Through his many books and in the pages of The Horticulturist, the nation’s first journal about landscape gardening, Andrew Jackson Downing (1815–1852) preached a gospel of taste, promoting a naturalistic style of landscape design as the “modern” alternative to the classical geometry of the “ancient” gardens of Italy and France. Together with his longtime collaborator, Alexander Jackson Davis, Downing also contributed to an architectural revolution that sought to replace the classical revival with the Gothic revival and other romantic styles. Downing celebrated this progression not simply as a change in stylistic preference but a reflection of the nation’s evolution to a more advanced state of civilization.
In this compelling biography, issued in a new edition with a new preface, David Schuyler explores the origins of the tastemaker’s ideas in English aesthetic theory and his efforts to adapt English principles to American climate and republican social institutions. Tracing the impulse toward a native architectural style, Schuyler also demonstrates the influence of Downing’s ideas on the period’s gardens and, more broadly still, analyzes the complications of class implicit in Downing’s prescriptions for American society. The new edition is illustrated with more than 100 drawings, plans, and photographs.