From classical times to modern, a chief objective of interior decoration has been to bring indoors the most pleasing features of the world outside. Dwellings were spartan even in classical Italy, and in northern regions they were cold, draughty, and damp. Garden scenes and summer landscapes painted on walls or floors enlivened these harsh interiors - and, when represented in fabric, warmed and softened them as well.
Interior Landscapes chronicles this imaginative work of bringing the natural world indoors. Describing both the history of decoration and the history of changing tastes, Ronald Rees shows how gardens and landscapes have long been prominent motifs in the decorative arts. Gardens were so alive with symbolic meaning, and gave such pleasure to the close observer, that they were natural subjects for needleworkers.
Tapestry makers and fresco painters, whose techniques lent themselves to much larger works, looked to the wider landscape for subjects. Rees explains how the "sister arts" of gardening, embroidery, and weaving - usually the responsibilities of women - exerted mutual influences so strong that the vocabulary of one craft often applied to another.
Divisions of ornamental gardens became known as "rooms," for example, with flowers arranged in "brocaded patterns." Needleworkers used the gardener's term for a graft cutting - a "slip"--For an embroidered leaf or flower that was to be cut out and sewn onto other material.
Engagingly written and beautifully illustrated, Interior Landscapes presents a theory of interior decoration that takes the reader from the ancient Mediterranean to continental Europe, and from there to Britain and modern America. Eventually, abstraction and other influences would diminish the role of naturalism in interior design.
But Rees finds that the old desire to bring the outside inside is still with us - from gleaming glass-walled buildings, where the lines between interior and exterior literally disappear, to that modern "grass analogue," shag carpeting.