Apostle of Taste: Andrew Jackson Downing, 1815-1852
"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.