The Artist and the Garden

Roy Strong

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This extraordinarily beautiful book gathers together and examines for the first time a delightful collection of English gardens rendered by artists from 1540 to the early nineteenth century, many of which are unknown. Sir Roy Strong, widely recognized for his expertise in both art history and garden history, surveys garden pictures ranging from Elizabethan miniatures to eighteenth-century alfresco conversation pieces, from suites of paintings of a single garden to amateur watercolors. He inquires into the origin of the English garden picture genre, its development prior to the invention of photography, its greatest exponents, its reliability as historical evidence of actual gardens, and its place within the larger European tradition of picturing the garden.

The English, Strong observes, were slow in picturing the reality of their gardens. Until well into the Stuart age, the garden in art served as a symbol, and only gradually did this give way to the impulse to record the facts of contemporary garden-making. In the backgrounds of portraits of Jacobean and Caroline garden owners, the garden is no longer an emblem; it becomes instead a document demonstrating the owners’ pride in their gardens made in the new Renaissance manner. By the Georgian age the garden has moved from the back to the foreground of pictures, and whole families place themselves amid the glory of their self-fashioned landscapes. Both house and garden at this point assume a separate identity, each calling for an individual record. And by the nineteenth century, the author shows, the garden detaches itself from owner and house to be recorded for its own sake, as a single image at first, and later in a series. With some 350 fully annotated illustrations, this lovely book offers a unique record of three hundred years of English gardens and what they meant to those who owned and portrayed them.

Roy Strong is former director of the National Portrait Gallery in London and of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He is now a full-time writer, broadcaster, consultant, and gardener. Among those he has assisted in his capacity as a garden consultant are the Prince of Wales, Gianni Versace, and Elton John.


“An absorbing book. . . . The wealth of superb illustrations at every turn of the page offers visual delight and refreshment. . . . With additional insights and persuasive findings of his own, Strong gives depth to the story of why the garden took such hold of the English mind and soul. . . . This book is sure to remain a classic contribution to research on pre-Victorian gardens, as well as an insurance against further loss of our garden heritage.”—Judith Bumpus, Art Quarterly

“A bounty of fascinating, beautifully reproduced images of gardens both real and fanciful. . . . A scholarly yet accessible study.”—Booklist

“Roy Strong’s return to garden writing after five years is a witty romp through 300 years of gardening history, captured in roughly the same number of paintings, engravings and drawings. . . . This is garden history at its best, recast in a fresh light with the aid of pictures which exert a romantic hold. These are gardens which have for the most part vanished, but lurking behind every view is not only the greater image of an earthly paradise but a sense of the happiness that they once afforded.”—Rachel Kelly, Daily Mail

“Strong has assembled an unparalleled collection of images. In doing so he provides invaluable information on the development of the garden in England, an artistic endeavour otherwise as transient as the blowing flowers themselves.”—Ann Geneva, Financial Times

“Elegantly written and richly illustrated.”—House and Garden

“Strong brings his sure touch as an expert in art history and his passion for garden design to this wonderful survey of over 300 years of artistic representation of England’s gardens. . . . This is a work of outstanding scholarship and, clearly, a labor of love—an unbeatable combination.”—Library Journal (Starred Review)

“A copious survey of paintings of English gardens from 1540 to the early 19th century. . . . What’s striking about The Artist and The Garden is that it’s one of the few books full of pictures of gardens in which the gardens are also full of people.”—Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times Book Review

The Artist & the Garden, both for its authoritative text and the quality of its illustrations, is likely to become the standard work on early British garden design. . . . A monumental achievement.”—Graham Gibson, Observer

“The reproductions of the paintings, often zooming in on details that one might otherwise miss, are a feast in themselves, the text the result of serious detective work.”—Sunday Times

“Turn the pages of this spectacular book and a largely vanished world of real and wishfully imagined gardens spring to life. . . . Fascinating.”—Judith Bumpus, The Art Newspaper

“This should be an appealing book to enthusiasts of art and gardens alike.”—The Bookseller


“Strong uses [never before published images]. . . with informed brio to produce a text packed with new research and ideas.”—Jane Owen, The Times (London)

“Based on a profound knowledge of the subject, this superbly illustrated book amounts to a major achievement. It is also a triumph of detection.”—Richard Cork, The Times (London)

“Every now and again an art historian comes up with a genuinely worthwhile new avenue to explore. Sir Roy Strong . . . has done just this with The Artist and The Garden.”—Wall Street Journal

Named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book for 2000
ISBN: 9780300085204
Publication Date: September 10, 2000
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
288 pages, 9 1/2 x 11 1/4
140 b/w + 220 color illus.


Terence Pepper; With a foreword by Roy Strong and an essay

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The Elizabethan Image

An Introduction to English Portraiture, 1558–1603

Roy Strong

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