Spirit of the Gardenby Martha Brookes Hutcheson
Martha Brookes Hutcheson (1871-1959) was one of the first American women landscape architects to receive professional training. Like many of her female colleagues, she specialized in garden design, the topic of her acclaimed book, The Spirit of the Garden. When first published in 1923, the volume was both a critical and a commercial success, widely praised for its articulation of the architectural principles of garden design. "Every garden lover," advised one contemporary reviewer, "should have it on a most convenient table."
Hutcheson made lavish use of photographs of her own garden designs and those of several important European examples to illustrate the concepts she considered fundamental to successful design. Evocative "before and after" images attest to the remarkable effect of plantings, even while she reminds her readers that fine design depends on comprehensive planning rather than horticultural rarity. In her practice and her writings, Hutcheson championed the use of native plants and was among the first to urge conservation of "our vast natural beauty."
In an insightful new introduction, Rebecca Warren Davidson explores Hutcheson's motives for becoming a landscape architect. In Davidson's view, Hutcheson considered fine landscape design an instrument of social change and was inspired to write her book by a Progressive-era zeal. Davidson examines the circumstances of Hutcheson's entry into MIT in 1900 and her subsequent career until her marriage at age forty, when she retired from active practice and turned to writing and lecturing.
Among the many beautiful photographs illustrating Hutcheson's designs are examples from Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, Massachusetts; the Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge; and Bamboo Brook Conservation Center in Gladstone, New Jerseyall of which are now open to the public.
About the Author:
An architectural and landscape historian, Rebecca Warren Davidson is acting director of the Fine Arts Library at Cornell University.
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