Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Picturesque Rivers

There's a whole series of outdoor walking / hiking and canoeing / kayaking programs on TV at the moment. My favourites are the Great British Journeys presented by Nick Crane.

Today he walked and canoed down the Wye in the footsteps of William Gilpin who described his journey in a series of travel books and developed the ideas of nature and the picturesque in art.

What was interesting is that when Crane tried to identify the parts of the river where the pictures that Gilpin used to describe his theories came from it was clear how much he altered reality: the picturesque - or at least the idea - was in his head not in nature.

He also ignored completely the paper mills and copper foundries of the early industrial revolution sprouting along the lower parts of the river. Yet today the ruined factories are themselves considered picturesque.

But even if he didn't find the absolute beauty of nature in his travel, he did help develop the concept that nature, the wild, is beautiful, not scary and unattractive.

But not everyone has the same feeling of what is picturesque - I prefer the view upriver but one of my neices prefers downriver.

What do you find picturesque?


turinas said...

For me it doesn't have to be nature only to picturesque. Sailing into Newport RI is the most picturesque thing I have seen in a while

Katinka said...

It depends...sometimes the things that others pass by unnoticed can be beautiful...like an empty window in an old house, or a dragonfly wing resting on the path. But again, picturesque and beautiful aren't necessarily the same thing.

That said, I'd probably like the upper part of the river too...I often wonder what this part of the world looked like before civilisation encroached on it's marshes and forests.

JP said...

Turinas: thats true. The view of London from any of the pedestrian bridges is picturesque, but it is almost entirely artificial.

Sailing into Newport - that does sound a fun thing to do!

Kat: Yes, there is beauty in the moment that is hard to define and seems very personal.

I wonder too about what the land would have looked like thousands of years ago. Would there have been primative boats heading up and downstream, passing mashes and wooded river banks?