The Garrett Family, Collectors and Connoisseurs
Photographs by Norman Barker and James T. VanRensselaer
Evergreen—the long-time home of the Garrett family in north Baltimore—offers a preeminent example of antebellum-American Italianate architecture. It also houses a remarkably diverse collection of over 50,000 objects, including paintings, furniture, sculpture, ceramics, and rare books. Acquired by two generations of the prominent Garrett family, self-described "collectors by instinct and by education," the assemblage of fine and decorative arts is remarkable in scope and inventiveness. Now part of the Johns Hopkins University, the mansion endures as a rare visual encyclopedia, representative of nearly all major architectural and design movements indicative of America’s transition from a predominantly agrarian society to a world industrial power.
This meticulously researched and handsomely illustrated volume honors the distinct and richly layered collections that characterize Evergreen. The book opens with a history of the philanthropic family itself, which helped run the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and develop many of the Monument City’s most important civic and cultural institutions. Tracing their evolution as collectors and philanthropists, the book charts the family’s artistic tastes and aesthetic sensibilities from the Gilded Age to the World Wars while also describing the physical landscape and architecture of Evergreen.
The Asian Art section explores the world renowned Garrett Collection of Chinese and Japanese art. As one of the earliest American collections of Japanese art assembled, it provides an important insight into collecting habits of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among its highlights is one of only a half dozen examples of blue lacquer known to exist, as well as examples of Chinese Imperial porcelain.
The Decorative Arts section highlights the furniture, textiles, and other applied arts largely commissioned or collected by the Garretts. Beginning with the Aesthetic Movement of the 1880s and the talents of renowned design firms such as Herter Brothers, Liberty & Company, and Louis C. Tiffany and Company, Evergreen’s interiors have embraced each succeeding decorative trend—including the Bourbon, Colonial, Empire, and Renaissance revivals, the Arts and Crafts movement, and European modernism.
The Fine Arts section showcases modernist art assembled by Alice Warder Garrett and her husband, Ambassador John Work Garrett. Credited as the first Baltimore "gallery" to exhibit a Picasso, Evergreen’s collection of drawings, paintings, and sculpture document the couple’s aesthetic appreciation and connoisseurship, which began at the threshold of World War I. Included are works by such artists as Pierre Bonnard, Jean-Édouard Vuillard, Léon Bakst, Miguel Covarrubias, Raoul Dufy, Herbert Haseltine, Amedeo Modigliani, and Ignacio Zuloaga.
Evergreen’s John Work Garrett Library, built between the years immediately following the American Civil War and World War II, ranks among the most extensive private American collections of its kind from that period. Highlights include a recently discovered and ambitious rare book desiderata manuscript from the headiest period of John Work Garrett’s book collecting in 1929; an original John James Audubon engraved metal plate for his double-elephant folio Birds of America, a complete copy of which is also held by the library; the Garrett Zafarnama, a sumptuously illustrated fifteenth-century Persian illuminated manuscript by the renowned artist Bihzad; and all four seventeenth-century folios of Shakespeare’s collected plays.
A celebration of one of Baltimore’s grandest nineteenth-century mansions, Evergreen reveals fascinating life stories through the richly preserved family archive and the historical context that remains through Evergreen’s evolving architectural spaces and growing collections. This volume will appeal to art collectors and lovers of historic houses, museums, and libraries, as well as readers fascinated by the intersection of art and architecture, literature and history, and the history of ideas and collecting.
About the Authors
James Archer Abbott is Philip Franklin Wagley Director and Curator of Evergreen Museum & Library at Johns Hopkins University. He is the coauthor of Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration. Earle A. Havens is Nancy H. Hall Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures at Johns Hopkins University. Bodil Ottesen is a lecturer and adjunct faculty member in art history at several Baltimore institutions, including the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Johns Hopkins University Odyssey Program. Susan G. Tripp is a former director of the Johns Hopkins University Museums, and led the restorations of Homewood Museum and Evergreen Museum & Library. She is the coauthor of The Garrett Collection of Japanese Art: Lacquer, Inro, Netsuke.
"This book elucidates all aspects of the various collections at Evergreen Museum & Library, from the largest—the architecture itself and the landscape that surrounds it—to the fine and decorative arts and the library. This cross-disciplinary celebration of the institution makes both a handsome souvenir of a visit and an excellent and substantial contribution to the field."
"This book takes us inside the home of the Garrett family, which is now a museum and library... Its sumptuous pages give us a glimpse of Evergreen’s splendid architectural detail and the family’s impressive 20th-century art collection, including the likes of degas and Picasso."
|Johns Hopkins University Press|
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