The Art of Capability Brown
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        Publication Date

        22 May 2017

        Main Summary

          Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-1783) is the iconic figure at the head of the English landscape style, a tradition that has dominated landscape design in the western world. He was widely acclaimed for his genius in his own day and his influence on the culture of England has arguably been as great as that of Turner, Telford and Wordsworth. Yet, although Brown has had his biographers, his work has generated very little analysis. Brown was prolific; he has had a direct influence on half a million acres of England and Wales. The astonishing scale of his work means that he did not just transform the English countryside, but also our idea of what it is to be English and what England is. His work is everywhere, but goes largely unnoticed. His was such a naturalistic style that all his best work was mistaken for untouched nature. This has made it very difficult to see and understand. Visitors to Brown landscapes do not question the existence of the parkland he created and there has been little professional or academic analysis of his work. This book for the first time looks at the motivation behind Brown’s landscapes and questions their value and structure whilst at the same time placing him within the English landscape tradition. It aims primarily to make landscape legible, to show people where to stand, what to look at and how to see.

          Additional Information


          John Phibbs

          Author Information

          John Phibbs runs his own practice in Landscape Management and is an expert on Capability Brown.

          Publishing Status




          Number of Illustrations


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            PART I – The Five Elements Grass – Silviculture – Water – Buildings – Ground
            PART II – How Landscapes Worked Planting – Farming – People – Fences – Roads – Gardens –Sport
            PART III – How Landscape Was Designed and What it Meant The Determinants of Landscape –
            The Constraints Upon Design –
            The Reconciliation of House and Setting – Geometry – Imagination – Layers of meaning – The evolution of the style
            PART IV – The Attack on Brown and His Defence The Assassination of Capability Brown
            Towards the Ending


              The author is the greatest living expert on Britain's greatest gardener ... Place-Making is the vessel into which John Phibbs has poured all of his retained knowledge and opinions. As a result, it's an important record that will, I'm sure, have a purpose and reputation long into the future after more lightweight volumes have been published and fallen by the wayside ... What is fascinating is the way in which he has performed an anatomical, forensic analysis of Brown's work, slicing open every minute part of the body of his landscapes and chronicling them, both individually and as parts of a whole.
              George Plumptre
              Country Life