But all nature is not equally Beautiful. Both in living things and in inorganized matter, we see on all sides evidences of nature struggling with opposing forces. Mountains are upheaved by convulsions, valleys are broken into fearful chasms. Certain forms of animal and vegetable life instead of manifesting themselves in those more complete and perfect forms of existence where the matter and spirit are almost in perfect harmony, appear to struggle for the full expression of their character with the material form, and to express it only with difficulty at last. What is achieved with harmony, grace, dignity, almost with apparent repose, by existences whose type is the Beautiful, is done only with violence and disturbed action by the former. This kind of manifestation in nature we call the Picturesque.
More concisely, the Beautiful is nature or art obeying the universal laws of perfect existence (i.e., Beauty), easily, freely, harmoniously, and without the display of power. The Picturesque is nature or art obeying the same laws rudely, violently, irregularly, and often displaying power only.
Hence we find all Beautiful forms characterized by curved and flowing lines - lines expressive of infinity, of grace, and willing obedience: and all Picturesque forms characterized by irregular and broken lines - lines expressive of violence, abrupt action, and partial disobedience, a struggling of the idea with the substance or the condition of its being. The Beautiful is an idea of beauty calmly and harmoniously expressed; the Picturesque an idea of beauty or power strongly and irregularly expressed. As an example of the Beautiful in other arts we refer to the Apollo of the Vatican; as an example of the Picturesque, to the Laocoon or the Dying Gladiator. In nature we would place before the reader a finely formed elm or chestnut, whose well balanced head is supported on a trunk full of symmetry and dignity, and whose branches almost sweep the turf in their rich luxuriance; as a picturesque contrast, some pine or larch, whose gnarled roots grasp the rocky crag on which it grows, and whose wild and irregular branches tell of the storm and tempest that it has so often struggled against.*
In pictures, too, one often hears the Beautiful confounded with the Picturesque. Yet they are quite distinct; though in many subjects they may be found harmoniously combined. Some of Raphael's angels may be taken as perfect illustrations of the Beautiful. In their serene and heavenly countenances we see only that calm and pure existence of which perfect beauty is the outward type; on the other hand, Murillo's beggar boys are only picturesque. What we admire in them (beyond admirable execution) is not their rags or their mean apparel, but a certain irregular struggling of a better feeling within, against this outward poverty of nature and condition.
Architecture borrows, partly perhaps by association, the same expression. We find the Beautiful in the most symmetrical edifices, built in the finest proportions, and of the purest materials. It is, on the other hand, in some irregular castle formed for defence, some rude mill nearly as wild as the glen where it is placed, some thatched cottage, weather stained and moss covered, that we find the Picturesque. The Temple of Jupiter Olympus in all its perfect proportions was prized by the Greeks as a model of beauty; we, who see only a few columns and broken architraves standing with all their exquisite mouldings obliterated by the violence of time and the elements, find them Picturesque.
To return to a more practical view of the subject, we may remark, that though we consider the Beautiful and the Picturesque quite distinct, yet it by no means follows that they may not be combined in the same landscape. This is often seen in nature; and indeed there are few landscapes of large extent where they are not thus harmoniously combined.
* This also explains why trees, though they retain for the most part their characteristic forms, vary somewhat in expression according to their situation. Thus the larch, though always picturesque, is far more so in mountain ridges where it is exposed to every blast, than in sheltered lawns where it only finds soft airs and sunshine. - A. J. D.
But it must be remembered, that while Landscape Gardening is an imitation of nature, yet it is rarely attempted on so large a scale as to be capable of the same extended harmony and variety of expression; and also, that in Landscape Gardening as in the other fine arts, we shall be more successful by directing our efforts towards the production of a leading character or expression, than by endeavoring to join and harmonize several.
Our own views on this subject are simply these. When a place is small, and only permits a single phase of natural expression, always endeavor to heighten or to make that single expression predominate; it should clearly either aim only at the Beautiful or the Picturesque.*
When, on the contrary, an estate of large size comes within the scope of the Landscape Gardener, he is at liberty to give to each separate scene its most fitting character; he will thus, if he is a skilful artist, be able to create great variety both of beautiful and picturesque expression, and he will also be able to give a higher proof of his power, viz. by uniting all those scenes into one whole, by bringing them all into harmony. An artist who can do this has reached the ultimatum of his art.
Again and again has it been said, that Landscape Gardening and Painting are allied. In no one point does it appear to us that they are so, more than in this - that in proportion to the limited nature of the subject should simplicity and unity of expression be remembered. In some of the finest smaller com'positions of Raphael, or some of the landscapes of Claude, so fully is this borne in mind, that every object, however small, seems to be instinct with the same expression; while in many of the great historical pictures, unity and harmony are wrought out of the most complex variety of expression.
* This distinction between the Beautiful and the Picturesque was a favorite idea with Mr. Downing. Artists of the present hour pay small thought to it. To most Landscape Gardeners now it will seem to have comparatively little significance. The endeavor to define Beauty has never been very successful; and there is little practical outcome to the attempts to theorize along this line. - F. A. W.