Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown is often thought of as an innovative genius who single-handedly pioneered a new, ‘naturalistic’ style of landscape design. But he was only one of many landscape designers in Georgian England, albeit the most commercially successful. Published to tie in with the tercentenary of Brown’s birth, Lancelot Brown and the Capability Men casts important new light on his world-renowned work, his eventful life and the business of landscape design in Georgian England.
There is no evidence that Brown actually invented the style with which his name is now so closely associated – it was simply the style of the times. He was the head of a complex business that could supply clients with a whole design ‘package’, which included new greenhouses, kitchen gardens and land drainage schemes. This innovative book investigates the nature and organization of Brown’s business, and draws insightful comparisons with similar providers of ‘taste’ such as the Adam brothers, Thomas Chippendale and Josiah Wedgwood. Illustrated with over 120 images, this beautiful book shows that Brown’s style, like the organization of his business, was the product of a distinctly modern world.
‘this book sheds important new light on [Brown’s] world-renowned work, eventful life, and the new “naturalistic” style of landscape design that became popular in Georgian England . . . This beautiful, innovative book, illustrated with more than 120 images, shows that Brown’s style, like the organisation of his business, was the product of a distinctly modern world.’ – Welsh Border Life
‘The authors’ primary goal is to allow students and scholars to distinguish the work of Brown from that of his rivals and followers . . . There are many plans by other designers reproduced here, a contribution that on its own establishes the permanent usefulness of this book.’ – The Garden
‘This is an utterly fresh and yet very disciplined account of Brown and his “men”. It will be an invaluable guide for readers who want to see a famous figure in contexts that extend their understanding of him. This is a book to re-read, and a reference book that not just garden historians will want on their shelves, but historians of the 18th-century culture of England and its landscapes.’ – John Dixon Hunt, Emeritus Professor of the History and Theory of Landscape, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Making of Place (Reaktion, 2015)
‘This is a most enjoyable and important book. It is the first to assess Brown’s landscape revolution within the context of its time and to analyse the contribution to the eighteenth-century landscape style of his protégés and rivals. It presents a rounded picture of the way these practitioners responded to the directions of patrons to create a new template for the landscaped park. It also acknowledges that this move towards a more open, minimalist style began with the work of Bridgeman and Kent, and argues convincingly that many other landscape styles, especially the geometric and the Rococo, hung on well into Brown’s career and, indeed, were still being promoted after his death. All this analysis is set intelligently against the social, cultural, political, agrarian and architectural developments in the period. I have no doubt that it will prove to be the most important book to come out on Brown during the tercentenary.’ – Professor Timothy Mowl
David Brown is Tutor of Landscape History at the University of Cambridge. Tom Williamson is Professor of Landscape History at the University of East Anglia. His books include Polite Landscapes: Gardens and Society in Eighteenth-century England (1998).