We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR

George Washington's Eye

Landscape, Architecture, and Design at Mount Vernon

Joseph Manca

Publication Year: 2012

George Washington liked to shape his own circumstances. Over the years he carefully crafted 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. Washington usually acted with conscious moral purpose. “Moral” is meant here in the broadest possible sense, including such ethical matters as maintaining a public reputation, using one’s time wisely, fulfilling one’s duties to society, and living without luxuries. In the eighteenth century, the conception of morality also included the achievement of individual perfection, such as living a rational, tranquil, and harmonious life. Washington was obsessed, perhaps even more keenly than his contemporaries, with matters of honor, appearance, dignity, and duty to society. As a schoolboy, Washington copied down the maxim that “every action one takes should be in consideration of all of those present,” and indeed his lifelong actions as architect, collector, and landscape gardener were done in consideration of the public’s valuation of his moral worth. —from Chapter 1: George Washington: Morality and the Crafting of Self On the banks of the Potomac River, Mount Vernon stands, with its iconic portico boasting breathtaking views and with a landscape to rival the great gardens of Europe, as a monument to George Washington’s artistic and creative efforts. More than one million people visit Mount Vernon each year—drawn to the stature and beauty of Washington’s family estate. Art historian Joseph Manca systematically examines Mount Vernon—its stylistic, moral, and historical dimensions—offering a complete picture of this national treasure and the man behind its enduring design. Manca brings to light a Washington deeply influenced by his wide travels in colonial America, with a broader architectural knowledge than previously suspected, and with a philosophy that informed his aesthetic sensibility. Washington believed that design choices and personal character mesh to form an ethic of virtue and fulfillment and that art is inextricably linked with moral and social concerns. Manca examines how these ideas shaped the material culture of Mount Vernon. Based on careful study of Washington’s personal diaries and correspondence and on the lively accounts of visitors to his estate, this richly illustrated book introduces a George Washington unfamiliar to many readers—an avid art collector, amateur architect, and leading landscape designer of his time.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (102.1 KB)
 

read more

Preface

pdf iconDownload PDF (84.0 KB)
pp. vii-ix

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. ...

read more

1 George Washington: Morality and the Crafting of Self

pdf iconDownload PDF (212.4 KB)
pp. 1-13

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. ...

read more

2 The Mansion House at Mount Vernon and Other Architectural Designs

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 14-55

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. ...

read more

3 George Washington’s Portico

pdf iconDownload PDF (777.3 KB)
pp. 56-82

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. ...

read more

4 Washington as Gardener: Creating the Landscape

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 83-118

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. ...

read more

5 Mount Vernon and British Gardening

pdf iconDownload PDF (804.3 KB)
pp. 119-147

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 ...

read more

6 Prospects, Pictures, and the Picturesque

pdf iconDownload PDF (903.1 KB)
pp. 148-175

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 ...

read more

7 Washington as Artist, Critic, Patron, and Collector

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 176-221

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. ...

read more

8 Under His Vine and Fig Tree: Biblical and Classical Perfection at Mount Vernon

pdf iconDownload PDF (424.0 KB)
pp. 222-242

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 ...

read more

Epilogue

pdf iconDownload PDF (155.1 KB)
pp. 243-245

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 ...

Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (423.4 KB)
pp. 247-292

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (551.8 KB)
pp. 293-297


E-ISBN-13: 9781421405612
E-ISBN-10: 142140561X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421404325
Print-ISBN-10: 142140432X

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 32 color illus., 149 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012