Stephanie Bower

Stephanie Bower | Architectural Illustration: | Sketching Workshops: | Sketches: & | Urban Sketchers Blog Correspondent | Signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society

Friday, September 13, 2013

Learning from Le Nôtre

With my Gabriel Prize project, I spent quite a bit of time at Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. The landscape architect Le Nôtre (and this year is the 400th anniversary of his birth, so exhibits and celebrations are happening at all the châteaux he worked on), the architect Le Vau, and the interior designer/painter Le Brun all collaborated with each other in the mid-1600's to create both châteaux and vast gardens... which had a big influence on centuries of design.

In particular, I spent quite a bit of time in the gardens.  They are HUGE, the scale at Versailles is truly overwhelming.  I think I walked the grounds for days, and I was always faced with a dilemma:  do I spend time walking around, seeing and learning things, or do I sit and spend the time sketching and seeing less?  I tried to strike a balance, but it was difficult.

This is one of the sketches from Versailles that was part of a sequence through the spaces of the main axis.  Tomorrow, I'll post the entire sequence.

Learning from Le Nôtre

I learned so very much from doing these drawings, it was if I was peering directly into the mind of Le Nôtre as I discovered his use of perspective in the design. I never would have understood these things by simply snapping a photo. This learning through hand drawing and direct observation of architecture is the very premise of the Gabriel Prize award!

For example, note that the water in the distance appears to be tilting up!
Of course, the giant canal can't tilt, it's the plane in front that in fact ramps down...and look at that clever Le Nôtre...he places a sculpture/fountain right at the vanishing point for that sloping plane.  In fact, the head of Apollo IS the vanishing point, and the shape of the sculpture is a low, flat triangle that virtually completes the apex of the triangular grass area.

The walkways feel busy and populated--and they are, with carved topiary and white marble statues that punctuate the walk and contribute to the sense of perspective.

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