Landscapes for Virtue: Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s Virginian Watercolors
Julia A. Sienkewicz
In 1795, Benjamin Henry Latrobe emigrated from England to the United States as a bankrupt widower—a far cry from the renowned Architect of the Capitol he would become. Aspiring to advance his architectural career, Latrobe made slow progress after he landed in Virginia in 1796. Yet, if he built little, his mind and art were active: Latrobe traveled with watercolors, sketchbook, and journal in hand. He was highly trained in landscape watercolor and familiar with contemporary European theories of landscape design and rendering. Latrobe produced a remarkable body of watercolors that document, meditate on, and envision the future of the Virginian landscape. This talk introduces the audience to Latrobe’s theories of and visions for the Virginian landscape, giving special attention to his studies of Mt. Vernon. Through innovative trompe l’oeil, serial, and allegorical landscapes, Latrobe probed the role of the design and representation of landscape in the virtuous development of American civilization and weighed the meaning of the American landscape as it would develop within the political experiment of the young democratic nation.
Julia A. Sienkewicz is Assistant Professor of Art History at Roanoke College in Salem, VA. She holds PhD and MA degrees from the University of Illinois and a BA from Mt. Holyoke College. She is the author of Epic Landscapes: Benjamin Henry Latrobe and the Art of Watercolor, published in fall 2019 and from which this talk is drawn. Her Latrobe research has received generous support, including fellowships at the Yale Center for British Art, The Winterthur Museum and Country Estates, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and from the ACLS/Luce.
n Praise of Noble Trees
Michael A. Dirr
There are many reasons for praising noble trees, including their durability, adaptability, aesthetics, shade, CO2 sequestration, storm water mitigation, and particulate matter interception. Considerable quantitative data supports the health and economic benefits of noble trees. Sustained emphasis on selection of superior native trees has increased awareness and availability of the rich and diverse genetics of North America. Superior cultivars of Acer, Betula, Carpinus, Catalpa, Gymnocladus, Liriodendron, Nyssa, Quercus, Taxodium, Tilia, and Ulmus have been introduced. For example, Nyssa sylvatica now umbrellas 30 cultivars; 20 years ago there were less than 10. The loss of Fraxinus and ash to the emerald ash borer has fostered a renaissance in tree breeding and selection. This lecture will present the rationales for planting noble trees and discuss the best adapted species and cultivars for North America.
Michael A. Dirr is also a Professor Emeritus of the University of Georgia, where he taught Landscape Plant Taxonomy, Propagation, and Introductory Horticulture. He is the author of The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, 6th Edition, the major teaching and nursery reference in the US, and Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs. His new book, The Tree Book, was published in May 2019 by Timber Press.
American Plants in English Shrubberies in the Age of Washington
Mark Laird's The Flowering of the Landscape Garden (1999) documented the importance of plants introduced from Eastern North America during the colonial period. Magnolias and azaleas, oaks and pines, Phlox and Monarda, all helped to generate the mania for 'theatrical shrubberies' and 'theatrical flower beds' in the second half of the eighteenth century. A recent study of planting in the garden of St. John's College, Oxford, points to the continued allure of American plants during the early republic and even up to the year of Washington's death, 1799. The archival evidence also raises a question of the place of women in English gardening -- a topic explored in many chapters of Laird's A Natural History of English Gardening.
Mark Laird is Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. From 2001 to 2015 he was Senior Lecturer in Landscape History at the GSD, Harvard University. As a Toronto-based consultant in historic landscape conservation, he advises on sites in Europe and North America. His most recent consultancy is for Drayton Hall, South Carolina, and for Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. He is the author of A Natural History of English Gardening.