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Landscape and Revolution In Ireland, France and America, 1710-1810

Finola O'Kane Crimmins, University College Dublin, Fellow 2012/13

 

During my time at Dumbarton Oaks I developed and expanded my book project Landscape and Revolution in Ireland; 1798 & 1916, writing the chapter "The Other Mount Vernons; Landscape and Revolution in Ireland and America 1776-1798" in particular. The library and inter-library loan system provided me with extensive sources for exploring perceptions of American landscape in the long eighteenth century through personal letters, travellers' accounts, published guidebooks and botanical publications.  The museums of Washington D.C. and the Library of Congress gave me the opportunity to engage with eighteenth-century American landscape painting, mapping and estate portraiture.

Case studies of key American estates allowed me to compare the on-site reality with each landscape's representation in word and image. As a consequence I was able to identify some of the innate structural differences that existed between European landed estates and their American counterparts in the age of revolution, and to explore how such differences affected the perception, representation and translation of ideas between the new world and the old. Moving from west to east, and from Philadelphia and Virginia to Dublin and Holland, such reversed vistas question the implicit trajectory of much historical narrative.

My time at Dumbarton Oaks has greatly expanded my interest in American eighteenth-century landscape design and in comparative landscape history in general. This has been greatly helped by discussions with the wider scholarly community at Dumbarton Oaks, the Garden and Landscape Studies staff and my fellow fellows, whose insightful responses to all inquiries as to the nature of American landscape advanced my project more than I had thought possible. The great American garden of Dumbarton Oaks, in its many guises, was wholly inspirational.

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