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Appreciation of Landscape Beauty

Rules, recipes, and arbitrary preconceptions, like that landscape slogan, reflecting a half-truth, "Avoid straight lines," are the resort of the lazy and the superficial in matters of landscape as in all branches of art.  They are always dangerous because they offer an escape from thinking things out for oneself, from deciding in one case after another for one's own self where lies the greater beauty and why.  It is only by making such choices again and again with complete honesty to oneself, hiding behind the skirts of no "authority," that one gains in keenness of perception, surety of judgment, and real enjoyment. 

The marvelous thing is that we are so made that each of us, as he grows in the enjoyment of beauty, generally finds that the qualities which most appeal to him are among those which have appealed to others highly developed in the appreciation of beauty, even in times or places far remote and circumstances very different.  It is with the learning of this truth that one comes to an appreciation of the true value and use of "authorities" and "precedents." Their use is not to relieve us of standing on our own feet in matters of artistic choice, but to make us modestly critical of the thoroughness of our own understanding and the keenness of our own perceptions where we find them apparently at odds with the judgment of acknowledged experts. 

What follows, then, will be of value mainly so far as it helps the readers a little in seeing and appreciating landscape beauty for themselves in their own way, in thinking about it themselves, and in making intelligently such decisions as they have to make that will affect the beauty of the landscape amidst which they and others are compelled to live their lives. 

— Frederick Law Olmsted  


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