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Norah Lindsay: The Life and Art of a Garden Designer

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    A reviewer

    Though the English woman Nora Lindsay's outstanding abilities as a gardener were widely known and respected among her circle of upper-class friends including Winston Churchill, the Prince of Wales, and Edith Wharton, she never considered making a career out of this--until at 51 and divorced, she found herself with 'no husband, no money, no home,' as she wrote a friend. It wasn't long before Lindsay began getting commissions for garden design and landscaping from her wealthy friends for their estates and for prominent public grounds. In the remaining 20 years of her life, she accomplished more visible and lasting landscaping than most professional landscaper designers with careers lasting a lifetime. Black-and-white period photographs from the decades of the mid 1900s when Lindsay was active give a sense of the older, traditional English upper-class society and its tastes and attachment to its property she naturally appealed to. While later color photographs, often of the same scene and juxtaposed to it, bring out the color of the landscaping. Her landscape design and reputation carried her to major works for upper-class and royalty in Italy, France, and elsewhere in Continental Europe. This study of Lindsay's garden design by a garden design historian is a portrait of an upper-class English life style that was largely lost in the latter decades of the 1900s, after the two World Wars and with the coming of the internationalist economic and cultural developments. Among illustrated material are mementos signed by Hilaire Belloc, another friend of Lindsay's. And besides the many period and later garden photographs are many of Lindsay's friends and acquaintances, e. g., the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Other photos such as letters of Lindsay to her sister open onto an intimate portrait of Lindsay. This finely-produced work with its balance of content by an author who is a graduate of the Harvard Landscape Institute and who traveled to many of Lindsay's surviving projects throughout Europe in her 10 years of work on the book focuses on the work, life, and social context of Norah Lindsay's work and projects so as to place her with the top level of garden designers for reasons of historical significance, stature of her projects, and garden-design aesthetics.

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