ÉLÉMENS DE PERSPECTIVE PRATIQUE, A L'USAGE DES ARTISTES, Suivis De Réflexions et Conseils à un Elève sur la Peinture, et particulièrement sur le genre du Paysage.
Paris: Chez L'Auteur, An VIII (1800). First edition. A student of Joseph Vernet, influenced by Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin, Valenciennes was the most prominent French historical landscape painter of his day as well as being an original and influential theorist on the art of landscape painting. "In the late 18th century, Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes changed the tide for landscape painting in France. Like Poussin, he saw landscape painting as worthy of the status of history painting and worked to convince the Academy and his contemporaries. In 1800 he published a groundbreaking book on landscape painting, Elémens de perspective practique. The book emphasized the aesthetic ideal of the 'historic landscape,' which must be based on the study of real nature. The success of the book pushed the Academy to create a prize for 'historic landscape' in 1817. The next generation of French landscape painters would benefit greatly from Valenciennes' efforts." ["Brief History of the Landscape Genre," www.getty.edu]. Of particular importance in his treatise is its final chapter, devoted entirely to garden design. Valenciennes considered the landscape painter to be uniquely qualified for the design of gardens, and provides precepts to follow in creating them. His insistence on Nature as the primary model for landscape painting is echoed in his views on landscape gardening. The alignment or trimming of trees is completely rejected. The importance of respecting the requirements and opportunities of the individual site is continually stressed. Italian gardens are singled out for their picturesque qualities (Valenciennes spent much time there) and English gardens are also considered, though not without some criticism. Even such French picturesque gardens as the Petit Trianon, Bagatelle and the Désert de Retz are faulted, but with the allowance that with complete neglect and the passage of time they might arrive at a suitable imitation of Nature. Ermenonville, however, is regularly singled out for praise and seems to stand as the perfect example of the type of garden Valenciennes attempted to promote. 4to (25.7 x 20 cm); (ii) + xxxii + 644 + xii pp. + 36 folding engraved plates.
Recased in later quarter vellum with glazed marbled boards; minor repairs at board edges; title written in ink on spine; marginal damp stain on last 12 plates, barely touching image on 6 of them.
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