George Washington's Eye
Landscape, Architecture, and Design at Mount Vernon
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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This is a book about George Washington’s eye for art and how he shaped the aesthetic world around him at Mount Vernon. He designed the expansions of his mansion house, provided plans for other buildings on his estate, and laid out and beautified elaborate gardens. He and Martha Washington filled their house at Mount Vernon with fine and decorative art. ...
1 George Washington: Morality and the Crafting of Self
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George Washington liked to shape his own circumstances. Over the years he carefully craft ed both his inner self and his public persona, as well as many aspects of his aesthetic world. Washington’s life formed a unity, and his morality formed part of the backdrop to his designs at Mount Vernon. His house, gardens, and art collection—and his own writings about them—were a major part of the public face of his virtue. ...
2 The Mansion House at Mount Vernon and Other Architectural Designs
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George Washington did not build his famous home from scratch. Lawrence Washington, George’s older half-brother, inherited the estate at Little Hunting Creek from their father, Augustine, and named it Mount Vernon in honor of Adm. Edward Vernon, with whom Lawrence had served in 1741–1742. When Lawrence died in 1752, his will stipulated that George would receive Mount Vernon aft er the death of Lawrence’s wife, Ann Fairfax, and daughter, Sarah. ...
3 George Washington’s Portico
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The monumental portico on the east side of the house at Mount Vernon is Washington’s greatest contribution to American architecture (Figure 3.1; Plates 3 and 15). In any consideration of his aesthetic interests, it holds a chief place because of its originality, fame, and key role as mediator of house and landscape. The magnificent portico stood out for visitors as the most striking and impressive aspect of the expanded design. ...
4 Washington as Gardener: Creating the Landscape
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George Washington was passionate about natural beauty, and he personally oversaw the aesthetic development of the gardens at Mount Vernon. (We use the word “gardens” broadly here to describe, as early viewers did, both the extensive improved landscape and the smaller walled gardens at the estate.) It is striking how intensely he attended to the most minute details of the gardens at Mount Vernon. ...
5 Mount Vernon and British Gardening
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From the eighteenth century to today, visitors to Mount Vernon have pointed out the English influence on Washington’s gardens. As with other features of colonial and early national culture in America, from architectural style to political thought to tastes in music and literature, the English shaped American taste in gardening. Washington’s gardens were not slavishly beholden to English theory or practice, though, and ...
6 Prospects, Pictures, and the Picturesque
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George Washington spent much of his life measuring views as a surveyor and relying on them in military planning. We can regard a “view” as a general term for something seen, and it could include any sight in the gardens. In the context of the time, the words “vista” and “prospect”—both subsumed under the larger concept ...
7 Washington as Artist, Critic, Patron, and Collector
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There were many facets to George Washington’s interest in the visual arts, beyond landscape gardening and architectural design. These include his authorship of two-dimensional works of art, opinions about art and artists, eff orts—assisted by Martha Washington—as collector and patron, and the thoughtful display of art at Mount Vernon. ...
8 Under His Vine and Fig Tree: Biblical and Classical Perfection at Mount Vernon
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George Washington was fond of framing his actions in a broad moral and historical context. In his writings, he described many aspects of his life in the context of classical thought and biblical scripture, and he arranged some of his material surroundings in a way that would reinforce the message. Paul Boller has argued ...
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The public responded early on to Washington’s masterful integration of architecture and landscape at Mount Vernon, and the estate and its illustrious occupant attracted a range of visitors in the eighteenth century. By the nineteenth century, a new level of interest arose in the face of social changes in America. Mount Vernon, with its picturesque setting, came to represent ...
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Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 32 color illus., 149 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012