Friday, November 28, 2014

Garden History 18C Over There - 1786 English Garden with garden-bench, greenhouse, urn, espaliered wall, & flower pots.

1786 Unknown artist. John Coakley Lettsom (1733–1810), with His Family, in the Garden of Grove Hill, Camberwell.

This 1786 painting of the Lettsom family offers much to explore in 18C garden developments in England & how those translated across the Atlantic to early American gardens.  The painting is notable for its close-up images of a garden bench, greenhouse, urn, espaliered wall, & flower pots.

John Coakley Lettsom (1733–1810) was a Quaker & a well known figure of the English Enlightenment, the movement in the 18C towards freedom of thought & equality of rights for all mankind. Born in the Virgin Islands, he sailed to Britain & was apprenticed as a surgeon-apothecary in Yorkshire.  After returning to the West Indies to free the slaves he had inherited, he came back to Britain, became a physician, & acquired immense wealth through his medical practice catering toward many rich & noble patients. He used his wealth in numerous philanthropic projects, such as the Aldersgate Street Dispensary, which gave free medical care & soup kitchens, & the Royal Humane Society, which was concerned with saving people from drowning. He also promoted charity through essays on slum housing, alcohol abuse, & the problems of the blind. As an apothecary, he was also a keen gardener, & the painting shows him in the garden of his house in Camberwell, with his wife & 5 of his children.