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 activity—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.

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