Did You See This?

How Victorian Landscape Painters Used Mirrors to Frame Scenes

See the old-school practice in action at Wimpole Estate.

When 18th and 19th century landscape painters prepared to paint their subjects, they turned their back on them, using a black mirror to view the scene. This was known as the Claude glass, a small, dark, convex mirror that framed the view and simplified colors. Fittingly, Claude glasses were also used by tourists visiting picturesque locales.

Neon, a British design firm, recreated a series of Claude glasses at the centuries-old Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire, England, which features grounds designed by 18th-century landscape architect Capability Brown. To pull together the re-creation, Neon designed easels incorporating the Claude glass and placed them around the estate.

In a video about the project, we see visitors interacting with the easels and get a closer look at the stunning estate—including a castle designed by Brown to look like an ancient ruin, as well as some friendly sheep. Now visitors have the incredible opportunity to take in the landscape the way 19th century tourists did, or if the locale moves them so, get out their brushes and paint a picture of their own.