Mr. Stillman valued classicism in many forms, including architecture, landscape design, and fine arts. A Renaissance man, he became a collector of paintings, statuary, antique furniture, and driving carriages. As Wethersfield grew, all these interests were integrated and curated in terms of design – and were placed in proper context to tell a larger story, in part, about the role of classicism in human expression.
Wethersfield Garden is the finest classical garden in the United States built in the second half of the 20th century, defined as the generalized and idealized interpretation of nature, initiated by the Greeks and the Romans and given new life by the Italian Renaissance. This, according to Henry Hope Reed, whose work in the field of classical art and architecture, remains influential.
Henry Hope Reed and Mr. Stillman were friends and colleagues and worked together to found Classical America in 1968. Classical America worked to identify and preserve architectural texts. In 2002, Classical America became the Institute for Classical Art & Architecture.
In writings on Wethersfield, Reed describes the combination of landscape design, place, and classical influence:
“In garden art, more specifically, it means shaping the landscape and planting along formal lines, customarily near a house. The principal accent of the classical garden is a main axis, along with an emphasis on straight vistas; the use of water, still or moving; and the presence of sculpture, ornaments such as urns and obelisks; and even architecture in the form of terraces. These devices are often found as part of or as a single focus to vista, supplementing the shaped shrubs and trees, and through repetition, help to convey balance and symmetry in the formal design.”
According to Peter Lyden, President of Institute for Classical Art and Architecture, Wethersfield Estate & Garden stands as a unique American experience.