He was only 36 when he died in a steamboat accident in 1852, but Downing is now recognized as one of the most influential tastemakers of the 19 century.He was a persuasive advocate for the picturesque both in architecture and landscape design, although he was not originally a designer himself but a journalist.
But, when smiling lawns and tasteful cottages begin to embellish a country, we know that order and culture are established.” But Downing was not merely an apostle of taste, an Emily Post arbiter for the masses.
Architect, landscaper, pomologist, and author, he campaigned for the artful domestication of America’s wilderness in book after book, as well as in his monthly editorial in He was truly one of the most celebrated figures of the pre-Civil War period, and that he accomplished so much in the mere 36 years of his life is a marvel and a reproach to slackers like me.
She then analyzes his design principles in detail, with particular attention to his terminology, augmented by a substantial glossary of architectural terms.
Sidebars are used to identify figures that come into the narrative, from Renaissance thinkers such as Alberti to Downing’s colleagues and contemporaries Olmsted and Ruskin.
Following his collection of writings by Frederick Law Olmsted, Robert Twombly has now produced a similar service for Olmsted’s distinguished predecessor Andrew Jackson Downing.
Rural Essays Downing
Coincidentally, Caren Yglesias has published a comprehensive analysis of Downing’s design theory and practice in her somewhat misleadingly titled book, The Complete House and Grounds.
2: Devoted to Horticulture, Landscape Gardening, Rural Architecture, Botany, Pomology, Entomology, Rural Economy, &c.; July 1847 June 1848The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, Vol.
Downing was, and remains, a culture hero despite dying young; his life story, full of bravado and singular accomplishment, has been neglected in recent years.
Only five buildings executed from his designs are extant. Culbert’s house, later modified by Henry Hobson Richardson to become the City Club — stands amazingly in the same Newburgh block that hosts Alexander Jackson Davis’s Dutch Reformed Church of 1835.
Indeed, so little of Downing’s prodigious effort survives that he has been largely forgotten outside academic circles, and even there he may be said to be famous for having been famous.– A. Housman Downing preserved, even enhanced, his genius by dying young.