Saturday, October 04, 2008

Picturesque Derwent Water

click photo to enlarge
No one in the seventeenth century would have felt that a hot sunny day was best enjoyed outdoors. Nor would they have surveyed Derwent Water and its surrounding hills and mountains of the Lake District and described the scene as beautiful. In those times the heat of the sun was to be avoided. Charles II, who was raised in France (and so knew the heat of a continental summer) said that "he liked...that country best, which might be enjoyed the most hours of the day, and the most days of the year, which he was sure was to be done in England more than in any country whatsoever." Rugged landscape in the seventeenth century was "the blasted heath", "the waste", a place to be avoided, and not to be compared with the beauty of the cultivated lowlands.

The eighteenth century continued to hold the same views about hot sunshine, but, slowly the attitude towards mountainous and wild landscape changed. Anthony Ashley Cooper, John Dennis and Joseph Addison wrote about the agreeable, fearful pleasures that arose in crossing the Alps. Edmund Burke's philosophy took up this theme. The rise of the Picturesque was part of Romanticism's reaction against the quickening pace of science's uncovering of the mysteries of the natural world, and it gave a more formal structure to this way of looking at the world. It viewed the emotions stirred by untamed nature as instinctive, sublime, worthy, and as something to be actively sought. Writers, musicians and the visual arts fed on these new sensibilities. Highly influential was Thomas Gilpin's, "Observations of the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc. Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the Summer of the Year 1770", published in 1782. It urged people to stop dismissing the rugged landscape of the British Isles, and admire it according to the ideals he proposed. The ripples from Gilpin and the Picturesque spread through English painting, landscape gardening, poetry, and out into Europe and the United States.

Had he been born a hundred years earlier William Wordsworth would never have sat by the waterfall above Derwent Water and listened to the "roar that stuns the tremulous cliffs of high Lodor", or thought of moving to live at Grasmere, still less sought his inspiration in Lakeland's crags and peaks, or spent his last years at Rydal Mount. It was writers like Wordsworth and his friend, Coleridge, and painters like Richard Wilson, Cozens (father and son) and Francis Towne who also deserve our thanks for opening our eyes to the beauties of scenes like that shown in today's photograph.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On