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NH’s Cornish Art Colony Encouraged the English Formal Garden

Last week I visited the Cornish, NH home and garden of the late nineteenth century sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907).

His fame rests on his sculptures, some of them on exhibit right in the garden. He was also the magnet that drew other artists of that time to live in the Cornish area.  Thus a community of artists, writers, and garden designers created their summer homes, many becoming year-round.

They also took great pride in the gardens they designed. The formal English garden of the early twentieth century provided the inspiration.

Judith Tankard writes in her book, A Place of Beauty: The Artists and Gardens of the Cornish Colony, co-authored with Alma M. Gilbert, “Cornish gardeners became champions of the formal school of garden design based on their assiduous study of books that were being published in England at the time. John Sedding’s Garden Craft Old and New (1891) and Reginald Bloomfield’s The Formal Garden (1892) advocated an axial garden layout, with linear paths and architectural embellishments, as opposed to the more naturalistic, horticulturally inclined school promoted by William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll.”

So it was that Saint-Gaudens included this border of perennials in the formal garden he cultivated at his home he called Aspet. [below]

Cornish Formal Garden at the Home Saint Gauden
The formal garden at the home of Albertus Saint-Gaudens

The Cornish Colony considered the garden an art form. The long, vertical lines of an alley of birch trees also is something you can see at Saint-Gaudens home. [Below] That scene reminded me of Fletcher Steele’s work at Naumkeag in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.

Alley of birch trees at the garden of Saint Gaudens
An alley of birch trees in the Saint-Gaudens garden in Cornish

Saint-Gaudens home and the entire landscape surrounding the home represent his art, but it is the garden that you can still experience today that hints at what a collection of outstanding gardens must this Colony have created.

Tankard sums up their work in the garden in these words, “Despite the undeniable genius of the artistic creations produced by Cornish Colony’s residents, it was the artists’ gardens rather than their inspired works of art that earned Cornish its national reputation.”

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your photos of this lovely garden — more photos, please! 🙂

    (And thanks for reminding me that I bought that book and still haven’t cracked it.)


    1. Beth, this week’s post has two more photos from Saint-Gaudens garden in Cornish, NH. Hope you enjoy them. The garden with his sculpture scattered throughout much in surprise kind of way was worth the long drive for me. Be sure to keep the garden on your list when yoou come to New England.

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