1786 - 'the picturesque sketching tour'

A popular new class of tourism began with William Gilpin’s sketching tours. Gilpin was the leading theorist of picturesque beauty, and recognised that beauty in nature did not necessarily translate into beauty in a painting. To achieve the picturesque, one had to allow ‘a little to the imagination’, selecting only the best features of a scene.

For example, Gilpin admitted that although horses are more noble, cows make a better subject for the artist due to their angular shape – but include more than the ideal number of three and they would risk dominating the scene.

Gilpin spent six days in the Lakes during his tour of 1772. He visited popular destinations such as Windermere, shown here in the oval sepia-tinted aquatint plate.

William Gilpin, Observations, Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty, Made in the Year 1772, on Several Parts of England, 2 vols., 1786.