kent: idyllic ideals

William Kent was architect of both houses and landscapes. He was consulted, according to Horace Walpole, not only for furniture but “for plates, for a barge, for a cradle.” Of his gardens Walpole said: “Mahomet imagined an Elysium, Kent created many.”

William Kent by Martin Beek. Image:

William Kent was born in Bridlington, Yorkshire, in 1685. In the words of Horace Walpole, Kent ‘was a painter, an architect, and the father of modern gardening. In the first character he was below mediocrity; in the second, he was a restorer of the science; in the last, an original, and the inventor of an art that realizes painting and improves nature. Mahomet imagined an elysium, Kent created many.’Read More:


(see link at end)…Times Literary Supplement, 21 July 2006: At a first glance William Kent could easily be thought to have had one of the most talented creative minds of the eighteenth century: as an interior designer he showed the rich and the noble how to furnish and decorate their new, fashionable Palladian houses; as an architect he invented the “Gothick”; and as a landscape designer he destroyed the straitjacket of formality and brought nature into the English garden. But he was also extremely conceited. He liked to call himself “Signior Kent” because he had studied in Italy, and had the reputation of giving workmen orders “when he was full of claret” -which may be why a cornice at Chiswick House ended up two feet too high and on the wrong wall.

William Cant was born in 1685 in Bridlington in Yorkshire, the only son of a prosperous joiner. With ambitious future plans, he changed his unfortunate name to Kent and began his ascent to success. In 1709 he set off to learn to paint in Italy, accompanied by the “wildly camp” and eccentric John Talman, the son of the baroque architect William Talman. But as a painter with only “limited talents”, Kent spent much of his time ingratiating himself with rich Englishmen, believing “contacts rather than skills were what counted”. Among them he met the Earl of Burlington, who would usher him into the upper echelons of society and who would channel his artistic career. In fact his influence was so dominant that Kent was “stylistically brainwashed”, Timothy Mowl explains, by Burlington’s admiration for Andrea Palladio. Read More:

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