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MacDougall, Elisabeth Blair

    Full Name: MacDougall, Elisabeth Blair

    Other Names:

    • née Elisabeth Blair

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1925

    Date Died: 2003

    Place Born: Chicago, Cook, IL, USA

    Place Died: Boston, Suffolk, MA, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), gardens (open spaces), landscapes (representations), and sculpture (visual works)


    Landscape architectural historian at Dumbarton Oaks, 1972-1988. Blair was raised in Colorado Springs, CO. She earned her B.A. from Vassar College in 1946 and an M.A. from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She married Gregory MacDougall, changing her name at that time (later divorced). Living in Boston during the 1960s and early 1970s, she served on the Cambridge Historical Commission, co-authoring volume two of the Cambridge Architectural Survey. She was later appointed chair of the newly formed Boston Landmarks Commission. In 1970 she earned her Ph.D. from Harvard writing on the topic of the development of the Roman Garden Style. Between 1972 and 1988, MacDougall served as director of the program of studies in Landscape Architecture at Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University’s research center in Washington, D. C. John Dixon Hunt succeeded MacDougall upon her retirement in 1988. She was a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a visiting associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She served as the Society of Architectural Historians president and vice president, and then editor of the society’s journal from 1984 to 1987. In her retirement, she researched architectural historiography. Her death was the result of pneumonia. MacDougall, known as Betty, helped transform the study of gardens into an academic discipline. She was one of the first scholars to use art-historical principles for the topic, analyzing the use of color and design in 16th- and 17th-century French and Italian gardens similar to way art historians study other painting of the period.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] The Villa Mattei and the Development of the Roman Garden Style. Harvard University, 1970; edited. The Architectural Historian in America: a Symposium in Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Founding of the Society of Architectural Historians. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1990; edited. Ancient Roman Villa Gardens. Tenth Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1987; and Miller, Naomi. Fons Sapientiae: Garden Fountains in Illustrated Books, Sixteenth-Eighteenth Centuries. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1977; and Ettinghausen, Richard. The Islamic Garden. Fourth Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, 1976.


    [obituary:] Washington Post. October 23, 2003 p. B 5; Elisabeth MacDougall, Pioneer in Formal Study of Gardens. Gewertz, Ken. Harvard Gazette October 23, 2003.; Benes, Mirka. “A Tribute to Two Historians of Landscape Architecture: David R. Coffin (1918-2003) and Elisabeth B. MacDougall (1925-2003).” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 63 no. 2 (June 2004): 248-54.


    "MacDougall, Elisabeth Blair." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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