The picturesque landscape

Painting with a bridge over a stream and buildings alongside with a hill in the background

The Old Mill, Ambleside 1798, watercolour, University of Liverpool Art Gallery Linithglow Palace c. 1806-7, oil on canvas, Walker Art Gallery

The picturesque was a concept that emerged in the eighteenth century, embodying a new attitude towards beauty in nature. Theorists such as Gilpin and Uvedale Price encouraged tourists to search for that quality of the natural landscape which was capable of being illustrated in a painting.

The idea was not to make an exact reproduction of the natural landscape but for artists to rearrange a composition as they saw fit. According to Gilpin, the picturesque was distinguished by roughness and ruggedness, as in the outline and bark of a tree or the craggy side of a mountain - qualities illustrated in Turner's, The Old Mill, Ambleside of 1798.

Towards the end of the 1790s, artists began to challenge the notion of the Picturesque, finding more expressive and direct means of depicting the landscape. By the end of the first decade of the new century, Turner had largely abandoned the concept.