Apostle of Taste: Andrew Jackson Downing, 1815-1852
Apostle of taste is the first full-length biography of 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. Together with his longtime collaborator, architect Alexander Jackson Davis, he contributed to the revolution in American architectural taste from the universality of the classical revival to Gothic, Italianate, bracketed, and other romantic or picturesque styles. Downing celebrated this progression from classic to romantic not simply as a change in stylistic preference but also as a reflection of the nation's evolution from a pioneer condition to a more advanced state of civilization. In this compelling new 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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