Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1875–1935: Photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson
cloth, 377 pp., $79.00
This handsomely bound book features photographs of period gardens in America. They attracted public attention at the time because they were in color. Frances Benjamin Johnson (1864–1952), a pioneer figure in the art of garden photography, promoted and published colorful artistic renderings of the gardens of the wealthy during a time when America’s elite sought recognition for their artistic tastes. Trained as an artist, she used her skills in promoting beautiful gardens that were the creation of a few selected landscape architects; they, in turn, promoted her services. As a result, the works of other, more creative designers, especially those outside her realm of influence, were ignored. Her power, essentially as a publicist, eventually declined, but not before she had set a trend for formal gardens in America. The author, Sam Watters, is singularly well informed about this history, which opens a door to inquiry about America’s tastemakers and others.
— Marilyn K. Alaimo, garden writer and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden
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