The growing affluent leisure class began to take Grand Tours ofEurope in order to experience first hand the storied natural and historical sites of the continent.Armed with Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublimeand Beautiful, one could hike in the Alps or follow the Appian Way to Rome and behold views,beautiful or sublime, heretofore only promised through painted or drawn imagery and descriptions.The archeological uncovering of the buried cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii presented a domesticversion of antiquity quite different from the well known, grand, lingering remains of the publicbuildings and infrastructure of ancient Rome and Greece. Architects, artists, theorists andconnoisseurs such as Charles-Louis Clérissaeau and Marc Atoine Laugier among others, in theirsearch for architectural origins, stripped the historicist ideals long attached to ancient ruins throughrational analysis and measured drawings. These structures could now be seen as the remnants offunctional buildings, artifacts of domestic and public lives, thus placing them into the realm of theuncanny, or what Sigmund Freud would later call “heimlich.” The great Italian draughtsmanPiranesi published studied etchings of ancient ruins as well as imagined prisons, which were broadlydisseminated in France and Britain feeding into and helping generate the Runenlust which wouldtake hold of the landed gentry for much of the next century.The depiction, creation, and fascination with ruins in the 18th century were transformedin meaninig as the culture of sensibility took hold and the gave way to the more dramaticand intensely emotional imagery of Romanticism. Ruins maintained a multi-valiant constructionof meaning, at times seeming dirtectly at odds with their form and intention. The legacy of thisis still felt today, in intentionally tattered designer blue jeans and purposefullydistressed furniture,to the current trend in post-industrial urban exploration. It seems we need not just reminders of ourimmortality, but also symbols of our humble, ruinous virtue, no matter the level of contrivance.page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4 page 5
As the century progressed a culture of sensibility takes hold. No longer is it rationality and trained cognition which makes one moral and virtuous,but rather one’s capacity to perceive deeply through the senses and respond intuitively and emotionally in the appropriate way. In this context, therigidly ordered, and rational becomes passé at best, tyrannical at worst. As a result of this, the highly formalized French Vista Garden gives way tothe irregularity of the “natural” picturesque English garden. Mountains and volcanoes, once viewed as perversions of God’s perfect creation, arenow seen in a morally positive light, suggesting the upheaval of the pre-dilluvian, “mundane egg” (Brodey) synonymous with the nature of mankindand thus triggering the sympathetic response so desired by the proponents of sensibility. The ruined and fragmented are held aloft across thestrata of the arts, from the fragmented irregular narrative of novels like “Tristam Shandy” or “The Sorrows of Young Werther” to the deliberatelydesigned ruins of Francois Nicolas Henri Racine de Monville’s Column House.
At the core of sensibility is a supposed appreciation for the natural, the common, and the un-manicured.Through this impulse peas-ants and commoners became ironically further subjugated and objectified by the upper-class. Marie Antoinette famously had herminiature village and working dairy, Petite Trianon, built.The paintings of Greuze and Vernet, which celebrated the common and ru-ral, became very popular, and the rustic peasants, in a bizarre spectacle of simulacra, could be hired to play silent, idealized versionsof themselves on the garden estates of sensible men. Ruins real and imagined were shipped back home as souvenirs from one’stravels and placed or constructed in picturesque gardens. There they sat, becoming more ruined or in the case of some fabricatedruins becoming unappealingly ruined.
Examples of manufatured ruins:Racine de Monville’s Column HouseMarie Antoinette’s Petite Trianon,Pattern books by thouin, Hirschfeld and Lugar,Robert Adam’s design for a bridge with a ruined balastrade in Yorkshire, John Soane’s designed ruins forhis garden at ealing.
Below is the begining of the graphic approach. It will stretch further in increments of 9 inches. Ideally itwould unfold like an accordian or could be navigated over like a large painting. There is a mix of digitalhand drawing and collage forms. Overall it is structured as a loose narrative. There will be explanatorytext added throughout. and additional imagery/text explaining the legacy of our fascination with ruins.