Opening April 6th, 2017, this year’s special exhibition Nature Tamed in the Landscape, Gardens, and Collections of Rough Point brings the outside in with a look at how the natural world influenced those who shaped and lived at Rough Point, Doris Duke’s home in Newport. From the original landscape design by Fredrick Law Olmsted, to the fabulous floral fashions of Doris Duke, we invite this year’s visitors to explore the history of the house, gardens, and grounds, as well as nature-inspired pieces from the collection that are rarely seen by the public.
The installation is divided into two gallery experiences. In the first gallery, the visitor will see the evolution of the landscape at Rough Point and learn how it came to look as it does today. Each of the house’s five owners from 1887 to the present introduced features to the property that “tamed” natural elements to meet their needs and interests, making some parts of the estate more formal, others more rustic and picturesque. Visitors will take a virtual journey through plans, photographs, and objects that relate to interventions made by each of Rough Point’s owners, discovering what remains of their alterations – and how Mother Nature sometimes takes forces into her own hands.
The first gallery opens with Frederick W. Vanderbilt’s purchase of Rough Point in 1887 and the earliest landscape design ideas from Frederick Law Olmsted. The Cliff Walk, one of Newport’s most popular public attractions, receives special attention here as it posed perhaps the greatest challenge for Olmsted. A small, rocky inlet forced the public walkway to pass well up onto the property, in close proximity to the mansion being planned by Boston architects Peabody and Stearns. Olmsted’s solution for increased privacy was to relocate the path along the water’s edge with a stone arch bridge over the inlet – creating a focal point in the landscape and to this day one of the most scenic seaside features in all of Newport.
After learning about the early history of the landscape, the second gallery focuses on more recent changes to grounds and gardens under Rough Point’s most famous owner, Doris Duke, alongside a selection of fine art, furnishings, and fashion of note for bold and colorful prints. Doris’s love of nature can be seen in vibrant, scenic kimonos, porcelain hand-painted with botanical studies, and accessories that pop with bright floral patterns. Stunning fashion and objects from the collection that are not typically seen on a house tour now come to the forefront.
“We were excited to find a theme that would allow us to present the entire, long history of the property. We wanted to show the impact of each owner, from 1887 to present, along with items from Rough Point that are not so well known,” said Margot Nishimura, Deputy Director for Collections, Programming, and Public Engagement at NRF. “Nature Tamed provided us with a way to tell the story of the landscape and display related items from Doris Duke’s collections that are usually in storage or in far corners of the house and hard for visitors to see.”
Kirsten Costa, Curator of the Newport Restoration Foundation added, “We’re especially thrilled to be showing fashions with landscape and floral patterns from Doris’s closets.” ”It’s timely,” Costa continued, “With floral prints appearing in so many of this year’s designer collections, and with an equally bold and bright installation design by Carrie Chatterson Studio, we expect Nature Tamed to be an especially appealing theme for our 2017 season visitors.”
The timeline concludes with a look at Rough Point today and how the Newport Restoration Foundation approaches the preservation of the landscape and the stewardship of Doris Duke’s legacy. At the end of the exhibition, visitors are encouraged to explore the landscape and gardens for themselves, and experience one of the best panoramic ocean views Newport has to offer.
Nature Tamed in the Landscape, Gardens, and Collections of Rough Point will be on exhibit in the galleries at Rough Point starting Thursday, April 6, and continues through Sunday, November 5, 2017. Guided tours of the house, which last approximately 75 minutes and include the exhibition, cost $25. Children 12 and younger are admitted for free. Tours are offered Thursday – Sunday, 9:30 am – 2:00 pm, from Thursday, April 6 – Sunday, May 7. From Tuesday, May 9 – Sunday, November 5, tours are offered 9:30 am – 3:30 pm, Tuesday – Sunday. In addition, the galleries are open during “Rough Point Beyond the Tour,” a series of special events offered on alternating Wednesday evenings throughout the season. Visit www.NewportRestoration.org or call (401) 847-8344 for more information.
Information from a Newport Restoration Foundation press release was used in this story.