The Italian Garden

Robert Harbison, Author, Geoffrey James, Author, Geoffrey James, Illustrator ABRAMS $45 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8109-3456-6
A collaboration between two gifted observers, this is more a work for lovers of architecture than of gardening. James's pearlescent, grainless duotones, shot with a 1920s Kodak Panoramic, transmute the verdancy of Italy's grand estates to an architectonic interplay of light and shade, structure and surface. The wide-angled, exceptionally undistorted vistas of gardens in Tuscany, Rome and vicinity, the Veneto and the Marchessic , Northern Italy and Campania seem to be suspended in time, devoid of any but the most vestigial human figures to give them life or scale. And, as might be expected of an architect, Harbison ( Eccentric Spaces ) pays far more attention to the gardens' layouts, structural elements and sculptures than to their plantings--briefly noted as olive groves, lemon trees or weeds. An overview of grand Italian gardening style would be an appropriate accompaniment to such elegant pictures. Instead, Harbison indulges in murky philosophizing and condescending comments. On sylvan retreats engulfed by urban sprawl, he notes, ``You imagine they mind it less in Italy and spoil larger tracts to less practical end than almost anywhere else.'' (June)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
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