Tintern Abbey and its representation of the Philosophy Picturesque

Picturesque is the idea that a certain structure or idea is suitable for painting; whether it has imperfections, it is perfection, or both. Tintern Abbey is perfectly suitable for painting, in fact, it’s structure is what the philosophy of picturesque is all about. When Gilpin describes the ruins of Tintern Abbey, he describes it with regards to a distance view compared to a nearer view. “But if Tintern Abbey be less striking as a distant object, it exhibits, on a nearer view (when the whole together cannot be seen, but the eye settles on some of its nobler parts,) a very inchanting piece of ruin.” (Gilpin 47). The exotic nature of this structure allows one to view not only its imperfections but its wondrous beauty in what remains. Even the recent additions, such as the ivy that has grown up the walls, creates a perfect contrast between perfections and imperfections of the structure.

Picturesque philosophy has been described as elegant, yet with imperfections to create a balance between the two. Tintern Abbey is described and classified particularly as picturesque, that which is suitable for painting. Through this comes a way of elegantly painting a picture that represents the balance between life’s perfections and imperfections. The representation of picturesque philosophy through Tintern Abbey particularly emphasizes how it is possible to see the perfections and imperfections from a distance as well as a nearer view. The different perspectives allow us to see the true philosophy of picturesque


2 thoughts on “Tintern Abbey and its representation of the Philosophy Picturesque

  1. I thought your comments about Tintern Abbey and the picturesque were insightful and demonstrated a good understanding of the philosophy. While reading your response, one word that continuously stood out to me was “perfection” and the idea that something must be “imperfect” in order to be considered picturesque. I was curious, then, if you think that an object can never fully be considered picturesque because we all have different interpretations of what is perfect and what is not? Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’ll leave it to Ryan to respond to Erin’s question about whether imperfection is a relative term. But to Ryan, I’d ask you to push a little more on the tension between perfection and imperfection. It’s there and it’s interesting, but why? Why might Wordsworth be exploring that tension in “Tintern Abbey”?

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