November 2007
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Billie Silvey
Nature--Trimmed. . .
How nature is understood by the
people living in a particular time
determines how they will plan the
use of it, from gardens to parks to
large plots of ground.  Does
nature exist to be tamed, trained
and trimmed, or does it have a
beauty of its own?  Should it be
left to grow and flourish
spontaneously?
To the 18th century, classical mind, humanity was the measure of all
things, and nature existed to be improved by human beings.  You
placed something in the middle--a pond, a fountain, a fake temple,
with corresponding items on either side for perfect balance and
symmetry.  Trees existed to be trimmed, into cones or balls or
fantastic shapes, but each was balanced by another.  And paths ran
straight, dividing the whole into a perfect patchwork, like a modern
city.  The intellect dominated, and nature took on a geometric
precision.
. . . and
Untrammeled
The more emotional Romantics, in
contrast, saw the beauty of nature in
the wild, with mysterious twists and
turns through shaded groves of
overgrown verdure.  Trees and bushes
were allowed to spread, flower, even
tangle with abandon.  The Romantic
preoccupation with the heroism and
even brutality of the Middle Ages led
to the building of gothic ruins, such as
crumbling towers or pointed arches.  
Even skulls and tombs were features of
the Romantic park or garden.
When you go to a garden
supply store today, are you
more drawn to white classical
statues and urns or to
gargoyle faces and patterns of
leaves?  Do you have
balanced yew trees on either
side of your front steps, or do
you let plants sprawl more
naturally?  Do you sow seeds
broadcast or arrange them in
neat rows constrained by
clear borders?
Your answer to such questions may help indicate whether you tend
toward the Classical or the Romantic.
4 Artists
Romantic Themes