Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
© 2017 Sarah N Whitney
This thesis analyzes the English National Trust’s interpretation of the making and reception of Stowe Landscape Garden. Specifically, this is a critique of the Trust’s narrative of nationalism, which is overlaid by the use of romantic interpretive themes. Arguably, Stowe’s first contribution was the combination of expressions of nature through landscape with architectural and sculptural monuments of Englishness. The National Trust, however, has combined interpretations of multiple landscape gardens across a century, thus blurring its actual significance. Stowe has been lumped into a jumbled framework of anachronistic landscape commentary much based in the literature of reception. The use of receptive history as fact to define concepts like ‘Englishness’, ‘Landscape Garden’, and the ‘Picturesque’ only further aid the unsustainable development of the historical landscape. Stowe is recognized as the most extensive extant landscape garden to exemplify contributions by the first four designers in the medium: Vanbrugh, Bridgeman, Kent, and Brown. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s place-making role in the history of English landscape, much derided by the proponents of the Picturesque, found its first expression at Stowe from 1740 to 1751. Thus, Stowe’s Brownian dominant landscape, of which the bones are still largely intact, should be used as the designated period of interpretation. In this way, the National Trust could fulfill a modern desire for connection to nature, and with greater specificity, diversity and transparency in historical accounts, expand the accessibility of ‘Englishness’ in the form the consummate national landscape garden.
Whitney, Sarah, "Nationalizing Nature: A Critique of the English National Trust Interpretation of Stowe Landscape Garden" (2018). Pomona Senior Theses. 193.