(1696—1751) writer on architecture
English landscape-gardener, architect, and prolific producer of architectural books. His works included Practical Geometry (1726), The Builder's Chest Book (1727 and 1739), New Principles of Gardening (1728), The Landed Gentleman's Useful Companion (1741), A Sure Guide to Builders (1729), The Young Builder's Rudiments (1730 and 1734), The City and Country Builder's and Workman's Treasury of Designs (1740 and further editions). His grandest book, with 500 or so plates (most looted from other sources), probably the largest English pattern-book, was Ancient Masonry (1736). His publications are full of sensible advice on how to set about drawing and constructing various elements. He is remembered today primarily for Ancient Architecture Restored and Improved by a Great Variety of Grand and Usefull Designs, Entirely New in the Gothick Mode (1741–2), reissued as Gothic Architecture, Improved by Rules and Proportions in Many Grand Designs (1747), an attempt to systematize Gothic on the lines of five Classical Orders. There was virtually nothing of real Gothic in the books, for Langley's sources were more an early Georgian Gothick invented by people like Kent, so his work was ridiculed. However, ‘Langley’, ‘Carpenter's’, or ‘Sham Gothick’ had considerable success, and his designs were widely copied. Sanderson Miller and Horace Walpole were indebted to Langley for some of their Gothick, though they were more than reluctant to say so. A pioneer of what he described as the Artinatural, or ‘regular irregularities’, he must be counted as one of the earliest to espouse the ‘natural’ landscape that was to be such a feature of C18, and he was also an advocate of the Rococo, presumably as an antidote to Palladianism. A veil should be drawn over his own architectural efforts, but his importance as an influence on Georgian architecture cannot be overestimated.
Colvin (1995);Crook (ed.) (1983);J. Curl (2002a);E. Harris (1990);B. Langley (1724, 1726, 1728, 1729, 1729a, 1734, 1736, 1738, 1739, 1742, 1745, 1747, 1756, 1970, 1970a, 1971)
Subjects: Art & Architecture