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A love of desolation and ruins

From the neo-gothic follies of 18th-century aristocrats to the blasted cityscapes of contemporary Detroit, ruins have long obsessed artists

By Evelyn Toynton   April 2014

Jane and Louise Wilson’s photograph of a ruined German gun emplacement in Normandy, 2006 ©Jane and Louise Wilson

Once upon a time, gazing at ruins was considered one of life’s most exquisite pleasures. The parks designed by Capability Brown and William Kent for 18th-century aristocrats often featured a neo-gothic folly or crumbling mock-classical temple specially created to set off the surrounding landscape. Cultured travellers, meanwhile, went in search of real ruins in Britain and abroad, a trend that continued well into the 19th century. Ruined castles were a favourite destination,…

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