Enfilade

New Book | Nature’s Favourite Child: Thomas Robins

Posted in books by Editor on November 30, 2021

Available from John Sandoe Books:

Cathryn Spence, Nature’s Favourite Child: Thomas Robins and the Art of the Georgian Garden (Bradford-on-Avon: Stephen Morris, 2021), 312 pages, ISBN: 978-1838472634, £40.

Thomas Robins the Elder (1716–1770) recorded the country estates of the Georgian gentry—their orchards, Rococo gardens, and potagers—like no other, with both topographical accuracy and delightful artistry, often bordering his gouaches with entrancing tendrils, shells, leaves, and birds. His skill was honed by the delicacy required for his early career as a fan painter and is shown too in his exquisite paintings of butterflies, flowers, and birds. This ravishing and scholarly study emerges from many years’ research by Dr Cathryn Spence, the curator and archivist at Bowood House who has also worked for the V&A, the American Museum, the Bath Preservation Trust, and the National Trust. This is the first full study of Thomas Robins since John Harris’s Gardens of Delight, published in two volumes in 1978; Harris, in fact, made over all his research notes to Spence in 2005 when she embarked on her work. Chinoiserie is everywhere—a wooden bridge over the Thames, delicious kiosks in a garden, a view of Bath with sampans, and Chinese fishermen on the river. There are also fascinating views of Sudeley Castle and other great houses that incorporated more or less ruined monastic structures, destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Spence has tracked down many previously unknown paintings by Robins and sets his elusive life and work in the framework of his patrons.

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