Announcing the 2015 Southworth Symposium

The Culture of Nature: Garden Design, East and West

November 7, 2015   9:00 am to 5:30 pm

André Le Nôtre’s formal parterre gardens at the Château of Vaux-le-Vicomte
This event, which is free and open to the public aims to bring together scholars and enthusiasts to contemplate the enduring role that gardens play in our attempts to design our environment and the ways in which this has been expressed over time and space.

The Clara M. Southworth lecture series, endowed in 1969 by the interior designer from Portland, Maine, is meant to “bring annually to the campus a distinguished lecturer or lecturers to speak on a subject in the broad field of environmental design with emphasis on understanding some of the underlying philosophies of design which relate to the way in which men live.” This year’s expanded format for the lecture series ties in to Colby’s 2015-16 Annual Humanities Theme, Human/Nature, which aims to “reflect upon nature, the built environment, and the ways in which our relationship to the natural world has shaped human existence.”

The Culture of Nature brings together four distinguished scholars who will speak on Asia, the Islamic World, Europe, and the United States in order to explore the delicate relationship between humans and nature in the specific context of the garden, and the ways in which conceptions of gardens and garden design have changed significantly over time and space. The symposium will also identify some common threads to help us better understand the complicated relationship between humans and nature.  Please register for the event (at no cost) by choosing the Registration and Directions to Colby option below.  Discount rates are available at the Hampton Inn, Waterville, on November 6 and 7, just mention “Southworth Symposium.”

Registration and Directions to Colby

Detailed Schedule

9:00–10:00am Registration & Continental Breakfast, William D. Adams Gallery, Museum Lobby, Colby College Museum of Art

10:00am Morning Session, Olin 1

10:00–10:15am  Welcome remarks

10:15–11:15am  James L. Wescoat Jr, MIT, “The Poetics of Mughal Gardens and Subahs in the Akbarnama

11:15–12:15am Alison Hardie, University of Leeds “Professional garden designers and the aesthetic turn in Seventeenth-century China”

12:30–2pm Lunch,* Parker-Reed Room, Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center

2:00pm Afternoon Session, Olin 1

2:00–3:00pm  Eric Haskell, Scripps College, “Sites of Seduction: French Folly Gardens of the Eighteenth Century”

3:00–4:00pm  Anna Marley, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, “The Garden as Picture:  Impressionism, Progressivism and the American Garden Movement”

4:00–4:30pm  Closing Remarks and Discussion

4:30–5:30pm  Closing Reception, William D. Adams Gallery, Museum Lobby, Colby College Museum of Art

*Lunch is provided at no cost to attendees.

Lecture Abstracts

James L. Wescoat Jr, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“The Poetics of Mughal Gardens and Subahs in the Akbarnama”

Of the many fragmentary sources on Mughal gardens during the reign of the third Mughal ruler Akbar (1556-1607 CE), the Akbarnama stands out as an historical chronicle compiled by a brilliant courtier, Abul Fazl. It contains the richest array of texts – from poetic garden images to virtuous metaphors, historic garden events, and regional garden analogies. Some passages exaggerated the garden-like qualities of people, while others shed light on the evolution of Mughal garden culture. Still others provided new layers of meaning through the representation of gardens in the many paintings that illustrated royal copies of the manuscript. This paper re-reads the Akbarnama, including its three volume topical supplement known as the Ain-i Akbari. The Ain-i Akbari includes an account of all the Mughal provinces at that time (subahs), in which the larger geographic contexts of gardens were described. For all of these reasons, I refer to these sources as “The Gardens of Abul Fazl.” Without Abul Fazl’s Akbarnama, it is fair to ask whether Mughal garden culture would have been sustained through Akbar’s reign, especially in ways that co-evolved with larger Mughal cities and territories.

Alison Hardie, University of Leeds
“Professional Garden Designers and the Aesthetic Turn in Seventeenth-Century China”

In the late Ming dynasty (mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries), the concept of the garden changed from being a primarily productive to a primarily aesthetic space, as Craig Clunas demonstrated in Fruitful Sites (1996). Concomitantly, this is also the time when we first find records of the names and life stories of professional garden designers from the artisan class or the lower levels of the literati class, particularly in the Jiangnan region of south-east China (approximately present-day Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces), the most culturally and economically developed part of the country. Examples are the garden theorist Ji Cheng, author of The Craft of Gardens (Yuanye), and the artisan designer Zhang Lian. My paper will outline what we know of these designers and their connections with garden patrons from the literati and merchant classes, before discussing how their design ideas relate to significant changes in garden aesthetics, traceable in visual and written evidence from the early seventeenth century. These changes include that from the ‘productive’ to the ‘aesthetic’ garden, as argued by Clunas, and also a change in rockery style from ‘massive structure’ to ‘spacious naturalness’, as described by the owner of one such garden.

Eric Haskell, Scripps College
“Sites of Seduction: French Folly Gardens of the Eighteenth Century”

The aesthetic frames of exoticism, the essential configurations of eroticism, and the illicit intentions of dangerous liaisons are the focus of this examination of French gardens constructed during the second half of the eighteenth century in the shadow of the guillotine. In order to understand their often complex underpinnings, we shall first define the French formal garden created by André Le Nôtre in the seventeenth century for the promulgation of the Sun King’s absolutist agenda. Then, as we visit such folly gardens as Monceau, Bagatelle, the Désert de Retz and Marie-Antoinette’s Hameau at Versailles, our inquiry will be framed within the larger context of social history, aesthetics, and the decorative arts during the reigns of Louis XV and XVI. The abrupt shift from seventeenth-century formality during the reign of Louis XIV to eighteenth-century whimsy will allow us to comprehend how the garden acted as a highly refined cultural barometer during the last two centuries of the ancien régime.

Anna Marley, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
“The Garden as Picture: Impressionism, Progressivism and the American Garden Movement”

Dr. Marley’s recent exhibition and publication The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, explores the intertwining stories of American artists, Impressionism and the growing popularity of gardening as a leisure pursuit at the turn of the twentieth century. Diverse fine art and material culture illuminate how the horticultural and visual arts in this period were manifestations of an emerging national Progressive era middle-class American identity. Up and down the eastern seaboard, a middle-class idyll was brought to life with the construction of railways, trams, and parkways that connected city centers to commuter suburbs, whose inhabitants increasingly turned to gardening as a leisure—and predominantly female—pursuit. Exploring gardens across the United States, with special emphasis on the importance of the Philadelphia area which served as the originator of the Colonial Revival Garden, Marley’s talk for the Southworth Symposium will focus on the intersection of Progressive era movements; including women’s suffrage, nativism, and a burgeoning environmentalism, with American artists’ reworking of French Impressionist principles first introduced in the United States in 1886. By employing the interdisciplinary perspectives of horticultural and art history, Marley reveals the far-reaching effects of the ideas of Impressionism on not just painting, but American culture at large.

Speaker Biographies

Alison Hardie has just retired as a Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds, UK.She holds degrees in Classics from the University of Oxford and in Chinese from the University of Edinburgh, and a doctorate in Art History from the University of Sussex. Her main research interest is in the social and cultural history of early modern China. She is the translator of Ji Cheng’s seventeenth- century garden manual, The Craft of Gardens (1988, repr. 2012), revised the third edition of Maggie Keswick’s The Chinese Garden: History, Art and Architecture (2003), and has written extensively on Chinese garden history. She is currently completing a monograph on the late-Ming poet, playwright and politician Ruan Dacheng (1587– 1646), the original publisher of The Craft of Gardens, and is finalising the editorial work on a major anthology of Chinese texts on gardens in English translation to be published by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Eric T. Haskell is Professor of French Studies & Interdisciplinary Humanities and Director of the Clark Humanities Museum at Scripps College, Claremont University Consortium, California. His teaching and publications cover a wide range of interart topics from verbal-visual inquiry to garden history. A frequent guest lecturer, he has delivered over 500 lectures and scholarly papers in twenty-six states and eleven foreign countries. He has curated a dozen exhibitions and authored numerous catalogues. His Le Nôtre’s Gardens accompanied an exhibition he curated at the Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. His most recent book, Les Jardins de Brécy: le paradis retrouvé, was published in Paris (Éditions du Huitième Jour, 2007). In 2013, two of France’s highest non-military honors were bestowed upon him, and he is now Chevalier des Palmes Académiques and Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Anna O. Marley joined Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in March of 2009 as the Curator of Historical American Art. A scholar of American art and material culture from the colonial era to 1945, Marley holds a B.A. in Art History from Vassar College, an MA in Museum Studies from the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. from the University of Delaware, where she completed a dissertation on eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century landscape paintings and their display in international merchant’s domestic interiors. At PAFA, Marley has curated numerous exhibitions including “A Mine of Beauty”: Landscapes by William Trost Richards (2012), as well as the touring retrospective Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit (2012), and has edited the acclaimed accompanying catalogs. Recent exhibitions at PAFA include Spiritual Strivings: A Celebration of African American Works on Paper (2014) and The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887– 1920, a nationally touring five-venue show with an accompanying catalog published by University of Pennsylvania Press, which was awarded a Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Grant and a David R. Coffin Grant from the Foundation for Landscape Studies. Marley is working on future exhibits on Thomas Eakins’s photography and nineteenth-century history painting in the Americas and is currently serving as Chair of the Association of Historians of American Art and on the Advisory Board of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College.

James L. Wescoat, Jr, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT, earned his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from Louisiana State University and practiced landscape architecture in the U.S. and Middle East before returning to graduate study in geography at the University of Chicago. He taught courses on landscape research, geographic theory, and water resources at the University of Chicago, University of Colorado at Boulder, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In recent years, he has taught landscape design workshops in India. His research has concentrated on water systems in South Asia and the US from the site to river basin scales. At the site scale, he led a Smithsonian Institution project titled, “Garden, City, and Empire: The Historical Geography of Mughal Lahore,” which resulted in a co-edited volumes on Mughal Gardens: Sources, Places, Representations, Prospects and The Mughal Garden: Interpretation, Conservation, and Implications. His books include Water for Life: Water Management and Environmental Policy and Political Economies of Landscape Change: Places of Integrative Power. At the larger scale, Professor Wescoat has conducted water policy research in the Colorado, Indus, Ganges, and Great Lakes Basins. He co-authored two monographs on potential climate impacts in the Indus River Basin in Pakistan in 1992 and 2013. He has also contributed to a U.S. National Research Council study of Himalayan Glaciers: Hydrology, Climate Change, and Implications for Water Security (2012), and chaired an NRC study of Delta Waters: Research to Support Integrated Water and Environmental Management in the Lower Mississippi River (2013).



Previous lectures in this series:

2015: Daniel Harkett, Associate Professor, Department of Art History and Visual Culture, Rhode Island School of Design, “François Gérard and the Art of the Interior”

2014: Lee Glazer, Associate Curator of American Art, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, “Heirloom of the Artist: Rethinking Whistler’s Peacock Room”

2012: Nicolai Ourossoff

2012: Charles Renfro

2010: Yoshihiro Takishita

2010: Deborah Berke

2007: Adam Kalkin

2006: Peter Bohlin

2003: Terence Riley

2003: Will Bruder

2002: Edward Maeder

2001: Michael Sorkin