In its most primitive and pristine condition, nature has influenced the course of art and architecture throughout history. The ancient Egyptians looked to nature and incorporated papyrus leaves as decorative elements in columns. William Morris, leader of the Arts and Crafts Movement, paid homage to nature through his use of vegetal motifs in wallpaper, book covers, furniture and even stained glass.
Could you picture yourself going to a cemetery for a walk just like you take a walk in the park in search of inspiration? Although some of my friends find it bizarre that I would go to a cemetery to relax, one can learn many lessons in art, architecture, history and horticulture. Mount Auburn Cemetery, founded in 1831 became the first designed “garden” cemetery in the United States. Designated a National Historic Landmark for possessing significant historical and cultural value for all Americans, Mount Auburn became the “picturesque” role model for other 19th century cemeteries across the country. These cemeteries became thriving institutions for the cultivation of the arts, especially sculpture. Before there were museums, people would go to a cemetery to look at the sculpture and learn about the arts.
Internationally renowned for its outstanding examples of sculpture and architecture, some of the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th centuries including Martin Milmore, Augustus Saint Gaudens, Sarah Wyman Whitman and others, have all left their impression on Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Mount Auburn is beautiful throughout the year and with all the programming that takes place, there is always an excuse to visit this inspiring place. Whenever I need to stimulate my senses, I take a walk through the silent paths of Mount Auburn Cemetery, often stopping to sketch, meditate or simply listen to the many birds that make of the cemetery their home. To learn more about Mount Auburn Cemetery, you can take a self guided tour any day of the year or read Silent City on a Hill: Picturesque Landscapes of Memory and Boston’s Mount Auburn Cemetery by Blanche M. G. Linden.