International Styles

Water in a Garden Landscape


Where a continued supply of water can be obtained, and the natural irregularities of the ground present suitable reservoirs for its preservation, or where they can be artificially prepared, the artist will not fail to benefit by the opportunity allowed for the use of so important a feature; but the supply must be plenty of, for few defects of the landscape are so objectionable as the deficiency showed by half-empty pools, lakes or canals, originally meant as garden decorations; and the defect always happens, too, in warm and dry seasons, when the coolness and beauty of water is most inviting and desired: instead of which they betray to the spectator the scantiness of their sources, and infect the air with ugly vapours.

When the supply is abundant at all times, then water becomes a striking and interesting material in the hands of the improver; the brilliancy of sheets of water give lustre to the most dull and insipid portions of a landscape, and it is the chief means by which the artist produces those vivid and fascinating reliefs in the garden, which, by white or richness of colour, the painter shows in his picture. The deep tones of shade essential to vigour and striking effect are also augmented by water, in the reflections of over shadowing objects, while its occasional rippling movements create partial and brilliant touches of light that begem its surface.

So pleasing is the effect of objects reflected on clear water, which objects themselves scarcely attract attention, that they convey a charm to the eye of the same poetic sentiment, that sound returns to the ear in the magic voice of the echo; and in the agitation of water by wind or other causes, a continual change is produced, which dispels the sameness of effect that many people have objected to, as produced by lakes and canals: an objection that has been maintained by many owners, but only so because they have not given attention to the fair claims of water; even the track of fowls upon its surface, and the ringlets which the swallow creates by the dipping of its wing, are interesting, and produce variety of incident, always relishled by the tasteful.

Ground, trees, and water, are the chief and legitimate materials of landscape; and if the latter be dispensed with, a full proportion of the means of creating its picturesque beauty is abandoned also.

A beautiful piece of water, particularly if it be seated in a well clothed, sequestered, and tranquil place, engages the mind, and inspires it with pleasing sentiments; and notwithstanding our northern atmosphere is unfavourable to a full perception of the claims which water has to the gratitude of the inhabitants of warmer soils, yet we are enchanted with the sublime eulogies allowed to it by the poets and historians of the East; and assuming something of their feelings, we readily transfer the pleasure excited by their glowing imagery to the shades and streams we contemplate ourselves-there we remember with pleasing sympathy the many tales that we have read in our youth, and which have been told to the fountains and the stream by the proselytes of love, of hope, and of despair, in a language that has imprinted on our memories not only the thoughts of the poet, but the pictures which his eloquence has created in our minds.

Painters, too, have represented the beauties of water with all the magic of their wondrous art. If, in his introduction of water into landscape scenery, the artist can so dispose it as to call into action any of the sentiments that each of these sources is capable of producing, he will have in that spectator's mind an advocate for the beauties of water that will make needless all other motives for its admiration.

With regard to the situation of water in landscape improvements, it is scarcely necessary to observe that the practices of nature in her happiest works ought to be followed, and therefore that the valley is the correctest site for it; for, when situated on high ground, or on rapidly inclined planes particularly, the operations of art, in some points of view, will be manifest, unless the defect be discreetly hid by such well arranged plantations as will hide the embankments, arrest the view of the slope, and produce the appearances of a valley.




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