Frances Dilworth ‘21
Major: Art History
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Chinghsin Wu, Assistant Teaching Professor of Art History
I am currently investigating the aesthetic and symbolic parallels between the gardens of the 19th century Arts and Crafts movement and the gardens of medieval monasteries. During the 19th century, several art and literary movements were influenced by the extant art and interpreted perspectives of the Middle Ages, and the Arts and Crafts movement is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon. Many art historians accept the general visual similarities between these two time periods; however, I have not yet seen an attempt to specifically cite those medieval origins and influences of Arts and Crafts gardens using visual evidence. I am attempting to provide a more detailed and compelling explanation of the medieval roots of the Arts and Crafts movement by looking at gardens, which provide not only an artistic and symbolic approach, but offer more practical and literal applications of these interpretations due to the garden’s overall purpose of nourishing the body.
By analyzing the connection between the gardens of the Arts and Crafts movement, specifically, the gardens cultivated by William Morris at Red House and by Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood, with Medieval monasteries such as St. Gall and Canterbury Cathedral, we will be able to enrich our understanding of the Arts and Crafts movement and be able to understand what specifically about the Middle Ages so captivated the artists of this period.
I will show photos, tapestries, paintings, read journal entries, and other sources to provide an all-encompassing image of the aesthetic, symbolic, philosophical, and spiritual qualities of Arts and Crafts gardens. I will explain how these qualities can be traced to the Middle Ages using further visual and literary evidence and discuss the possible reasons individuals might have for drawing inspiration from the Middle Ages specifically.