Romantic Gardens:

Nature, Art, and Landscape Design

The Romantic Movement, its seeds planted in the seventeenth century, became the ascendant philosophical and aesthetic ethos of the nineteenth century. The opposite of Classicism, with its regard for order, rationality, rules, and balance, Romanticism gave primacy to the imagination, to the senses, to intuition and inspiration, putting a premium on the spectacular, the mysterious, the dramatic. Above all, its emphasis was faith in the self, in the individual. As a movement, Romanticism has been minutely examined in the genres of music, literature, and art. But in this comprehensive survey, we see its development in that most transient manifestation of human effort: the garden.

Romantic gardens were a source of sensory delight, moral instruction, spiritual insight, and artistic inspiration. Here nature stimulated reverie and sentiment. Rustic structures, inscribed monuments, sweeping vistas, and naturalistic lakes and cascades were elements in an ever-changing panorama. Nature, and by extension, gardens were expected to stir the imagination, to clear the mind, to relieve the soul of its burdens, to provide both solace and salvation.

In this book, containing a lengthy introductory essay on the nature of Romanticism, the authors demonstrate, through drawings and designs, watercolors, and engravings, a narrative of the course of Romanticism in Europe and America, where the landscape ideals of the creators of private gardens were translated into the designs for public parks. Here, illustrated in full color and described in detail, are the books, the essays, the prints, and the manuscripts that served as core documents of the Romantic Movement. In this impressive survey, Godine has joined with the Morgan Library and Museum and the Foundation for Landscape Studies to assemble a splendid array of seminal texts alongside outstanding works of art. The result is a scholarly and accessible book that reveals and illuminates the origins and impact of the movement that dominated both Europe and America between 1700 and 1900 in the realm of the garden.

When you finish the book, you have come full circle. You have seen how the Romantic Movement began and how its expression in the garden provided, and still provides, a sense of oneness with nature. You feel how good it is to enjoy a garden.―Home & Garden

This large-format, deluxe volume accompanies a recent exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. Cocurator Rogers contributes a feature essay introducing Romanticism as it developed in Europe and America during the 18th and 19th centuries and further discusses the movement’s influence on landscape design. Garden planners attempted to capture the power and beauty of nature, while imparting moral lessons or producing sensual pleasure. This ethos has informed many public parks, gardens, and cemeteries. The Morgan exhibit includes diverse documents and visual art, reproduced here in color, with descriptions by Elizabeth Eustis (Boston Architectural Coll.) and John Bidwell (Astor Curator of Printed Books and Bindings, Morgan Library). An example is a lithograph of Balcony Bridge in Central Park, designed by architect Calvert Vaux around 1860. This valuable work on the history of landscape design in Western culture will be of most interest to landscape architects, art historians, and students.―Library Journal

This is possibly one of the most beautiful books ever published on garden history.―Judith B. Tankard, Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers is the president of the Foundation for Landscape Studies. A resident of New York City since 1964, Rogers was the first person to hold the title of Central Park Administrator, and she was the founding president of the Central Park Conservancy. The co-author of Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design (Godine, 2010), Rogers has won numerous awards for her work as a writer and landscape preservationist.