Lecture 1: What is the Baroque? Style and Breaking the Rules, Performance and Power, Engaging the Senses, and Reaching to Heaven

Lecture 19: Women in Landscape Architecture: Gertrude Jekyll, Ellen Shipman, Beatrix Farrand

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Lecture 19: Women in Landscape Architecture: Gertrude Jekyll, Ellen Shipman, Beatrix Farrand

Early precedents for Women in Design: Unlike France, whose Salic law excluded females from the succession to the monarchy, Britain had women monarchs from the 16th century onwards. Hence, as Elizabeth Hyde explains in Cultivated Power (2005), even the realm of Flora was appropriated by the court of Louis XIV, while women in England and the Netherlands made the art and science of horticulture their domain. Notable examples are Maria Sibylla Merian, Magdalena Poulle, and the 1st Duchess of Beaufort. Before them, Giovanna Garzoni became one of the preferred artists at the Medici court (1642-51). Keith Thomas argues that flowers, attached to food, medicine, fashion and décor, were left to women.
Leslie Rose Close’s arguments: In the introduction to Judith Tankard’s book on Ellen Shipman, Close puts forward a similar claim to Thomas: that women in the New World built on their traditional roles as “nurturers” (i.e., supposedly endowed with “natural” talents). By the 19th century, upper class women had made horticulture a matter of refined cultivation. Diane Harris has written of the Garden Clubs of America as an outgrowth of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (founded in 1889), and of the female genre of garden writings (from Sylvia Streatfield in 1735 to Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) and Penelope Hobhouse). Tamara Fritze considers the topic from the perspective of native women.
Ellen Biddle Shipman (1869-1950) and horticultural training: Encouraged by Charles Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum and working with Charles Platt, Ellen Biddle used her horticultural skills to become the “Dean of American Women Landscape Architects” by 1933. Warren Manning regarded her as among the very best of “Flower Garden Makers in America.” In England, Brenda Colvin and Sylvia Crowe took their horticultural training at Swanley College (founded 1900) to build careers in landscape architecture (only from 1915 was enrollment in landscape architecture opened to women in Cambridge, England).
The influence of Gertrude Jekyll on Shipman and Planting Design: The Platt/Shipman collaborations (from 1912, e.g., Laverock Hill, Pennsylvania, of 1915) were akin to the Lutyens/Jekyll projects of the Arts and Crafts Movement (e.g., Hestercombe). However, Getrude Jekyll (1843-1932), born the year Loudon died, is important in her own right in establishing a fundamental planting color theory. It endured into the 20th century. Brent Elliott argues that Jekyll’s planting schemes came out of two traditions: the herbaceous border and “bedding out.” Her innovative contribution was to combine a principle of “massing” in “drifts” with a new sensitivity to color transitions (e.g., from cool to hot colors), or to selective chromatic planting palettes (e.g., a white or grey garden). Just as the story of “bedding” is key to understanding William Robinson’s shift to the “wild garden”, so the “complementary colors” of the early bedding system help explain Jekyll’s color theory. Michel-Eugene Chevreul’s De la loi du contraste simultané des couleurs of 1839 (translated into English as a Theory of Colours in 1840) had an impact on how the bright annuals of bedding were displayed: red opposite green; orange against blue; and yellow with violet. Jekyll took these bold masses into the graduation and gradations of the herbaceous border. In the great border at Munstead Wood, for example, she used an “ebb and flow” of contrasting colors within a progression from grey and white at the ends to a red-hot center. To sustain the effects over an entire season, she would infill with annuals or “plunged” potted plants. Selective seasonal borders (e.g., the June Border at Munstead Wood) became an alternative structuring principle for a garden. Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst and Lawrence Johnston’s (1871-1958) Hidcote represent the apogee of seasonal and selective chromatic plantings.
Beatrix Jones Farrand (1872-1959): A founding member of the ASLA (1899), Farrand’s career (beginning at the top of her mother’s house in New York in 1895) epitomizes the new role of women within landscape architecture. Her work at Dumbarton Oaks, Georgetown D.C., for Robert and Mildred Bliss (intensively designed and implemented from 1922-1933) shows a progression from Arts & Crafts or Colonial Revival simplicity to a more self-conscious “Baroque” historicism (especially after Farrand’s death in 1959, and under Mrs. Bliss’s direction). Traveling intensively, Farrand relied on the skills of three support women in the office (Anne Baker, Margaret H. Balie and Ruth Havey). With her daily fee of $100 and up to 50 commissions on the go at any one time, her organizational structuring of the office recalled the model of Repton one hundred years before, but with a much greater degree of collaboration and delegation.
See Thaisa Way, Unbounded Practice: Women and Landscape Architecture in the Early Twentieth Century.

Lecture 20: The Rise of Ecology and Ideologies of Nature

From the Stirrings of Environmental Awareness to Early Nature Writing: A split-sensibility is apparent in the work of John Evelyn and Gilbert White (bugs are devourers yet wondrous). Prior to White, naturalists and artists had found and represented connections in nature: from Dürer’s depiction of a piece of meadow to Maria Sibylla Merian’s insects in Surinam, to Mark Catesby’s Natural History plates of flora and fauna. Carl von Linné, Linnaeus (1707-78), established, through taxonomy, an order among living things. This supported the view of a static hierarchy of geo-biological interactions along a chain of being or sustenance. The perception of an interconnectedness of lowly and lofty animals (and man) begins with White, who realized for the first time that even a “despicable” life form was a key link in the chain. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Julie ou la Nouvelle Héloise (1761) is among the earliest visions of a garden of indigenous plants, in which harmony was found in nature. Both Rousseau and Goethe prefigured the view of man’s violent intrusions into the pre-existing harmony of nature – the awareness that George Perkins Marsh brought to the public in Man and Nature, 1864. Alexander von Humboldt in the early 1800s described vegetative communities, analyzed for the first time by geography and climate, as well as by horizontal and vertical zoning. He strove for a holistic view of nature. He believed that planning could reconcile human development with preserving nature, and his overtly optimistic outlook belongs within the 18th-century static view of the “harmony of nature” (devoid of the conflict and violence central to Darwin).

Donald Worster’s Arguments: In Nature’s Economy: The Roots of Ecology (1977), Worster made Gilbert White (1720-93) the representative of an “Arcadian” tradition (human society restored to harmony with other organisms) in opposition to Linnaeus’s “imperial” view (human dominion over nature through science). White created an early holistic model. For example, he saw the earthworm as a link in the food chain and in soil aeration. He talked of nature as an “economist” – a term derived from Linnaeus (the “Oeconomy of Nature” based on household management, which would become the “Oecologie” of Ernst Haeckel, 1866). White sets the model for the nature essay. Worster argues further that the “Arcadian” lineage is sustained by Henry David Thoreau (1817-62). Thoreau is key in replacing the static model with one of change. In studying the impact of settlers on forests, he addressed natural “succession” as a model for restoring and managing the “primitive” condition. He wrote that “Nature works by contraries” and his own polarities of pagan animism and transcendentalism allowed him to see nature diversely. Robert France writes of 4 different ways that Thoreau worked: nature idolized (transcendentalism); nature idealized (aesthetic appreciation); nature itemized (scientific study); and nature lionized (environmentalism).
Ralph Waldo Emerson and the influence of Transcendentalism on Landscape Design: Daniel Joseph Nadenicek argues that through the sculptor Horatio Greenough and the landscape architect Horace Cleveland, the ideals of “primitive” landscape as spiritual revelation, and “form” as truth to nature, were expressed at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, MA. It was an early “nature garden” that left landform and indigenous plants in place. Warren Manning’s approach was similar but more pragmatic (i.e, based on economy) than spiritual. These were departures from William Robinson’s approach to naturalizing exotics.
Willy Lange (1864-1941), Physiognomy, and Nazi Ideology: In Germany, the ideas of William Robinson were developed in a new way based on the outer affinities (physiognomical likeness) of plants that could be naturalized (e.g., the heath garden). This was linked to a notion of the superiority of Nordic landscape (that draws on 19th-century views, e.g. Downing’s). In contrast, Dutch theories of plant-sociological groupings were based on close observation of habitat, and a continued openness to plants from other lands. The native/exotic divide continues to influence landscape architecture to the present day (see Gould & Spirn).
The Rise of Ecology: Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) used the term “ecology” in 1866 to define “the science of relations between organisms and their environment.” Although the dynamic principles of ecology would come later with Eugenius Warming (e.g., climax communities, 1895), Haeckel is key to visualizing the universe as a whole organism, with animals having a status akin to humans. By 1939, Frederic Clements and Victor Shelford would merge plant and animal communities in one scheme of understanding.

Additional Notes on Lecture 20:

1 Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) was the 19th-century inheritor of Gilbert White’s ‘Arcadian legacy’ (Worster). Although not a pure vegetarian, his refusal to eat meat, which came from his toying with the idea of eating a woodchuck raw, follows from Evelyn’s interest in diet as spiritual growth. This apparent contradiction illustrates the idea of counterpoint. Nature works by contraries was his maxim, and this corresponds to the dialectic: competition vs. cooperation in Darwin’s view of nature.

2 The Transcendentalist contribution to landscape through Thoreau and Emerson found expression in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which was modeled on Nature as a dynamic (not static) system, offering beauty of form as a consequence of function. Emerson’s oration on the opening is worth quoting, as it builds on Evelyn’s view of sacred groves:
‘A grove of trees; what benefit or ornament is so fair and great? They make the landscape, they keep the earth habitable. Their roots run down like cattle, to the watercourses. Their heads expand to feed the atmosphere. The life of a tree is a hundred and a thousand years; its decay ornamental, its repairs self-made; they grow when we sleep. They grew when we were unborn. Man is a moth among these longevities. He plants for the next millennium.’
3 Daniel Nadenicek writes about Horace W. S. Cleveland’s design for Sleepy Hollow Cemetery: ‘Emerson’s aesthetic, as understood by Cleveland . . . led to a natural garden . . . the designers treated the landform with sensitivity, left native plants in place, and conceived a design that was flexible enough to change as nature itself changed.’
4 The influence of Cleveland on the Prairie Style of Jens Jensen has been discussed by Lance Neckar. When Jensen wrote in his most famous work Siftings of 1939 that, ‘The great destruction brought to our country through foreign importations must prove alarming to the future’, he dredged up a sentiment in Downing but one that was common to Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and Scandinavian discourse (1830s to 1930s). ‘Nordic superiority’ in landscape became equated under the National Socialists in Germany with racial and biological purity. However, the work of Jacobus Thijsse (1865-1945) on ‘plant sociology’ in the Netherlands during the 1930s was equally free from racist overtones. The Dutch ‘wild garden’, taken into Modernism by Mien Ruys, was based on natural associations and communities and thus reflected a key application of ecology to landscape design. That approach was consolidated in L. G. Le Roy’s To Switch on Nature – To Switch Off Nature (1978), which made ecology essential to planting design.
5 While ‘ecology’ (Oecologie) was coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866, and universally recognized as a term at the International Botanical Congress in 1893, Anna Bramwell has suggested that Haeckel did not display any notable insight into the dynamic principles of ecology. He did, however, recognize the universe as an organism, in which animals and plants had status equivalent to humans. This meant that man must follow the ‘truths’ of nature. Thus ‘ecologism’ became a viable political creed.
6 Eugenius Warming’s 1895 publication, later translated into English as The Oecology of Plants (1909), established a scientific methodology to describe ‘communities’. His emphasis of ‘commensalism’ (species all eating together at the same table) and ‘symbiosis’ (e.g., lichen as a partnership of alga and fungus) strengthened the role of interdependencies against the place of rampant struggle in Darwin’s work. His analysis of succession built on Thoreau’s work and produced the idea of ‘climax’ communities. In 1939, Frederic Clements of the University of Nebraska would join forces with Victor Shelford, a leading animal ecologist, to describe the ‘biome’ as a unity of vegetal and animal ecologies.
7 Stephen Jay Gould tackled the question of what is a native as opposed to an exotic in natural and cultural systems. Anne Whiston Spirn discussed ‘ecological’ landscape design. These essays are both in Nature and Ideology (ed. Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn).

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