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The Picturesque, written about by
theorists such as William Gilpin, was
an aesthetic formula for the ideal landscape based on the pleasing effects
of visual variety. It was also a way of
giving order to the landscape, making
sure everything - including its human inhabitants - was in its proper place.
This picture adheres to the formula closely, with its combination of roughly textured rocks, still water, and evocative ruin and storm clouds. Although this has been described as a scene in Cumberland
or Wales, it is probably an amalgam
of different views the artist had sketched
on tours to these places in the 1780s.

September 2004