The Art of the English Garden

Course details

From £1145.00

Sun 12 Jul 2020 - Sat 18 Jul 2020

The Art of the English Garden


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

Alexander Pope wrote that “all gardening is landscape painting” while Horace Walpole described “Poetry, Painting, and Gardening” as “the Three New Graces who dress and adorn nature”.  Throughout history there has been a close relationship between the painter’s ability to distil a vision of the world and the gardener’s attempts to shape that world.  In this course we look at the relationship between painting and gardening, at paintings that recorded gardens, at gardens that inspired painters, at paintings that inspired gardeners and at painters who gardened.  A visit will be made to the 18th century garden at Stourhead in Wiltshire to see one of England’s most picturesque gardens.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.

Garden art of Medieval and Renaissance England.  The garden as paradise, an escape from the terrors of a natural world; and the garden portrait as a status symbol.

The 18th century garden in paintings. Nature perfected “as Reynolds would picture some exquisite maid”. The rise of the picturesque and of the plantsman’s picturesque. 

The splendour of the high Victorian garden and its rejection by advocates of the Arts and Crafts movement.  A new marriage of painting and gardening in the gardens of Gertrude Jekyll, William Robinson and Alfred Parsons. 

Visit to Stourhead in Wiltshire: an 18th century garden inspired by paintings and an inspiration for later painters.

The 20th century: modern art and the garden. 


Field Trip

Destination:   Stourhead; Wiltshire

Excursion Rating: Moderate
Up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.

Recommended reading

Alfrey, Nicholas, Daniels, Stephen & Postle, Martin (Eds.).  2004.  The Art of the Garden.  Tate.

Mancoff, Debra.  2011. The Garden in Art.  Merrell.

Phillips, R. & N.Foy.  1995.  Photographic Garden History.  Macmillan.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. Bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The fee £1640 includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available for couples or those who wish to share with a friend. Those couples wishing to book a twin room should contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

There are also a few standard rooms available which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but the bath and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. To apply for one of these rooms please select the ‘Programme Fee (with single standard accommodation and meals)’ option on the application form.  Early application for these rooms is essential.

Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room). If you wish to book a twin set, please contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


Programme fee (no accom–incl. field trip, lunch and dinner): £1145.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom, field trip and meals): £1640.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom, field trip and meals): £1455.00


Mr Richard Bisgrove


Richard Bisgrove studied horticulture and landscape architecture in England and the USA before lecturing for forty years at the University of Reading. He has had long associations with the Gardens Panel of the National Trust and with the Garden History Society, and has been involved with OUDCE for many years. 

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.