A Project of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art
History of Early American Landscape Design

Difference between revisions of "Charles Fraser"

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'''Charles Fraser''' (August 20, 1782-October 5, 1860) was an American-born painter of Scottish descent who depicted people and places associated with his native Charleston, South Carolina.  
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{{Person
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|Birth Present=No
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|Birth Date=August 20, 1782
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|Birth Questionable End=No
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|Death Present=No
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|Death Date=October 5, 1860
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|Death HasEndDate=No
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|Death Circa End=No
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|Death Questionable End=No
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|Birth Location=Charleston, SC
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|Roles=Artist
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|Keywords=Bed; Bower; Canal; Cemetery/Burying ground/Burial ground; Column/Pillar; Green; Grove; Hedge; Labyrinth; Lake; Lawn; Obelisk; Orchard; Prospect; Seat; Square; Temple; Terrace/Slope; Vase/Urn; View/Vista; Walk; Wall; Yard
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|Other resources={{ExternalLink
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|External link URL=http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n87148979.html
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|External link text=Library of Congress Authority File
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}}{{ExternalLink
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|External link URL=http://www.anb.org/articles/17/17-00295.html
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|External link text=American National Biography
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}}
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'''Charles Fraser''' (August 20, 1782–October 5, 1860) was an American-born painter of Scottish descent who depicted people and places associated with his native Charleston, South Carolina.  
  
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==History==
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[[File:0229.jpg|thumb|left|Fig. 1, Charles Fraser, ''The Seat of John Julius Pringle, Esquire, on the Ashley River'', 1800.]]
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[[File:0511.jpg|thumb|Fig. 2, Charles Fraser, ''Brabants: The Seat of the Late Bishop Smith'', April 18, 1800.]]
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Charles Fraser began his art practice as a prolific amateur, producing miniature portraits of family and friends, as well as carefully rendered watercolor depictions of buildings and scenery in and around Charleston. Until the age of 36, he vacillated between art and the legal career he had embarked upon in 1798 while studying law in the office of John Julius Pringle, Attorney General of South Carolina. Called to the South Carolina Bar in 1807, Fraser continued to practice law until 1817 when he finally resolved to become a professional artist.<ref>Martha R. Severens and Charles L. Wyrick Jr., eds., ''Charles Fraser of Charleston: Essays on the Man, His Art and His Times'' (Charleston, SC: Carolina Art Association, 1983), 16, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero].</ref>
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He had formed his landscape style in the mid-1790s under the tutelage of the view painter and engraver Thomas Coram, who apparently encouraged Fraser to copy European prints and travel guidebook illustrations.<ref>Roberta Kefalos, “Landscapes of Thomas Coram and Charles Fraser,” ''American Art Review'' (May/June 1998): 122–27, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/PGKZ4GXG view on Zotero].</ref> Fraser particularly admired the atmospheric landscapes of the 17th-century painters Salvator Rosa and Claude Lorraine, and emulated the [[picturesque]] conventions popularized by British writers such as William Gilpin.<ref>Severens and Wyrick 1983, 22, 31, 76&ndash;78, 84&ndash;86, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero].</ref> He was one of the first artists to adapt the British [[picturesque]] tradition to the topography of the American South.<ref>Roberta Sokolitz, “Picturing the Plantation,” in ''Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art'', ed. Angela E. Mack and Stephen G. Hoffius (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 2008), 30, 39, 45, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/PXA7ZQ6Q view on Zotero]; Kefalos 1998, 122&ndash;27, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/PGKZ4GXG view on Zotero].</ref> A sketchbook dating from 1796 to 1806 contains small watercolor depictions of scenes in the vicinity of Charleston that Fraser knew well: manor houses, rice [[plantation]]s, waterways, monuments, and churches. These included the new [[plantation]] house on the Ashley River built by his employer, John Julius Pringle [Fig. 1]; the fabled estate Brabant, owned by his former schoolmaster, Bishop Robert Smith [Fig. 2]; and the country [[seat]]s established by Fraser’s siblings near Goosecreek on land that had originally formed part of the family [[plantation]], Wigton, named for the Frasers’ ancestral home in Scotland [Fig. 3].<ref>Severens and Wyrick 1983, 77&ndash;78, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero]; Charles Fraser and Alice R. Huger Smith, ''A Charleston Sketchbook, 1796&ndash;1806'' (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Company for the Carolina Art Association, 1959), 8, 18, 19, 21, 38, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/DT6TE5D9 view on Zotero].</ref> In all of these sketches, closely observed details of local terrain, plants, architecture, and social life attest to Fraser’s concern with authentically documenting the appearance of Charleston, notwithstanding his reliance on European landscape conventions.
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[[File:0226.jpg|thumb|Fig. 3, Charles Fraser, ''Wigton on Saint James, Goose Creek: The Seat of James Fraser, Esq.'', c. 1800.]]
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In 1806 Fraser ventured further afield, making the first of several trips up the eastern seaboard, traveling as far north as Massachusetts.<ref>Severens and Wyrick 1983, 16&ndash;17, 32, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero]; Anna Wells Rutledge, ''Artists in the Life of Charleston: Through Colony and State, from Restoration to Reconstruction'' (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1949), 133&ndash;34, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/AGEH3NNN view on Zotero].</ref> His letters home describe the scenery he encountered in terms that reflect his painterly interests. On his second trip through the northeast in 1816, he observed of northern Connecticut: “The scenery around there is very wild and [[Picturesque]]&mdash;hills of immense height&mdash;broken rocks, etc. make it one of the most striking scenes I ever beheld.”<ref>Severens and Wyrick 1983, 87, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero].</ref> That year Fraser sold “twenty very beautiful drawings of scenes, in different parts of the United States” to the ''Analectic Magazine'', which published eight engravings after his sketches from 1816 to 1818.<ref> Anonymous, “Domestic Literature and Fine Arts,” ''Analectic Magazine and Naval Chronicle'' 8 (1816): 453, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/Z6RKZKQ5 view on Zotero].</ref> Despite the financial success of these landscapes, Fraser chose to focus on portrait miniatures when he embarked on his professional career in 1818. By his own calculation, he had produced 350 miniatures by 1837, and it is for these meticulously rendered images of fellow Charlestonians that he is chiefly known today.
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In the 1830s, however&mdash;with his patrons’ interest in miniatures dwindling and his eyesight in decline&mdash;Fraser’s early interest in landscape revived. Rather than the manicured grounds of southern [[plantation]]s and country [[seat]]s, however, Fraser now focused on [[wilderness]] scenes in New England, romanticized views of European castles, and copies after engravings.<ref>Severens and Wyrick 1983, 57&ndash;74, 75&ndash;76, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero].</ref> His admiration for both the cultivated European landscape and untamed American nature found expression in two poems he published in ''Magnolia, or Southern Appalachian'': <span id="Claude_cite"></span> “Claude Lorraine” (May 1843) ([[#Claude|view text]])<ref>Charles Fraser, “Claude Lorraine,” ''Magnolia, or Southern Appalachian'' 2 (May 1843): 315, republished in William Gilmore Simms, ed., ''The Charleston Book: A Miscellany in Prose and Verse'' (1845; repr., Spartansburg, SC: Reprint Company, 1983), 46, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/CCFC49P5 view on Zotero].</ref> and “Nature Made for Man” (June 1843).<ref>Charles Fraser, “Nature Made for Man,” ''Magnolia, or Southern Appalachian'' 2 (June 1843): 383, republished in Simms 1983, 332, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/FEN8N7PM view on Zotero].</ref> Two years later, he published an essay recounting <span id="FraserGardening_cite"></span>the history of the garden from Eden to the present day&mdash;enthusiastically endorsing the [[modern style]] of naturalistic garden design&mdash;in the literary miscellany ''The Charleston Book'' ([[#FraserGardening|view text]]).<ref> Charles Fraser, “Gardening,” in Simms 1983, 165&ndash;80, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/35NZAQZ9/q/simms view on Zotero]. </ref> With equal passion and similar arguments, he championed the rural [[cemetery]] movement in his <span id="FraserCemetery_cite"></span> ''Address Delivered on the Dedication of Magnolia Cemetery'' in 1850 ([[#FraserCemetery|view text]]).<ref> Charles Fraser, ''Address Delivered on the Dedication of Magnolia Cemetery, 19th November 1850'' (Charleston, SC: Steam-Press of Walker and James, 1850), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/U9BBJB2M view on Zotero].</ref>
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[[File:0223.jpg|thumb|left|Fig. 4, Charles Fraser, ''[Ashley Hall]'', 1803.]]
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[[File:0552.jpg|thumb|Fig. 5, Charles Fraser, ''Monument of Lieutenant Governor Bull'' (Ashley Hall), c. 1800.]]
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Fraser was acutely conscious of the momentous changes that had transformed the social and physical fabric of Charleston during his lifetime. He described his companions at a dinner party in 1833 as “a little remnant of the old Stock&mdash;which are here and there to be found&mdash;like roses of the [[wilderness]]&mdash;marking ‘where a garden had been.’”<ref>Fraser’s letter to Hugh Swinton Legare, January 30, 1833, quoted in Severens and Wyrick 1983, 35, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero].</ref> In 1853, at the age of 71, he presented his personal recollections before the Conversation Club, describing the Charleston he had known in the early 1790s, when manicured gardens and open [[green]]s defined the topography, and the town was still “completely surrounded with remains of its old revolutionary fortifications.”<ref>Charles Fraser, ''Reminiscences of Charleston'' (Charleston, SC: J. Russell, 1854), 21, 25&ndash;28, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero].</ref> He mentioned several private gardens that had blossomed in the post-Revolutionary era, including those created by the expatriate British nursery- and seedsman Robert Squibb, author of ''The Gardener’s Calendar for South-Carolina, Georgia, and North-Carolina'' (1787), and also by [[Martha Daniell Logan]] (1704&ndash;1779), author of the planting advice column “A Gardener’s Kalendar.”<ref>Fraser 1854, 25&ndash;27, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero].</ref>
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Fraser wrote proudly of Lt. Gov. William Bull II (1710&ndash;1791), who had entertained “the celebrated naturalist [Mark] Catesby at the family [[seat]], at Ashley River, where there is now a majestic [[avenue]] of oaks, said to have been planted by his hand” [Fig. 4].<ref>Fraser 1854, 68, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero].</ref> In the early 1800s, Fraser had produced several drawings of [[Ashley Hall]], including a representation of the [[obelisk]] erected in the garden in 1792 in memory of Gov. Bull [Fig. 5]. Fraser noted a few public gathering spots in Early Republican Charleston, including Gibbes’s [[Bridge]], “where [[seat]]s and refreshments were provided for the company that used to resort there on warm summer evenings,” and Watson’s Garden, “a beautifully cultivated piece of ground . . . about a mile from the city, adorned with [[shrubbery]] and [[hedge]]s, and fine umbrageous trees.”<ref>Fraser 1854, 64, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero].</ref> A bittersweet quality tinges several aspects of Fraser’s account. The Charleston Botanic Society and Garden, founded with high hopes in 1805, had ultimately failed to prosper. Numerous families had broken up their [[plantation]]s, and “the ruinous remains of many of their [[seat]]s and mansions . . . are melancholy memorials of bye-gone days.”<ref>Fraser 1854, 58, 67 [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero].</ref> On the whole, however, Fraser asserted that Charleston had changed for the better. Among other recent “public improvements and embellishments,” he called attention to City Square (1818), “a beautiful [[walk]] of shade trees” replacing “mean and densely crowded” buildings that had been “a reproach to the city as well on the score of morals as of taste.”<ref>Fraser 1854, 3, 116, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero].</ref>
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—''Robyn Asleson''
  
==History==
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<hr>
  
Fraser began his art practice as a prolific amateur, producing miniature portraits of family and friends, as well as carefully rendered watercolor depictions of buildings and scenery in and around Charleston. Until the age of 36, he vacillated between art and the legal career he had embarked upon in 1798 while studying law in the office of [[John Julius Pringle]], Attorney General of South Carolina. Called to the South Carolina Bar in 1807, Fraser continued to practice law until 1817 when he finally resolved to become a professional artist. <ref> Martha R. Severens and Charles L. Wyrick, Jr., eds., ''Charles Fraser of Charleston: Essays on the Man, His Art and His Times'' (Charleston, S.C.: Carolina Art Association, 1983), 16, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero]. </ref> He had formed his landscape style in the mid-1790s under the tutelage of the view painter and engraver [[Thomas Coram]], who apparently encouraged Fraser to copy European prints and travel guidebook illustrations. <ref> Roberta Kefalos, “Landscapes of Thomas Coram and Charles Fraser," ''American Art Review'' (May/June 1998): 122–27, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/PGKZ4GXG view on Zotero]. </ref> Fraser particularly admired the atmospheric landscapes of the seventeenth-century painters Salvator Rosa and Claude Lorraine, and he emulated the [[picturesque]] conventions popularized by British writers such as [[William Gilpin]].<ref> Severens and Wyrick, 1983, 22, 31, 76-78, 84-86, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero]. </ref> He was one of the first artists to adapt the British [[picturesque]] tradition to the topography of the American South. <ref> Roberta Sokolitz, “Picturing the Plantation,” in ''Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art'', eds. Angela E. Mack and Stephen G. Hoffius (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina, 2008), 30, 39, 45, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/PXA7ZQ6Q view on Zotero]; Kefalos, May/June 1998, 122-27, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/PGKZ4GXG view on Zotero]. </ref>  A sketchbook dating from 1796 to 1806 contains small watercolor depictions of scenes in the vicinity of Charleston that Fraser knew well: manor houses, rice [[plantation]]s, waterways, monuments, and churches. These included the new [[plantation]] house on the Ashley River built by his employer, [[John Julius Pringle]] [Fig. 1]; the fabled estate [[Brabant]], owned by his former schoolmaster, Bishop Robert Smith [Fig. 2]; and the country [[seats]] established by Fraser’s siblings. These included properties located near Goosecreek on land that had originally formed part of the family [[plantation]], Wigton, named for the Frasers' ancestral home in Scotland [Fig. 3]. <ref> Severens and Wyrick, 1983, 77-78, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero]; Charles Fraser and Alice R. Huger Smith, ''A Charleston Sketchbook, 1796-1806'' (Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle Company for the Carolina Art Association, 1959), 8, 18, 19, 21, 38, and passim, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/DT6TE5D9 view on Zotero]. </ref> In all of these sketches, closely observed details of terrain, plants, architecture, and social life attest to Fraser's concern with documenting the authentic appearance of local Charleston sites notwithstanding his reliance on European landscape conventions.
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==Texts==
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* <div id="Claude"></div> Fraser, Charles, 1843, “Claude Lorraine” (1845; repr., 1983: 46)<ref name="Simms 1983">Simms 1983, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/CCFC49P5 view on Zotero].</ref>
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:“Resplendent in the West, the setting sun
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:“Announces day’s departure&mdash;not a cloud
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:“Fleckers with envious shade his glorious path,
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:“Nor veils the dazzling radiance of the scene,
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:“As slow he sinks below the landscape’s verge. . .
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:“With classic grace
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:“Italia’s scenes portray’d&mdash;the sombre arch,
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:“The consecrated [[grove]]&mdash;the slumbering [[lake]],  
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:“The azure mountains mingling with the sky. . .
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: [[#Claude_cite|back up to History]]
  
  
In 1806 Fraser ventured further afield, making the first of several trips up the eastern seaboard, traveling as far north as Massachusetts. <ref> Severens and Wyrick, 1983, 16-17, 32, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero]; Anna Wells Rutledge, ''Artists in the Life of Charleston: Through Colony and State, from Restoration to Reconstruction'', Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1949), 133-34, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/AGEH3NNN view on Zotero]. </ref> His letters home describe the scenery he encountered in terms that reflect his painterly interests. On his second trip through the northeast in 1816, he observed of northern Connecticut: “The scenery around there is very wild and [[Picturesque]] &mdash; hills of immense height &mdash; broken rocks, etc. make it one of the most striking scenes I ever beheld.” <ref>  Severens and Wyrick, 1983, 87, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero]. </ref> That year Fraser sold “twenty very beautiful drawings of scenes, in different parts of the United States” to ''The Analectic Magazine'',  which published eight engravings after his sketches from 1816 to 1818. <ref> Anon., "Domestic Literature and Fine Arts," ''Analectic Magazine and Naval Chronicle'', 8 (1816): 453, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/Z6RKZKQ5 view on Zotero]. </ref> Despite the financial success of these landscapes, Fraser chose to focus on portrait miniatures when he embarked on his professional career in 1818. By his own calculation, he had produced 350 miniatures by 1837, and it is for these meticulously rendered images of fellow Charlestonians that he is chiefly known today. <ref> Severens and Wyrick, 1983, 57-74, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero]</ref> In the 1830s, however &mdash; with his patrons’ interest in miniatures dwindling and his eyesight in decline &mdash; Fraser's early interest in landscape revived. Rather than the manicured grounds of southern plantations and country seats, however, Fraser now focused on [[wilderness]] scenes in New England, romanticized views of European castles, and copies after engravings. <ref> Severens and Wyrick, 1983, 75-76, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero]. </ref> His admiration for both the cultivated European landscape and untamed American nature found expression in two poems he published in ''The Magnolia, or Southern Appalachian'': <span id="Claude_cite"></span> "Claude Lorraine" (May 1843) <ref> Charles Fraser, "Claude Lorraine," ''The Magnolia, or Southern Appalachian'', 2, n.s. (May 1843): 315, republished in William Gilmore Simms, ed., ''The Charleston Book: A Miscellany in Prose and Verse'', (Spartansburg, S.C.: The Reprint Company, 1983 [orig. pub. 1845]), 46, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/CCFC49P5 view on Zotero]. </ref> ([[#Claude|view text]]) and <span id="NatureMade_cite"></span> "Nature Made for Man" (June 1843). <ref> Charles Fraser, "Nature Made for Man," ''The Magnolia, or Southern Appalachian'', 2, n.s. (June 1843): 383, republished in Simms, 1983, 332, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/FEN8N7PM view on Zotero]. </ref> ([[#NatureMade|view text]]). Two years later, he published an essay recounting the history of the garden from Eden to the present day &mdash; enthusiastically endorsing the [[modern style]] of naturalistic garden design &mdash; in the literary miscellany ''The Charleston Book''. <ref> Charles Fraser, "Gardening," in Simms 1845, 165-80, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/U5GT298Q view on Zotero]. </ref> With equal passion and similar arguments, he championed the rural [[cemetery/burying ground/burial ground|cemetery]] movement in his ''Address Delivered on the Dedication of Magnolia Cemetery'' in 1850. <ref> Charles Fraser, ''Address Delivered on the Dedication of Magnolia Cemetery, 19th November 1850'' (Charleston, S.C.: Steam-Press of Walker and James, 1850), [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/U9BBJB2M view on Zotero]. </ref>
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* <div id="FraserGardening"></div> Fraser, Charles, 1845, “Gardening,(1845; repr. 1983: 166, 168, 173&ndash;74, 177)<ref name="Simms 1983"/>  
  
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:“Amidst the blossoms of Eden, and under the shade of its [[bower]]s, did woman receive the breath of life, full of joy and fragrance. . . .
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:“From the earliest ages it [gardening] has been contemporary with national prosperity and popular refinement, and has always flourished together with other elegant arts, possessing this decided advantage over some of them, that, whilst they have obtained their acme of improvement, and could advance no further, science is shedding on horticulture the rays of continued and progressive improvement, and encouraging its votaries with a boundless field of research, and daily results of interest and delight. . . .
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:“These [the hanging garden of Babylon] were raised in the style of an amphitheatre, on [[terrace]]s of successive elevation, accessible by flights of steps and supported by immense arches. On these [[terrace]]s was a sufficient surface of soil for the roots of the largest trees, which flourished there in all the luxuriancy of their native forests, together with the richest variety of flowers and shrubs. The ancient Egyptians, who advanced the arts of civilized life to a degree of refinement which no one can venture to say has been surpassed or equalled in after times, bestowed great care upon their gardens, planning them upon a scale of magnificence, and irrigating them with [[canal]]s and reservoirs, to ensure a continued luxuriance in their [[orchard]]s and vineyards. . . .
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:“Thus, we see that wealth and luxury have always claimed a garden as the favorite object of prodigal expense. But instead of imitating the simplicity of nature, they have too often disfigured her with the motley inventions of art, and loaded her with ornaments which she abhors; and which, without speech or language, she is constantly reproving, even in the humblest of her productions. It is not in straight [[walk]]s, clipped [[hedge]]s, cones and [[labyrinth]]s, or such caprices, that wealth may successfully employ itself in gardening; but in collecting and naturalizing the kindred productions of various countries and climates, and bringing together, as it were, into one family circle, the scattered members of the same species, in beholding their blended hues, and inhaling their mingled fragrance. In this respect, modern horticulture has a decided advantage over that of antiquity. No one can be a skilful horticulturist, that is unacquainted with botany and other kindred sciences, all of which were unknown to the ancients. Their efforts were practical and experimental; those of the moderns are founded on principle, and directed by a knowledge of the properties of plants and flowers, greatly diversifying the beauty of our gardens, and enlarging the enjoyments of taste. Ours and affinities of plants. The modern horticulturist does not merely regard the ornamental part of gardening, which is very much a matter of taste and observation, but without neglecting that, he has higher objects. He calls Botany and Chemistry to his aid. . . .
 +
:“One of the results, we might say one of the triumphs of modern horticulture, is the introduction and naturalisation, even the domestication, of foreign vegetable population is thus greatly increased, and like that of our municipal and political communities, is fast rivalling the number of natives. The extension of commerce, and the growing civilisation of the world, have very much contributed to this. We may all remember when our gardens produced a comparative meagre display, when our roses were few, and those the descendants of the Huguenot stock: and our flower-[[bed]]s confined to anemonies and stock gillyflowers—pinks, jonquils, and a few blue hyacinths (other colors being very rarely seen), as prescribed by the old-fashioned vocabulary. Whereas they now exhibit a splendid array of flowers and shrubs; contributed by every part of the globe. . . . Exotics are now familiar to us, and may be fairly enrolled in the American Flora.” [[#FraserGardening_cite|back up to History]]
  
  
Fraser was acutely conscious of the momentous changes that had transformed the social and physical fabric of Charleston during his lifetime. He described his companions at a dinner party in 1833 as "a little remnant of the old Stock &mdash; which are here and there to be found &mdash; like roses of the [[wilderness]] &mdash; marking 'where a garden had been.' " <ref> Fraser's letter to Hugh Swinton Legare, January 30, 1833, quoted in Severens and Wyrick, 1983, 35, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/4XUPJEXV view on Zotero]. </ref> In 1853, at the age of 71, he presented his personal recollections before the Conversation Club, describing the Charleston he had known in the early 1790s, when manicured gardens and open [[green]]s defined the topography, and the town was still “completely surrounded with remains of its old revolutionary fortifications.” <ref> Charles Fraser, ''Reminiscences of Charleston'' (Charleston, S.C.: J. Russell, 1854), 21, 25-28, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero]. </ref> He mentioned several private gardens that had blossomed in the post-Revolutionary era, including those created by the expatriate British nursery- and seedsman [[Robert Squibb]], author of ''The Gardener's Calendar for South-Carolina, Georgia, and North-Carolina'' (1787), and [[Martha Daniell Logan]] (1704-1779), author of the planting advice column “A Gardener’s Kalendar." <ref> Fraser, 1854, 25-27, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero]. </ref> Fraser also wrote proudly of [[William Bull]], the first governor of South Carolina, who had entertained "the celebrated naturalist" [[Mark Catesby|[Mark] Catesby]] "at the family seat, at [[Ashley Hall (Charleston, S.C.)|Ashley river]], where there is now a majestic [[avenue]] of oaks, said to have been planted by his hand" [Fig. 4] <ref> Fraser, 1854, 68, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero]. </ref> In the early 1800s, Fraser had produced several drawings of [[Ashley Hall]], including a representation of [[William Bull|Gov. Bull's]] memorial, erected in the garden in 1792. [Fig. 5]. Fraser noted a few public gathering spots in Early Republican Charleston, including Gibbes’s [[Bridge]], “where [[seats]] and refreshments were provided for the company that used to resort there on warm summer evenings,” and Watson’s Garden, “a beautifully cultivated piece of ground...about a mile from the city, adorned with [[shrubbery]] and [[hedge]]s, and fine umbrageous trees.” <ref> Fraser, 1854, 64, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero]. </ref> A bittersweet quality tinges several aspects of Fraser's account. The Charleston Botanic Society and [[botanic garden|Garden]], founded with high hopes in 1805, had ultimately failed to prosper. Numerous families had broken up their [[plantations]], and “the ruinous remains of many of their [[seats]] and mansions...are melancholy memorials of bye-gone days.” <ref> Fraser, 1854, 58, 67 [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero]. </ref> On the whole, however, Fraser asserted that Charleston had changed for the better. Among other recent “public improvements and embellishments,” he called attention to City [[Square]] (1818), “a beautiful [[walk]] of shade trees” replacing “mean and densely crowded” buildings that had been “a reproach to the city as well on the score of morals as of taste.” <ref> Fraser, 1854, 3, 116, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero]. </ref>
+
* <div id="FraserCemetery"></div> Fraser, Charles, November 19, 1850, ''Address Delivered on the Dedication of Magnolia Cemetery'' (1850: 6, 7, 18, 19&ndash;20, 22)<ref>Fraser 1850, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/U9BBJB2M view on Zotero].</ref>
  
 +
:“And where, with all its edifying attributes, could a [[cemetery]] be more appropriately located, than amidst the tranquil scenes of nature? Where could its mute eloquence be more emphatic and salutary? Hence the contrast that there always must be between the repose and seclusion of a rural [[cemetery]] and that of a crowded city, surrounded by the parade and the levities of fashion, by the noise and bustle of business, and too often desecrated by the jests of the heedless and profligate. Over the one, nature loves to breathe her sweetest harmonies, and to shed her balmiest dews; whilst the other is beset with every association that can repel thought and meditation. . . .
 +
:“The [[temple]]s and [[obelisk]]s and [[pillar]]s, and other costly structures of former times, were as much the monuments of living vanity as of departed worth&mdash;But the taste of the present day is to invite contemplation, with all its soothing influence, by some modest memorial of the departed, more eloquent in its appeals to the heart than the proudest monument&mdash;to exchange the crowded church-[[yard]]s of cities, whose associations, beyond the claims of private feeling, are neither pleasing nor profitable, for the quiet and secluded [[walk]]s of a rural [[cemetery]], where the mourner may withdraw, and indulge, unseen, the luxury of grief. . . .
 +
:“The establishment of [[Mount Auburn Cemetery|Mount Auburn]] was an era of taste in our country, at least, as applicable to such an object, for the [[cemetery|cemeteries]] of earlier date were plain, and without any pretension to sylvan decoration. Since then, almost all our chief cities have introduced rural [[cemetery|cemeteries]] into their neighborhood, recommended, as it is said, by similar advantages of situation and embellishment. . . .
 +
:“You have been happy, in a section of country not remarkable for any variety of scenery, or for any striking features of landscape beauty, in having selected a site capable of every improvement required for the use to which it is to be appropriated. Like the unsullied canvass, inviting the creations of fancy from the pencil of the artist, a wide field, in almost original simplicity, is here spread before you by the hand of nature, and requiring only the adornments of taste to carry out her design of beauty. Greater undulation of surface would scarcely be desirable, it being already sufficiently varied to favor the meandering course of the water, which flows beneath yon moss-hung oaks, even to the limits of your enclosure. There we behold a neat funeral chapel, lifting its gothic tower above the trees that embower it, with its deep-toned bell always ready to welcome the "stranger and sojourner" to this mansion of rest.
 +
:“Nor can we be indifferent to the [[prospect]]s which attract the eye on every side. . . .
 +
:“Let imagination look forward but a few years, to the scenes which these spreading [[lawn]]s will exhibit. Amidst the luxuriant evergreens that will then shade them, the rich shrubs, and vines, and rose trees, that shall embellish them, here and there will be seen an [[urn]]&mdash;an [[obelisk]]&mdash;a broken [[column]], looking out from their drapery of verdure.” [[#FraserCemetery_cite|back up to History]]
  
  
--''Robyn Asleson''
+
* Fraser, Charles, 1853, describing the city of Charleston (1854: 25&ndash;28)<ref>Fraser 1854, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero].</ref>
  
==Texts==
+
:“There was a word then [1807], and for some years afterwards, known in our topography, now no longer used, to wit: a green&mdash;to denote large, vacant spaces along the margin of the town. . . There was ''Bouquet’s [[green]]'', immediaterly in front of the house lately occupied by John Hume, Esq., and extending to the west and south-west to tide water; ''Harleston’s [[green]]'', extending north of it to a considerable distance; then a large space immediately west of the Poor-house [[square]], used as a negro [[burial ground]], where the old magazine stood, to which the present Magazine-street led directly.
 +
:“I must not omit to mention ''Gadsden’s [[green]]'', which was a large vacant space surrounding the residence of General Gadsden, with a portico in front, which used to be the favourite [[seat]] of its venerable owner in summer. . .
 +
:“There was ''Savage’s [[green]]'' at the lower end of Broad-street, which. . . was entirely vacant, and spacious enough to be used for military exercise. The old battalion often paraded and fired their pieces there. . . There was also a [[green]] at the lower end of Broad-street, covering the present site of Mr. Trapman’s lot, and part of Mrs. Khone’s garden. The first circus we ever had in Charleston was put up there by a rider named Poole. . . Then there was ''Federal [[green]]'', a large vacant lot in the north-east part of the town, adjoining Colonel Laurens’s garden&mdash;which garden occupied the entire [[square]] enclosed by the Bay, Society, and Anson-streets. The only existing memorial of the locality of ''Federal [[green]]'' is Wall-street, as I remember a brick [[wall]] that ran along one of the sides of it, from which it, no doubt, took its name, as College and Green-streets are now the only memorial of our old College [[green]].
 +
:“There was another vacant lot or [[green]], on the south side of Tradd-street. . . It was said to have been used, after the surrender of Charleston, as a parade ground for the Hessians.”
  
* <div id="Claude"><div> 1843, "Claude Lorraine" (Simms, ed., 1845: 46) <ref> Simms, 1845, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/CCFC49P5 view on Zotero]. </ref> [[#Claude_cite|back up to discussion]]
+
<hr>
: "Resplendent in the West, the setting sun
 
: "Announces day's departure--not a cloud
 
: "Fleckers with envious shade his glorious path,
 
: "Nor veils the dazzling radiance of the scene,
 
: "As slow he sinks below the landscape's verge....
 
: "With classic grace
 
: "Italia's scenes portray'd &mdash; the sombre arch,
 
: "The consecrated [[grove]] &mdash; the slumbering [[lake/pond|lake]],
 
: "The azure mountains mingling with the sky....."
 
  
 +
==Images==
 +
<gallery widths="170px" heights="170px" perrow="7">
  
* <div id="NatureMade"><div> 1845, "Gardening," (Simms, ed., 1845: 166, 168, 173-74, 177) <ref> Simms, ed., 1845, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/FEN8N7PM view on Zotero]. </ref> [[#NatureMade_cite|back up to discussion]]
+
Image:2302.jpg|''Charles Fraser (1782–1860)'', by unknown artist, daguerreotype.
: "Amidst the blossoms of Eden, and under the shade of its [[bower]]s, did woman receive the breath of life, full of joy and fragrance....
 
  
: "From the earliest ages it [gardening] has been contemporary with national prosperity and popular refinement, and has always flourished together with other elegant arts, possessing this decided advantage over some of them, that, whilst they have obtained their acme of improvement, and could advance no further, science is shedding on horticulture the rays of continued and progressive improvement, and encouraging its votaries with a boundless field of research, and daily results of interest and delight....
+
Image:1451.jpg|Charles Fraser, Untitled (rural scene) from untitled sketchbook, c. 1796&ndash;1805.
  
: "These [the hanging garden of Babylon] were raised in the style of an amphitheatre, on [[terrace]]s of successive elevation, accessible by flights of steps and supported by immense arches. On these [[terrace]]s was a sufficient surface of soil for the roots of the largest trees, which flourished there in all the luxuriancy of their native forests, together with the richest variety of flowers and shrubs. The ancient Egyptians, who advanced the arts of civilized life to a degree of refinement which no one can venture to say has been surpassed or equalled in after times, bestowed  great care upon their gardens, planning them upon a scale of magnificence, and irrigating them with [[canal]]s and reservoirs, to ensure a continued luxuriance in their [[orchard]]s and vineyards....
+
Image:0510.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''A [[View]] in Charleston taken from Savage’s Green'', 1796.
  
: "Thus, we see that wealth and luxury have always claimed a garden as the favorite object of prodigal expense. But instead of imitating the simplicity of nature, they have too often disfigured her with the motley inventions of art, and loaded her with ornaments which she abhors; and which, without speech or language, she is constantly reproving, even in the humblest of her productions. It is not in straight [[walk]]s, clipped [[hedge]]s, cones and [[labyrinth]]s, or such caprices, that wealth may successfully employ itself in gardening; but in collecting and naturalizing the kindred productions of various countries and climates, and bringing together, as it were, into one family circle, the scattered members of the same species, in beholding their blended hues, and inhaling their mingled fragrance. In this respect, modern horticulture has a decided advantage over that of antiquity. No one can be a skilful horticulturist, that is unacquainted with botany and other kindred sciences, all of which were unknown to the ancients. Their efforts were practical and experimental; those of the moderns are founded on principle, and directed by a knowledge of the properties of plants and flowers, greatly diversifying the beauty of our gardens, and enlarging the enjoyments of taste. Ours and affinities of plants. The modern horticulturist does not merely regard the ornamental part of gardening, which is very much a matter of taste and observation, but without neglecting that, he has higher objects. He calls Botany and Chemistry to his aid....
+
Image:0512.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Mrs. Robert Gibbes’ Place, John’s Island'', May 1797.  
  
: "One of the results, we might say one of the triumphs of modern horticulture, is the introduction and naturalisation, even the domestication, of foreign vegetable population is thus greatly increased, and like that of our municipal and political communities, is fast rivalling the number of natives. The extension of commerce, and the growing civilisation of the world, have very much contributed to this. We may all remember when our gardens produced a comparative meagre display, when our roses were few, and those the descendants of the Huguenot stock: and our flower-[[bed]]s confined to anemonies and stock gillyflowers—pinks, jonquils, and a few blue hyacinths (other colors being very rarely seen), as prescribed by the old-fashioned vocabulary. Whereas they now exhibit a splendid array of flowers and shrubs; contributed by every part of the globe.... Exotics are now familiar to us, and may be fairly enrolled in the American Flora."
+
Image:0552.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Monument of Lieutenant Governor Bull'' (Ashley Hall), c. 1800.
  
 +
Image:0226.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Wigton on Saint James, Goose Creek: The [[Seat]] of James Fraser, Esq.'', c. 1800.
  
* November 19, 1850, ''Address Delivered on the Dedication of Magnolia Cemetery'' (1850: 6, 7, 18, 19-20, 22) <ref> Fraser, 1850, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/U9BBJB2M view on Zotero]. </ref>
+
Image:0508.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''The [[Seat]] of Jos. Winthrop, Esq., Goose Creek'', c. 1800.
  
: "And where, with all its edifying attributes, could a [[cemetery/burying ground/burial ground|cemetery]] be more appropriately located, than amidst the tranquil scenes of nature? Where could its mute eloquence be more emphatic and salutary? Hence the contrast that there always must be between the repose and seclusion of a rural [[cemetery/burying ground|cemetery]] and that of a crowded city, surrounded by the parade and the levities of fashion, by the noise and bustle of business, and too often desecrated by the jests of the heedless and profligate. Over the one, nature loves to breathe her sweetest harmonies, and to shed her balmiest dews; whilst the other is beset with every association that can repel thought and meditation......
+
Image:0939.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Rice Hope: The [[Seat]] of Dr. William Read, Taken from One of the Rice Fields'', c. 1800.
  
: "The [[temples]] and [[obelisks]] and pillars, and other costly structures of former times, were as much the monuments of living vanity as of departed worth &mdash; But the taste of the present day is to invite contemplation, with all its soothing influence, by some modest memorial of the departed, more eloquent in its appeals to the heart than the proudest monument &mdash; to exchange the crowded church-[[yards]] of cities, whose associations, beyond the claims of private feeling, are neither pleasing nor profitable, for the quiet and secluded [[walk]]s of a rural [[cemetery/burying ground|cemetery]], where the mourner may withdraw, and indulge, unseen, the luxury of grief....
+
Image:0511.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Brabants: The [[Seat]] of the Late Bishop Smith'', April 18, 1800.
  
: "The establishment of [[Mount Auburn]] was an era of taste in our country, at least, as applicable to such an object, for the [[cemetery/burying ground|cemeteries]] of earlier date were plain, and without any pretension to sylvan decoration. Since then, almost all our chief cities have introduced rural [[cemetery/burying ground|cemeteries]] into their neighborhood, recommended, as it is said, by similar advantages of situation and embellishment....
+
Image:0233.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Another [[View]] of Brabants: [[Seat]] of the Late Bishop Smith'', c. 1800.
  
: "You have been happy, in a section of country not remarkable for any variety of scenery, or for any striking features of landscape beauty, in having selected a site capable of every improvement required for the use to which it is to be appropriated. Like the unsullied canvass, inviting the creations of fancy from the pencil of the artist, a wide field, in almost original simplicity, is here spread before you by the hand of nature, and requiring only the adornments of taste to carry out her design of beauty. Greater undulation of surface would scarcely be desirable, it being already sufficiently varied to favor the meandering course of the water, which flows beneath yon moss-hung oaks, even to the limits of your enclosure. There we behold a neat funeral chapel, lifting its gothic tower above the trees that embower it, with its deep-toned bell always ready to welcome the "stranger and sojourner" to this mansion of rest.  
+
Image:0229.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''The [[Seat]] of John Julius Pringle, Esquire, on the Ashley River'', 1800.
  
: "Nor can we be indifferent to the [[prospect]]s which attract the eye on every side....
+
Image:0231.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''A [[Seat]] on Ashley River'', April 1802.
  
: "Let imagination look forward but a few years, to the scenes which these spreading [[lawn]]s will exhibit. Amidst the luxuriant evergreens that will then shade them, the rich shrubs, and vines, and rose trees, that shall embellish them, here and there will be seen an [[urn]] &mdash; an [[obelisk]] &mdash; a broken [[column]], looking out from their drapery of verdure."
+
Image:0509.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Rice Hope'', c. 1803.
  
 +
Image:0223.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Ashley Hall'', 1803.
  
 +
Image:0507.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Another [[View]] of the Same'' (Ashley Hall), 1803.
  
* 1853, Describing the city of Charleston (1854: 25-28) <ref> Fraser, 1854, [https://www.zotero.org/groups/54737/items/itemKey/VTRNRRX8 view on Zotero]. </ref>
+
Image:0228.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Richmond: The [[Seat]] of Edward Rutledge, Esq., Saint Johns'', 1803.  
: "There was a word then [1807], and for some years afterwards, known in our topography, now no longer used, to wit: a green--to denote large, vacant spaces along the margin of the town.... There was ''Bouquet's [[green]]'', immediaterly in front of the house lately occupied by John Hume, Esq., and extending to the west and south-west to tide water; ''Harleston's [[green]]'', extending north of it to a considerable distance; then a large space immediately west of the Poor-house [[square]], used as a negro [[burial ground]], where the old magazine stood, to which the present Magazine-street led directly.  
 
  
: "I must not omit to mention ''Gadsden's [[green]]'', which was a large vacant space surrounding the residence of General Gadsden, with a portico in front, which used to be the favourite [[seat]] of its venerable owner in summer....
+
Image:0224.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Mepkin, the [[Seat]] of Henry Laurens, Esq.'', May 1803.
  
: "There was ''Savage's [[green]]'' at the lower end of Broad-street, which...was entirely vacant, and spacious enough to be used for military exercise. The old battalion often paraded and fired their pieces there.... There was also a [[green]] at the lower end of Broad-street, covering the present site of Mr. Trapman's lot, and part of Mrs. Khone's garden. The first circus we ever had in Charleston was put up there by a rider named Poole.... Then there was ''Federal [[green]]'', a large vacant lot in the north-east part of the town, adjoining Colonel Laurens's garden--which garden occupied the entire [[square]] enclosed by the Bay, Society, and Anson-streets. The only existing memorial of the locality of ''Federal [[green]]'' is Wall-street, as I remember a brick [[wall]] that ran along one of the sides of it, from which it, no doubt, took its name, as College and Green-streets are now the only memorial of our old College [[green]].
+
Image:0496.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''A Bason and Storehouse Belonging to the Santee Canal in 1803'', 1805.
  
: "There was another vacant lot or [[green]], on the south side of Tradd-street.... It was said to have been used, after the surrender of Charleston, as a parade ground for the Hessians."
+
Image:0225.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Mepkin No. 1'', May 1805.
  
==Images==
+
Image:0227.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Woodville, The [[Seat]] of R. Beresford, Esq.'', c. 1810.
  
==References==
+
Image:0232.jpg|Charles Fraser, ''Golden Grove, The [[Seat]] of Mrs. Sommers—Stono'', 1810.
 +
</gallery>
  
 +
<hr>
  
 
==Notes==
 
==Notes==
 
<references/>
 
<references/>
 +
 +
<hr>
 +
 +
[[Category:People|F]]

Latest revision as of 18:47, August 17, 2021

Overview

Birth Date: August 20, 1782

Death Date: October 5, 1860

Birth Location: Charleston, SC

Role: Artist

Used Keywords: Bed, Bower, Canal, Cemetery/Burying ground/Burial ground, Column/Pillar, Green, Grove, Hedge, Labyrinth, Lake, Lawn, Obelisk, Orchard, Prospect, Seat, Square, Temple, Terrace/Slope, Vase/Urn, View/Vista, Walk, Wall, Yard

Other resources: Library of Congress Authority File; American National Biography;

Export as RDF

Charles Fraser (August 20, 1782–October 5, 1860) was an American-born painter of Scottish descent who depicted people and places associated with his native Charleston, South Carolina.

History

Fig. 1, Charles Fraser, The Seat of John Julius Pringle, Esquire, on the Ashley River, 1800.
Fig. 2, Charles Fraser, Brabants: The Seat of the Late Bishop Smith, April 18, 1800.

Charles Fraser began his art practice as a prolific amateur, producing miniature portraits of family and friends, as well as carefully rendered watercolor depictions of buildings and scenery in and around Charleston. Until the age of 36, he vacillated between art and the legal career he had embarked upon in 1798 while studying law in the office of John Julius Pringle, Attorney General of South Carolina. Called to the South Carolina Bar in 1807, Fraser continued to practice law until 1817 when he finally resolved to become a professional artist.[1]

He had formed his landscape style in the mid-1790s under the tutelage of the view painter and engraver Thomas Coram, who apparently encouraged Fraser to copy European prints and travel guidebook illustrations.[2] Fraser particularly admired the atmospheric landscapes of the 17th-century painters Salvator Rosa and Claude Lorraine, and emulated the picturesque conventions popularized by British writers such as William Gilpin.[3] He was one of the first artists to adapt the British picturesque tradition to the topography of the American South.[4] A sketchbook dating from 1796 to 1806 contains small watercolor depictions of scenes in the vicinity of Charleston that Fraser knew well: manor houses, rice plantations, waterways, monuments, and churches. These included the new plantation house on the Ashley River built by his employer, John Julius Pringle [Fig. 1]; the fabled estate Brabant, owned by his former schoolmaster, Bishop Robert Smith [Fig. 2]; and the country seats established by Fraser’s siblings near Goosecreek on land that had originally formed part of the family plantation, Wigton, named for the Frasers’ ancestral home in Scotland [Fig. 3].[5] In all of these sketches, closely observed details of local terrain, plants, architecture, and social life attest to Fraser’s concern with authentically documenting the appearance of Charleston, notwithstanding his reliance on European landscape conventions.

Fig. 3, Charles Fraser, Wigton on Saint James, Goose Creek: The Seat of James Fraser, Esq., c. 1800.

In 1806 Fraser ventured further afield, making the first of several trips up the eastern seaboard, traveling as far north as Massachusetts.[6] His letters home describe the scenery he encountered in terms that reflect his painterly interests. On his second trip through the northeast in 1816, he observed of northern Connecticut: “The scenery around there is very wild and Picturesque—hills of immense height—broken rocks, etc. make it one of the most striking scenes I ever beheld.”[7] That year Fraser sold “twenty very beautiful drawings of scenes, in different parts of the United States” to the Analectic Magazine, which published eight engravings after his sketches from 1816 to 1818.[8] Despite the financial success of these landscapes, Fraser chose to focus on portrait miniatures when he embarked on his professional career in 1818. By his own calculation, he had produced 350 miniatures by 1837, and it is for these meticulously rendered images of fellow Charlestonians that he is chiefly known today.

In the 1830s, however—with his patrons’ interest in miniatures dwindling and his eyesight in decline—Fraser’s early interest in landscape revived. Rather than the manicured grounds of southern plantations and country seats, however, Fraser now focused on wilderness scenes in New England, romanticized views of European castles, and copies after engravings.[9] His admiration for both the cultivated European landscape and untamed American nature found expression in two poems he published in Magnolia, or Southern Appalachian: “Claude Lorraine” (May 1843) (view text)[10] and “Nature Made for Man” (June 1843).[11] Two years later, he published an essay recounting the history of the garden from Eden to the present day—enthusiastically endorsing the modern style of naturalistic garden design—in the literary miscellany The Charleston Book (view text).[12] With equal passion and similar arguments, he championed the rural cemetery movement in his Address Delivered on the Dedication of Magnolia Cemetery in 1850 (view text).[13]

Fig. 4, Charles Fraser, [Ashley Hall], 1803.
Fig. 5, Charles Fraser, Monument of Lieutenant Governor Bull (Ashley Hall), c. 1800.

Fraser was acutely conscious of the momentous changes that had transformed the social and physical fabric of Charleston during his lifetime. He described his companions at a dinner party in 1833 as “a little remnant of the old Stock—which are here and there to be found—like roses of the wilderness—marking ‘where a garden had been.’”[14] In 1853, at the age of 71, he presented his personal recollections before the Conversation Club, describing the Charleston he had known in the early 1790s, when manicured gardens and open greens defined the topography, and the town was still “completely surrounded with remains of its old revolutionary fortifications.”[15] He mentioned several private gardens that had blossomed in the post-Revolutionary era, including those created by the expatriate British nursery- and seedsman Robert Squibb, author of The Gardener’s Calendar for South-Carolina, Georgia, and North-Carolina (1787), and also by Martha Daniell Logan (1704–1779), author of the planting advice column “A Gardener’s Kalendar.”[16]

Fraser wrote proudly of Lt. Gov. William Bull II (1710–1791), who had entertained “the celebrated naturalist [Mark] Catesby at the family seat, at Ashley River, where there is now a majestic avenue of oaks, said to have been planted by his hand” [Fig. 4].[17] In the early 1800s, Fraser had produced several drawings of Ashley Hall, including a representation of the obelisk erected in the garden in 1792 in memory of Gov. Bull [Fig. 5]. Fraser noted a few public gathering spots in Early Republican Charleston, including Gibbes’s Bridge, “where seats and refreshments were provided for the company that used to resort there on warm summer evenings,” and Watson’s Garden, “a beautifully cultivated piece of ground . . . about a mile from the city, adorned with shrubbery and hedges, and fine umbrageous trees.”[18] A bittersweet quality tinges several aspects of Fraser’s account. The Charleston Botanic Society and Garden, founded with high hopes in 1805, had ultimately failed to prosper. Numerous families had broken up their plantations, and “the ruinous remains of many of their seats and mansions . . . are melancholy memorials of bye-gone days.”[19] On the whole, however, Fraser asserted that Charleston had changed for the better. Among other recent “public improvements and embellishments,” he called attention to City Square (1818), “a beautiful walk of shade trees” replacing “mean and densely crowded” buildings that had been “a reproach to the city as well on the score of morals as of taste.”[20]

Robyn Asleson


Texts

  • Fraser, Charles, 1843, “Claude Lorraine” (1845; repr., 1983: 46)[21]
“Resplendent in the West, the setting sun
“Announces day’s departure—not a cloud
“Fleckers with envious shade his glorious path,
“Nor veils the dazzling radiance of the scene,
“As slow he sinks below the landscape’s verge. . .
“With classic grace
“Italia’s scenes portray’d—the sombre arch,
“The consecrated grove—the slumbering lake,
“The azure mountains mingling with the sky. . .”
back up to History


  • Fraser, Charles, 1845, “Gardening,” (1845; repr. 1983: 166, 168, 173–74, 177)[21]
“Amidst the blossoms of Eden, and under the shade of its bowers, did woman receive the breath of life, full of joy and fragrance. . . .
“From the earliest ages it [gardening] has been contemporary with national prosperity and popular refinement, and has always flourished together with other elegant arts, possessing this decided advantage over some of them, that, whilst they have obtained their acme of improvement, and could advance no further, science is shedding on horticulture the rays of continued and progressive improvement, and encouraging its votaries with a boundless field of research, and daily results of interest and delight. . . .
“These [the hanging garden of Babylon] were raised in the style of an amphitheatre, on terraces of successive elevation, accessible by flights of steps and supported by immense arches. On these terraces was a sufficient surface of soil for the roots of the largest trees, which flourished there in all the luxuriancy of their native forests, together with the richest variety of flowers and shrubs. The ancient Egyptians, who advanced the arts of civilized life to a degree of refinement which no one can venture to say has been surpassed or equalled in after times, bestowed great care upon their gardens, planning them upon a scale of magnificence, and irrigating them with canals and reservoirs, to ensure a continued luxuriance in their orchards and vineyards. . . .
“Thus, we see that wealth and luxury have always claimed a garden as the favorite object of prodigal expense. But instead of imitating the simplicity of nature, they have too often disfigured her with the motley inventions of art, and loaded her with ornaments which she abhors; and which, without speech or language, she is constantly reproving, even in the humblest of her productions. It is not in straight walks, clipped hedges, cones and labyrinths, or such caprices, that wealth may successfully employ itself in gardening; but in collecting and naturalizing the kindred productions of various countries and climates, and bringing together, as it were, into one family circle, the scattered members of the same species, in beholding their blended hues, and inhaling their mingled fragrance. In this respect, modern horticulture has a decided advantage over that of antiquity. No one can be a skilful horticulturist, that is unacquainted with botany and other kindred sciences, all of which were unknown to the ancients. Their efforts were practical and experimental; those of the moderns are founded on principle, and directed by a knowledge of the properties of plants and flowers, greatly diversifying the beauty of our gardens, and enlarging the enjoyments of taste. Ours and affinities of plants. The modern horticulturist does not merely regard the ornamental part of gardening, which is very much a matter of taste and observation, but without neglecting that, he has higher objects. He calls Botany and Chemistry to his aid. . . .
“One of the results, we might say one of the triumphs of modern horticulture, is the introduction and naturalisation, even the domestication, of foreign vegetable population is thus greatly increased, and like that of our municipal and political communities, is fast rivalling the number of natives. The extension of commerce, and the growing civilisation of the world, have very much contributed to this. We may all remember when our gardens produced a comparative meagre display, when our roses were few, and those the descendants of the Huguenot stock: and our flower-beds confined to anemonies and stock gillyflowers—pinks, jonquils, and a few blue hyacinths (other colors being very rarely seen), as prescribed by the old-fashioned vocabulary. Whereas they now exhibit a splendid array of flowers and shrubs; contributed by every part of the globe. . . . Exotics are now familiar to us, and may be fairly enrolled in the American Flora.” back up to History


  • Fraser, Charles, November 19, 1850, Address Delivered on the Dedication of Magnolia Cemetery (1850: 6, 7, 18, 19–20, 22)[22]
“And where, with all its edifying attributes, could a cemetery be more appropriately located, than amidst the tranquil scenes of nature? Where could its mute eloquence be more emphatic and salutary? Hence the contrast that there always must be between the repose and seclusion of a rural cemetery and that of a crowded city, surrounded by the parade and the levities of fashion, by the noise and bustle of business, and too often desecrated by the jests of the heedless and profligate. Over the one, nature loves to breathe her sweetest harmonies, and to shed her balmiest dews; whilst the other is beset with every association that can repel thought and meditation. . . .
“The temples and obelisks and pillars, and other costly structures of former times, were as much the monuments of living vanity as of departed worth—But the taste of the present day is to invite contemplation, with all its soothing influence, by some modest memorial of the departed, more eloquent in its appeals to the heart than the proudest monument—to exchange the crowded church-yards of cities, whose associations, beyond the claims of private feeling, are neither pleasing nor profitable, for the quiet and secluded walks of a rural cemetery, where the mourner may withdraw, and indulge, unseen, the luxury of grief. . . .
“The establishment of Mount Auburn was an era of taste in our country, at least, as applicable to such an object, for the cemeteries of earlier date were plain, and without any pretension to sylvan decoration. Since then, almost all our chief cities have introduced rural cemeteries into their neighborhood, recommended, as it is said, by similar advantages of situation and embellishment. . . .
“You have been happy, in a section of country not remarkable for any variety of scenery, or for any striking features of landscape beauty, in having selected a site capable of every improvement required for the use to which it is to be appropriated. Like the unsullied canvass, inviting the creations of fancy from the pencil of the artist, a wide field, in almost original simplicity, is here spread before you by the hand of nature, and requiring only the adornments of taste to carry out her design of beauty. Greater undulation of surface would scarcely be desirable, it being already sufficiently varied to favor the meandering course of the water, which flows beneath yon moss-hung oaks, even to the limits of your enclosure. There we behold a neat funeral chapel, lifting its gothic tower above the trees that embower it, with its deep-toned bell always ready to welcome the "stranger and sojourner" to this mansion of rest.
“Nor can we be indifferent to the prospects which attract the eye on every side. . . .
“Let imagination look forward but a few years, to the scenes which these spreading lawns will exhibit. Amidst the luxuriant evergreens that will then shade them, the rich shrubs, and vines, and rose trees, that shall embellish them, here and there will be seen an urn—an obelisk—a broken column, looking out from their drapery of verdure.” back up to History


  • Fraser, Charles, 1853, describing the city of Charleston (1854: 25–28)[23]
“There was a word then [1807], and for some years afterwards, known in our topography, now no longer used, to wit: a green—to denote large, vacant spaces along the margin of the town. . . There was Bouquet’s green, immediaterly in front of the house lately occupied by John Hume, Esq., and extending to the west and south-west to tide water; Harleston’s green, extending north of it to a considerable distance; then a large space immediately west of the Poor-house square, used as a negro burial ground, where the old magazine stood, to which the present Magazine-street led directly.
“I must not omit to mention Gadsden’s green, which was a large vacant space surrounding the residence of General Gadsden, with a portico in front, which used to be the favourite seat of its venerable owner in summer. . .
“There was Savage’s green at the lower end of Broad-street, which. . . was entirely vacant, and spacious enough to be used for military exercise. The old battalion often paraded and fired their pieces there. . . There was also a green at the lower end of Broad-street, covering the present site of Mr. Trapman’s lot, and part of Mrs. Khone’s garden. The first circus we ever had in Charleston was put up there by a rider named Poole. . . Then there was Federal green, a large vacant lot in the north-east part of the town, adjoining Colonel Laurens’s garden—which garden occupied the entire square enclosed by the Bay, Society, and Anson-streets. The only existing memorial of the locality of Federal green is Wall-street, as I remember a brick wall that ran along one of the sides of it, from which it, no doubt, took its name, as College and Green-streets are now the only memorial of our old College green.
“There was another vacant lot or green, on the south side of Tradd-street. . . It was said to have been used, after the surrender of Charleston, as a parade ground for the Hessians.”

Images


Notes

  1. Martha R. Severens and Charles L. Wyrick Jr., eds., Charles Fraser of Charleston: Essays on the Man, His Art and His Times (Charleston, SC: Carolina Art Association, 1983), 16, view on Zotero.
  2. Roberta Kefalos, “Landscapes of Thomas Coram and Charles Fraser,” American Art Review (May/June 1998): 122–27, view on Zotero.
  3. Severens and Wyrick 1983, 22, 31, 76–78, 84–86, view on Zotero.
  4. Roberta Sokolitz, “Picturing the Plantation,” in Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art, ed. Angela E. Mack and Stephen G. Hoffius (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 2008), 30, 39, 45, view on Zotero; Kefalos 1998, 122–27, view on Zotero.
  5. Severens and Wyrick 1983, 77–78, view on Zotero; Charles Fraser and Alice R. Huger Smith, A Charleston Sketchbook, 1796–1806 (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Company for the Carolina Art Association, 1959), 8, 18, 19, 21, 38, view on Zotero.
  6. Severens and Wyrick 1983, 16–17, 32, view on Zotero; Anna Wells Rutledge, Artists in the Life of Charleston: Through Colony and State, from Restoration to Reconstruction (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1949), 133–34, view on Zotero.
  7. Severens and Wyrick 1983, 87, view on Zotero.
  8. Anonymous, “Domestic Literature and Fine Arts,” Analectic Magazine and Naval Chronicle 8 (1816): 453, view on Zotero.
  9. Severens and Wyrick 1983, 57–74, 75–76, view on Zotero.
  10. Charles Fraser, “Claude Lorraine,” Magnolia, or Southern Appalachian 2 (May 1843): 315, republished in William Gilmore Simms, ed., The Charleston Book: A Miscellany in Prose and Verse (1845; repr., Spartansburg, SC: Reprint Company, 1983), 46, view on Zotero.
  11. Charles Fraser, “Nature Made for Man,” Magnolia, or Southern Appalachian 2 (June 1843): 383, republished in Simms 1983, 332, view on Zotero.
  12. Charles Fraser, “Gardening,” in Simms 1983, 165–80, view on Zotero.
  13. Charles Fraser, Address Delivered on the Dedication of Magnolia Cemetery, 19th November 1850 (Charleston, SC: Steam-Press of Walker and James, 1850), view on Zotero.
  14. Fraser’s letter to Hugh Swinton Legare, January 30, 1833, quoted in Severens and Wyrick 1983, 35, view on Zotero.
  15. Charles Fraser, Reminiscences of Charleston (Charleston, SC: J. Russell, 1854), 21, 25–28, view on Zotero.
  16. Fraser 1854, 25–27, view on Zotero.
  17. Fraser 1854, 68, view on Zotero.
  18. Fraser 1854, 64, view on Zotero.
  19. Fraser 1854, 58, 67 view on Zotero.
  20. Fraser 1854, 3, 116, view on Zotero.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Simms 1983, view on Zotero.
  22. Fraser 1850, view on Zotero.
  23. Fraser 1854, view on Zotero.

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