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pic•tur•esqueˌ (adj.)


  1. visually charming or quaint, (of a place or building)

  2. visually attractive, especially in a quaint or charming way. Such as "ruined abbeys and picturesque villages"

  3. resembling or suitable for a painting: "a picturesque village".

  4. synonyms: attractive, pretty, beautiful, lovely, scenic, charming, quaint, pleasing, 
    delightful, romantic 
    "a picturesque maze of narrow streets"

  5. (of writing, speech, etc.) strikingly graphic or vivid.

  6. having pleasing or interesting qualities;

  7. strikingly effective in appearance.

In England, the picturesque was defined as

  • an aesthetic quality existing between the sublime (i.e., awe-inspiring) and the beautiful (i.e., serene), and

  • a quality marked by pleasing variety, irregularity, asymmetry, and interesting textures.

  • For example, medieval ruins in a natural landscape were thought to be quintessentially picturesque.


During the 18th Century the idea of the picturesque as a kind of beauty gained increasing importance:

  • poetry, landscape gardening, and architecture came to be affected by landscape painting.

  • Symmetrical style was replaced by asymmetrical arrangements.


Downton Castle in a 'picturesque' landscape (designed to please the eye)

  • Picturesque beauty is a historical development of taste or style, which means ‘after the manner of painters’.
    Painters, it was realized, had a special way, a highly visual way, of looking at nature.

  • The Queen Anne Revival in architecture grew alongside a taste for Gothic Architecture.

  • "Picturesque Gothic began as informal architecture featuring gothic decoration placed picturesquely to... enhance a view in a picturesque garden."

Downton Castle in a 'picturesque' landscape (designed to please the eye)


The first major house to be built asymmetrically was Downton Castle, an important landmark in the history of architecture. 

  • Above and below Downton Castle is picturesquely compared to Downton Abbey, actually Highclere Castle, a throwback to classical design.

  • Of Downton Castle:
    "Its irregular features are at once apparent: Square and octagonal towers abut from the walls in the form of huge irregular bastions;

  • the window arrangements are irregular, some windows are flat, some are crowned with pointed arches,and some oriels



Classically inspired Highclere Castle (completed 1878), (Television's 'Downton Abbey)' in Hampshire, England, showing its symmetrical design i.e. NOT so Picturesque

Picturesque views of Highclere Gardens
(aka "Downton Abbey")

Highclere Grounds and Estate are from an 18th century landscape design by Capability Brown

Picturesque views
Highclere - The Monks' Garden
  1. Castle From Broadspears in May with picturesque asymmetric landscape

  2. The Highclere Monks' Garden with lavender walk and walls of climbing roses

  3. The Highclere Lavender Walk in July with a perspective view

Picturesque taste is concerned with foregrounds, distances, and second distances; side screens and perspectives; lights and shades;

  • "Nothing is so distinctly a work of art as a garden"

  • “A garden on a grand scale is a picture gallery, and a picture must have a frame”

  • William Wordsworth felt proud that painters and poets were the creators of English horticulture. (The Tide of Picturesque Taste)


The picturesque style in landscape gardening was a conscious manipulation of Nature to create foregrounds, middlegrounds, and backgrounds in a move to highlight a selection of provocative formal elements​

  • The English architect and town planner John Nash produced some of the most exemplary works incorporating the concept.

Royal Pavilion, Brighton, England - John Nash (Architect)

Heavens Gate on Sidown Hill

There are various follies and eye-catchers on the Highclere estate

Above Left: The new picturesque herbaceous border at Highclere designed for Lady Carnarvon

Above Right: "Heaven's Gate" is an eye-catching folly about 18 m high on Sidown Hill, from a design by Capability Brown in 1774–1777

Picturesque Gothic 


After the solidity and predictability of Old Colonial Regency and Old Colonial Grecian architecture, builders and designers became sought inspiration from literature and art which mimicked the romanticism of the Middle Ages.

  • The Abbeys, the cathedrals,

  • the castles and the battlements

all contrived to add a sense of drama, intrigue and testament to victory and honour.

Architects took the stark and harsh designs of the Middle Ages and coupled this with a Rococo flair for finer detail, now known as the Old Colonial Gothic Picturesque style of architecture.

  • The Colonial Gothic design reflects a time reminiscent of folly for wealthy aristocrats who frequently commissioned this style of structure in order to add drama to their estate landscapes.


Picturesque Design Elements:

  • High pitched roofs

  • Pinnacles – high pointed structural themes

  • Turrets – small towers

  • Spires – pyramid type structure

  • Buttresses – piers supporting a wall

  • Parapets – low protective wall

Picturesque Gothic
Queen Anne Style

Queen Anne Style


Derived from English and American styles that revived elements from the architecture of Queen Anne’s reign (1702-14), these picturesque houses are deliberately complex, creating a kind of vigorous grandeur.

  • Most of these houses are freestanding and set well back from the street.

  • Houses usually have complex roof forms and asymmetrical floor plans.

  • The roof form is a key feature of these houses.

So why is an architectural style popular in late 19th and early 20th century Australia named after a queen who ruled Great Britain around two hundred years earlier?

  • Queen Anne was neither an architect, nor a passionate proponent of architecture, but the Queen Anne style revives architectural details reminiscent of the buildings around at her time.

  • Both Britain and America have Queen Anne revival architecture, and although similar, the Australian variety is quite unique.

  • In Australia, Queen Anne refers to an eclectic style of red brick buildings with ornate detailing and old-world elegance.

  • The Queen Anne style is romantic, picturesque architecture. The complex rooflines with terracotta chimney pots are the most striking feature of the style.

Left: Auld Reekie, 511 Royal Parade Parkville VIC

Right: Nocklofty, 551 Royal Pde, Parkville VIC

Further references on Picturesque History and Australian homes:

Picturesque Parkville

Picturesque Parkville:


Auld Reekie, 511 Royal Parade Parkville


The house known as 'Auld Reekie at 511 Royal Parade in Parkville dates from 1910, but possibly incorporates an earlier six roomed villa named 'May Day/ which had been built in 1872 by a butcher called Henry Harper. 'Auld Reekie' was constructed by Alexander and Jessie Sturrock who purchased the site in 1908.

  • 'Auld Reekie' is built from red brick with a hipped-gable Marseilles tile roof decorated by tall chimneys, terra cotta chimney pots, ridging, scroll and dragon finials. The belvedere, attic with balcony and verandah complete the picturesque composition.

  • Internally the entrance hall is hexagonal with five rooms radiating outwards.

  • Throughout the five front rooms all the joinery and fittings are original including lead lighting to many of the windows.

  • The ceiling in the sitting room is hand painted with Art Nouveau foliated relief work. The hall has intact blackwood joinery with elaborate door surrounds and fluted pilasters and carved pedimental motifs. The floor is divided into marble squares.

  • The first floor verandah has an iron balustrade featuring a gum leaf pattern. The front fence is a iron palisade, with scroll shaped picket finials.

  • The fence is set on a plinth of rusticated bluestone blocks. There is an off centre gateway, the metal gate in the shape of a shield, which is flanked by pink and white marble castellated octagonal posts with relief carving to each panel. The marble was imported from Italy.

  • The other posts supporting the palisade are a smooth sided bollard shape with domed tops.

"Auld Reekie is the last remaining example of the grand mansions once gracing Royal Parade. Fully restored with exceptional craftsmanship, featuring 13 principle rooms over two storeys. Large site area of 2,400 sqm with 30 metre frontage. The 20 metre lap pool forms the centre piece of a lush well established garden."

Nocklofty, 551 Royal Pde, Parkville

Nocklofty, 551 Royal Pde, Parkville


Nocklofty is a single storey Federation style brick villa at 551 Royal Parade, Parkville.

  • It was designed and built by the owner Kenneth Munro between 1906 and 1908.

  • Munro, a retired mining and construction engineer and highly accomplished amateur wood carver, executed all the original exterior and interior decoration and pattern for casting the verandah columns and friezes in terracotta.


Work commenced on the house in January of 1906, soon after Munro's retirement as an Engineer, but at the beginning of his career as a skilled woodcarver.

  • The single storey house is constructed in brick and has a verandah and front bay window and a Basel Mission terra cotta tile roof.

  • A belvedere, with a conical roof, surmounts the roof-line.

  • The style of the house was influenced by northern European house design and wood carving traditions and by the Arts and Crafts movement.

  • The face red brickwork, with bands of Mount Gambier limestone and ornamental tiles, was originally unpainted.

  • Windows contain diamond leadlights and stained glass lead lights with Art Nouveau designs.


Munro carved the ornamental wood work for Nocklofty in the workshops constructed adjacent to the stables.

  • In particular his work can be seen in Californian Redwood bargeboards, depicting gum leaves and nuts, and on the verandah which is supported by terracotta columns and bases, cast at Cornwall Potteries in Brunswick to Munro's own designs.

  • Internally Munro has carved impressive jarrah overdoors and overmantels, with fauna and flora, such that each carved piece symbolises the use of the room.

  • An eagle spreads its wings on the overmantel of the dining room, whilst the overdoor is carved to depict grapes. Carved cockatoos perch on the master bedroom overdoor.

  • The children's bedroom was crowned by magpies and an owl, the bathroom by water lilies and an egret. The hall stand and bench contain the Munro coat of arms.

Nocklofty at 551 Royal Parade Parkville on 1,700sqm of land was on the market for $5 million via Expression of Interest campaign closing 25 October 2012. The property finally sold for $3,700,000 in August 2013. The property last sold in December 1979 for $250,000. Heritage listed.

  • The external aesthetic of the brick-fronted Federation Queen Anne style home is elaborate, if quite typical of the period. However, the interior woodworking completed in part (or in entirety) by Munro himself overflows with Australian patriotism: Californian redwood barges carved with gum nuts and leaves, and cockatoos perch above the master bedroom door.

The hall stand and bench contain the Munro coat of arms.

Australian Picturesque Homes

- From a lecture at Melbourne University by Professor Miles Lewis

  • Government House , Sydney, by Edward Blore, (1833) 1837-45

  • ‘Lindesay’, Darling Point NSW, by Edward Hallen, 1834

  • 'Banyule', Heidelberg VIC, by John Gill, from 1849

  • 'Norwood', near Maryborough VIC, by Leonard Terry, 1870-72

  • 'The Grange', Campbell Town', Tasmania, by James Blackburn, c 1847

  • 'Coryule', Drysdale, Victoria, by Charles Laing, 1849

  • Cottages at Middleton, near King's Lynn, Norfolk, Tasmania 1837

  • 9 Toxteth Road, Glebe, Sydney NSW, c 1855

  • 'Longeronong' homestead, Wimmera, VIC by Crouch & Wilson, 1861-2

  • 'Ballantrae' (or 'Buninyong House'), Buninyong, VIC c 1859

  • 'Hillcrest', 19 Runnymede Street , Battery Point, Hobart TAS

  • 292 William St, Bathurst, NSW

  • 'Garthowen', 251 Charles Street, Launceston, 1882

  • Clement Hodgkinson house, 157 Hotham Street, East Melbourne, by Joseph Reed , of Reed & Barnes, 1860-61

  • 'Barragunda', Cape Schank VIC, by E La T Bateman, 1868:

  • 'Heronswood', Dromana VIC, by E La T Bateman, competed 1871

From a lecture by Miles Lewis for Melbourne University

Australian Picturesque Homes
Romantic Architectural themes

Later international architectural works in the Romantic Style are:

Romantic Architectural themes

Romanticism in architecture is an umbrella term that covers many of the European 19th century 'revivalist' and Eastern influenced styles;

  • Neoclassical/Greek Revival,

  • Gothic Revival,

  • Baroque Revival,

  • Romanesque Revival and

  • Indo-Saracenic are some examples.


The Romantic period in the arts kicked off with the excavations and the rediscovery of ancient ruins from the Roman and Greek periods of antiquity.  This led to an explosion of ancient Greco-Roman temple architecture being revived in new architectural arrangements.  

  • The Romantic period coincided with the industrial revolution and the more 'functional' aesthetics of the mills and bridges were seen as structures that could not sufficiently nourish the 'emotional', 'nationalist' and 'exotic' aspects of European cultures.

  • The Romantics saw themselves as rebelling against the intellectualism of the Neoclassicists by glorifying emotional content.

  • The ideals of Romanticism spread to all the art forms; Poetry, (Lord Byron, Keats, Shelly), Music, (Beethoven, Chopin, Berlioz), Architecture, and the Fine Arts.


Architecture during the Romanic Era was generally based on combining different styles from other eras all into one.

For example, there are

  • gothic motifs,

  • fantasy,

  • picturesque style and

  • eastern influences

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