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European Art: Eighteenth Century  
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While the early decades of the century still upheld the legacy of Baroque architecture, the Italian influence was soon manifested in a quieter, simpler Palladian style for villas, and for the imaginative leap represented in Piranesi. William Kent invented the garden landscape based on notions of picturesque ruins from sketches of Greek and Roman ruins. Lancelot "Capability" Brown made this style fashionable and declared that "nature abhors a straight line."

In palaces and stately homes, patrons indulged new notions of the wild and picturesque based on the idealized landscapes of painter Claude Lorrain. They wanted undulating surfaces, informal layouts, winding paths with miniature classical temples and grottoes or Chinese summer houses casually dotted around large estates. This landscaping heralded the broad canvases and storm-ridden sentiments of the later Romantics.

Frederick the Great of Prussia, whose homosexual tendencies failed to diminish even after harsh treatment by his father, commissioned his own designs for the palace at Sans Souci. The house there imitated that of Roman Emperor Hadrian at Tivoli. The busts of Antinous, Hadrian's lover, at Sans Souci functioned as code for desires that could not otherwise declare themselves. Frederick also had a Chinese summer house, which reflected an increasing eclecticism in taste.

William Hogarth

In England, William Hogarth, though he was influenced by French painting, often produced paintings of a highly original quality. In Harlot's Progress (1732), Marriage à la Mode (1745), The Rake's Progress (1735), and other series, Hogarth produced satirically observed narrative paintings in which he used humor for moral ends. His satirical targets included fops, who may be read as gay in contemporary terminology.

These paintings, reproduced as prints, were hugely popular and continue to be so. The Harlot's Progress inspired Hofmannsthal's libretto for Richard Strauss' opera Der Rosenkavalier (1911), while The Rake's Progress inspired a less than action-filled libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman for Igor Stravinsky's 1951 opera of the same name. Later in the twentieth century, David Hockney, in his own designs based on Hogarth, personalized the theme of the Rake, identifying him as the gay artist, an outsider in an uncomprehending society.

Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole--youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole, generally regarded as England's first prime minister--became an amateur architect, an art historian, and great chronicler of gossip. He was also the man who coined the word "serendipity." Known as an eccentric, he was the author of The Castle of Otranto (1764), the first Gothic novel, to which many subsequent horror stories owe a huge debt. This novel almost single-handedly made fashionable the taste for the bizarre, for love of doom and gloom. It also helped establish the Gothic as a site of sexual paranoia, especially the conflict between homosexuality and homophobia.

In his mock-Gothic mansion at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, to which he continually added traceries, turrets, and tombs, Walpole expressed his own architectural tastes, while also presiding over a literary circle that included not only gay men (such as the poet Thomas Gray) but also the lesbian sculptor Anne Damer and her lover Mary Berry.

Although Walpole regarded the Gothic as a decorative style, rather than an integrated design, Twickenham nevertheless was an important forerunner of the High Church Gothic style that characterized public buildings in the nineteenth century.

William Beckford

William Beckford was handsome, erudite, homosexual, and, at one time, the wealthiest but least appreciated man in England. His father's fortune was based on estates in Jamaica and on slavery, to which Beckford never referred. Beckford was hounded out of England after the exposure of his relationship with his younger cousin, "Kitty" Courtenay.

Beckford lived in splendor in Portugal and traveled restlessly across Europe, even witnessing the storming of the Bastille on his travels. But upon his return to England he was shunned by society and became an eccentric recluse, a virtual exile in his own country.

From youth Beckford was obsessed with the Tales of One Thousand and One Nights and sought to recreate that feeling in fantasy Oriental interiors, especially at the extraordinary palace he built on his country estate, Fonthill Abbey (1796).

Beckford pioneered a more eclectic range in tastes than was previously thought admirable and built a treasure trove of decorative items in his collections. He retreated into his own Aladdin's fantasy world, reputedly maintaining a harem of boys. He even identified himself as a relation of Caliph Haroun al Rashid.

Beckford's vast resources allowed him to set the tone for collectors. His novel Vathek (1786) is a decadent romance that was admired by Lord Byron, and, a hundred years later, by the Symbolists. Beckford not only awakened the world to the rich beauty of Oriental designs, but he was also one of the world's great art collectors.

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