WHAT IS LANDSCAPE? I posted here that I agreed with Alain de Botton’s view that gas tankers and pylons can be beautiful and that “I have always preferred landscapes that reflect human activityâ€”think of Constable and Brueghel.”
Tristan Gooley reviewed John R Stilgoe’s WHAT IS LANDSCAPE? in the Wall Street Journal (December 12-13). Stilgoe is a professor in the history of landscape at Harvard. Gooley begins his review by stating what the word landscape means to Stilgoe: “Landscapes are not landscapes until humans have shaped them ‘for permanent purposes'”. Without human shaping, you have wilderness. Stilgoe traces the word “landscape” to an old Frisian word: landschop, meaning “shoveled land”.
In my post, I praised Rackshaw Downes: “I think of his paintings as showing the beauty that can be found in landscapes that have been shaped by humans.” I have thought of my view as a minority position, and so I was happy to see Stilgoe’s point of view, as some one who is passionately interested in landscape, that nature is less interesting if it does not relate to human activity.