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Gilpin, William, 1724–1804

Hints to form the taste & regulate ye judgment in sketching landscape.

Additional Title(s):

Hints to form the taste and regulate ye judgment in sketching landscape

Great Britain, circa 1790.
Physical Description:
1 v. (44 leaves, with blanks) : ill. ; 22 cm.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
ND1340 .G5 1790
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
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Archives & Manuscripts
From 1768 to 1776, the writer and artist William Gilpin embarked on a series of excursions through Britain, recording his impressions in notebooks and later publishing them as picturesque tours, "in which writing and illustrations complement one another to sing the praises of nature" (Barbier, 1963, p. 41). In 1792 Gilpin authored Three essays: on picturesque beauty, on picturesque travel, and on sketching landscape ... (London : R. Blamire, 1792), the earliest theoretical treatment of the picturesque. For Gilpin, the picturesque emphasized "the essential ruggedness, roughness and deformity of a landscape, rather than its beauty: a notion that is historically important for its influence upon Romanticism. Gilpin's theory was developed in the 1790s by Uvedale Price, Richard Payne Knight and Humphry Repton." Cf. Grove Art.
The present manuscript is not listed in the "Summary of William Gilpin Manuscripts" in: Barbier, Carl Paul. William Gilpin: his drawing, teaching, and theory of the picturesque (Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1963).
The volume includes another manuscript text, of 42 leaves, beginning at the back of the volume, with calligraphic title: A manuscript, of notes taken of an old MS of Sir John Oglander, Ano. 1615, collected by the Reverd. Mr. Rd. Burleigh. The manuscript is written in a neat hand (circa 1800?), without corrections, suggesting it is a copy of another (published?) text. It concerns notable residents of Newport, on the Isle of Wight.
Inscribed: Robert Sewell, from Elizabeth M. Sewell ... March 24th 1880.
Bookplate: H.J. Paris.
Bound in contemporary vellum over boards.
Selected exhibitions: "Paul Mellon's Legacy: A Passion for British Art" (Yale Center for British Art, 18 April-29 July, 2007).
Manuscript treatise by William Gilpin on landscape sketching in the picturesque manner, together with 21 illustrations, all apparently in the author's own hand. The manuscript may be an early draft of part of Gilpin's Three essays: on picturesque beauty, on picturesque travel, and on sketching landscape ... (London : R. Blamire, 1792). The text of the manuscript does not appear to anywhere exactly match that of Three essays, but the nature of the text is the same. The text is written in pen and black ink and occupies about 27 leaves (generally rectos only). It includes occasional changes and corrections.
Gilpin's manuscript begins: "Tho' neatness and smoothness are essential features of beauty in real objects, yet alone they never please in representation & consequently form no part of beauty which we properly call picturesque, or capable of being illustrated by painting. The rugged outline, & the rough surface essential to the picturesque, form the essential point of difference between it and the beautiful." His essay elaborates on this theme on leaves 1-18. The remaining text treats related topics, at shorter length. Leaf 19 describes "a modest & very agreeable method of colouring." Leaf 27 (verso) includes definitions for the concepts of composition, design, expression, and effect; an essay on the following leaves (28-33) elaborates on these concepts.
The text is accompanied by 21 landscape illustrations, presumably by Gilpin. Four of these are executed in gray wash, over graphite. 16 of the illustrations are in graphite alone; these sketches are usually very rough. A single leaf (now loose) bears a color chart of tints recommended by Gilpin, together with a small landscape painting utilizing the same tints. On the facing leaf, Gilpin notes: "In order to colour chastely & harmoniously, use only 3 tints: red, yellow, & blue, of wh[ich] compose the other colours wh[ich] are requisite to make out the parts in the difft. distances." After this instruction, Gilpin lists the 7 colors represented in the corresponding color chart and explains the distances for which each color should be used.
Subject Terms:
Burleigh, Richard.
Color in art -- Technique.
Gilpin, William, 1724-1804. Three essays.
Isle of Wight (England) -- History.
Landscape drawing -- Early works to 1800.
Landscape drawing -- Technique -- Early works to 1800.
Landscape painting -- Early works to 1800.
Landscape painting -- Technique -- Early works to 1800.
Oglander, John, Sir, 1585-1655.
Paris, H. J. -- Bookplate.
Picturesque, The -- Early works to 1800.
Sewell, Elizabeth M. -- Provenance.
Sewell, Robert -- Provenance.
Landscape drawings.
Graphite drawings.
IIIF Manifest:

Art in Focus : Blue (Yale Center for British Art, 2019-04-05 - 2019-08-11) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : A Passion for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

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