Lancelot Brown – In The Frame


Capability Brown
by John Keyse Sherwin,
after Nathaniel Dance
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Image Information

The face of our star of the 18th century English landscape movement, our good old Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, would I’d have thought been painted, sketched, imprinted and etched on all manner of objects – silverware, book papers, and of course canvas; but I am of course wrong.

Many of those wonderful places that Brown landscaped have been painted and recorded, yet surprisingly Brown himself appears in but a handful of images. Mind you, he must have been on the move almost constantly, and could by and large have preferred the attention to be focused on his work – indeed a quality painting of a landscape would carry far more weight with prospective clients!


Capability Brown
after Nathaniel Dance (later Sir Nathaniel Holland, Bt)
oil on canvas, circa 1770?
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Image Information

These days of course in addition to those landscapes, many people are interested in Brown himself – how did he dress, how did he present himself and so on. In those few available images, and an internet search will reveal most all of them, he appears almost entirely in the same pose, but of course there may be a few portraits yet to surface – do you know of an image like the ones on this page?

Two of the portraits featured on this post are by Nathaniel Dance, and are held by the National Portrait Gallery, London. It is to their credit that good quality portraits of our national treasure are preserved for research and enjoyment, and I’m indebted to their system for making the images available under the creative commons licence. Further information about the portraits can be reached by clicking on the link below each image – there’s also purchase/donation information, which ultimately helps in the presentation and preservation of portraits like these.


Capability Brown
by Nathaniel Dance (later Sir Nathaniel Holland, Bt)
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Image Information

I find the portraits of Lancelot fascinating, so full of character and experience. But, what exactly was he trying to portray with his pose and very knowing look? It would be fascinating to understand your personal interpretation of these images – so please take a little time to look closer, and record some thoughts on the comments section – you might see something others can’t!


About Lancelot Capability Brown

Hello and Welcome to my Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown blog! I thrive on the richness and diversity found within our historic gardens and landscapes and I hope through this blog to paint a picture of Lancelot Brown’s 18th Century world, his landscapes and life. I’d like this blog to spread the Brownian word far and wide, so please join in, suggest post subjects, send in potential articles or links to anything and everything with 'Capability'. I’ll also be looking forward to the Capability Brown Tercentenary Celebration of his birth in 2016, and look forward to an incredible year where the work of Brown can receive more praise and recognition than ever before. I've also launched a Twitter account under the title of @Brown2016 where for the next few years I plan to help spread the word and at the very least play my part in the build-up to a special year for all who enjoy landscape gardening in its true form. All views are my own and do not represent those of any organisation.
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2 Responses to Lancelot Brown – In The Frame

  1. Richard FM Conlon says:

    Never stopped to look properly at his portrait.
    There certainly appears to be a slight smile about his face, which I believe is unusual in mind of the expected norm of the time. Beyond that, for me, it is like he is proposing a challenge of; “Well, what do think?’ or; “Do you think you could do better?”, but a challenge with a sense of fun, in mind of course of his garden and landscape designs. Thanks for suggesting I look, has been interesting.

Constructive comments welcomed!

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