Apostle of Taste: Andrew Jackson Downing, 1815-1852 (Creating the North American Landscape)

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9780801852299: Apostle of Taste: Andrew Jackson Downing, 1815-1852 (Creating the North American Landscape)
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"By interpreting Downing as above all an apostle of taste, Schuyler is able to weigh the relative importance of his architecture, garden designs, publishing, organizational and civic activity, even his nursery business, within a governing rubric balancing theory and practice and, most elusive of all, his public and his private self." -- Robert Twombly, Reviews in American History

Apostle of Taste is the first full-length biography of Andrew Jackson Downing, the horticulturist, landscape gardener, and prolific writer on architecture who, more than any other individual, shaped middle-class taste in the United States in the two decades prior to the Civil War. Through his books and the pages of the Horticulturist, Downing preached a gospel of taste that promoted the modern or natural style of landscape design over the formal and geometric arrangements that were the hallmark of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century gardens.

In this compelling biography, illustrated with more than 100 drawings, plans, and photographs, David Schuyler explores the origins of Downing's ideas in English aesthetic theory and his efforts to "adapt" English designs to the different climate and republican social institutions of the United States. Schuyler traces the impulse toward an American architectural style in Downing's work, demonstrates the influence of Downing's ideas on the appropriate design of homes and gardens, and analyzes the complications of class implicit in Downing's prescriptions for American society.

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Review:

Though few Americans can identify Andrew Jackson Downing, who died in 1852 at just 36, his influence as an architect, horticulturist, writer, and town planner has been far-reaching. Through his writings and his designs, Downing helped lay the groundwork for the urban parks of Frederick Law Olmsted, the national park system, and even, in some ways, the conservation movement. Downing was very well-known in his time, especially for his best-selling pattern books illustrating Gothic Revival houses and picturesque grounds. David Schuyler, a professor of American Studies at Franklin and Marshall College, has produced a fascinating biography of Downing that also serves well as an introduction to design principles and architecture of the 19th century.

Book Description:

Biography of an early American designer who had a significant influence in America.

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