History explorer: The English landscape garden
Timothy Mowl visits Rousham House and Gardens in Oxfordshire, where an 18th-century polymath showcased his revolutionary landscape designs.
At some point in the 1730s, the polymath William Kent (c1686–1748), a Yorkshire-born artist and architect who turned to gardens later in his career, hit upon the novel idea of doing away with surveying instruments, electing instead to conjure up a garden scene as if he was painting a landscape. Moves towards a more informal style of landscape design after the confining rigidities of the Franco-Dutch formal garden had been made earlier by Alexander Pope, in his own small garden on the Thames at Twickenham. But it was only when Kent began applying his own uniquely eclectic style to the process – incorporating elements of architecture and interior design – that the true potential of this brave new world of garden design was realised.