s literature, the magazine soon shifted focus towards women’s liberation, and the pages of Seitō are filled with essays and editorials on the question of gender equality. In many of these, members of the group air their differing opinions on issues of the day, such as the importance of a woman maintaining her virginity before marriage. Legalized prostitution, abortion, and women’s suffrage were also the subject of animated discussion. Such writings caught the attention of the Ministry of Home Affairs because criticism of the system of private capital (capitalism) was banned under the Public Order and Police Law of 1900. Two other issues would be banned by the Ministry’s censorship bureau and removed from store shelves because their frank expressions of female sexuality were deemed threats to public morality.
    Even more than the content of the journal, the private behavior of the core members of the Bluestocking society drew public criticism. Several of them engaged in affairs with married men, rumors of which the press exploited with gusto. But this was not separate from the journal, because members of Bluestocking often wrote essays and semi-autobiographical stories that described their struggles to form equal relationships based on mutual romantic attachment (rather than through arranged marriage) both inside and outside of marriage. Their frank discussions about premarital sex and their advocacy for women’s independence in this regard led to further public condemnation.
    An exhausted Hiratsuka turned over the reins to Noe Itō in 1915. Ito produced the journal with little assistance for almost another year. Its last issue was published in February 1916.
  • M.P., an 1811 comic opera by Thomas Moore and Charles Edward Horn, subtitled The Blue Stocking
  • Bluestockings: the Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education, a 2009 book by Jane Robinson
  • Blue Stockings (play), a 2013 play by Jessica Swale

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

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History of Women in Art: The Woman Who Painted Marie-Antoinette

History of Women in Art: The Woman Who Painted Marie-Antoinette

Between 1780 and 1810, many French women painters reached impressive heights of artistic achievement and professional success. They achieved this despite a cap on the number of women admitted to France’s prestigious Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, and restrictions that barred women from the life drawing classes. At the end of the eighteenth century, women ranked among the most sought-after artists in Europe.

One such was Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Le Brun was born in Paris on 16 April 1755, the daughter of a portraitist and fan painter and a hairdresser. Her early childhood was spent in the country where she attended a residential convent school until she was eleven. When she returned home, her father recognised his daughter’s natural skills and ability to paint and gave her access to his studio to develop her skills. Unfortunately, her father died a couple of years later, but luckily her mother married Jacques Le Sèvre, a highly successful jeweller a year later and the family moved to the Rue Saint-Honoré, close to the Palais Royal where Elisabeth continued to paint. By the time she was in her early teens, Elisabeth was painting portraits professionally although ran into trouble with the Paris artists’ guild for practising without a license.

Elisabeth married Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, a painter and art dealer in 1776 and the pair began what was to become a very successful business and family life. Four years later Elisabeth gave birth to her first and only child, a daughter, Julie and a year after that she set off to tour Flanders and the Netherlands with her husband to paint members of the Dutch aristocracy. While Elisabeth was there, she was inspired by the paintings he saw in the homes and galleries she visited and decided to adopt some of their techniques. In 1787, she caused a minor public scandal with a self-portrait, that showed her smiling which was at the time considered outrageous as no Greek statue ever showed their teeth!

Her growing fame won her an invitation to the Palace of Versailles and the patronage of Marie Antoinette. Le Brun painted the queen and her children more than thirty times for six years. Le Brun supported the queen’s campaign to present herself as a doting mother, and in return, the queen supported Le Bruns’ application to France’s most prestigious academy, the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. She was admitted in 1783 on the same day has another female artist, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard giving the press an opportunity to cast the two women as rivals, pitting Le Brun’s “feminine” style of loose brushstrokes, high-toned colour, and flattering renderings of her sitters against the more “masculine” characteristics of crisp, muted tones, and truth to nature of Labille-Guard’s work. Although many critics applauded the women’s prominence, others lambasted them for immodesty and pamphleteers frequently depicted them naked.

Royal patronage was fine until the outbreak of the revolution in 1789 when association with the royal family was tantamount to a death warrant so Le Brun, who was now separated from her husband, took her daughter and fled to Italy where she lived and worked from 1789 to 1792. From Italy, she moved to Austria where she worked for three years then to  Russia where she painted the portraits of aristocrats until 1801.

After a sustained campaign by her ex-husband and other family members to have her name removed from the list of counter-revolutionary émigrés, Le Brun was finally able to return to France during the reign of Emperor Napoleon I in 1804. In spite of being no longer labelled as émigrée, her relationship with the new regime was never totally harmonious, as might be expected given that she was a staunch royalist and the former portraitist of Marie Antoinette.

Much in demand by the élite of Europe, she visited England at the beginning of the 19th century and painted the portrait of several British notables, including Lord Byron. In 1807 she travelled to Switzerland and was made an honorary member of the Société pour l’Avancement des Beaux-Arts of Geneva.

She published her memoirs in 1835 and 1837, which provide an interesting view of the training of artists at the end of the period dominated by royal academies. Still very active with her painting in her fifties, she purchased a house in Louveciennes, Île-de-France, and lived there until the house was seized by the Prussian Army during the war in 1814. She stayed in Paris until her death on 30 March 1842 when her body was taken back to Louveciennes and buried in the Cimetière de Louveciennes near her old home. Her tombstone epitaph states “Ici, enfin, je repose…” (Here, at last, I rest…).

Sources: Wikipedia,

Katharine Baetjer, Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Illustrations: Self portrait with Julie. Marie-Antoinette with her children.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

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Maria Cosway the Artist who Captured the Heart of Thomas Jefferson

Against the Grain – 18th Century British Art

Mary Moser – Founding Member of London’s Royal Academy