The Landscape Guide

Marie Luise Gothein's

History of Garden Art

Biographical note (by Tom Turner) on Marie Luise Gothein (Born 12th September 1863. Died 24th December 1931)

This note contains some details of Gothein's life and work. She made an enormous contribution to the study of garden history, with her books are distinguished by intelligence, humorous and diligence. Though she died long before I was born, it feels as though she was my companion in any libraries and on garden visits. In appearance she even looks like my great aunt, Wilhelmina  Sophia Maulen.

Gothein was born in an area of East Prussia which reverted to Poland after the Second World War. Her given names, Marie-Luise suggests that her family was of French extraction. This is possible. Many French protestant families had moved to Eastern Germany with encouragement from Frederick I of Prussia. His son, Frederick the Great loved French culture and it may be that the name took root in German for this reason. Marie-Luise's father was a lawyer named Schroeter. This name derives from the Middle High German schrotaere meaning 'a carrier of wine or beer barrels'. The Gotheins lived in Lower Silesia and Marie-Luise went to study at the University of Wroclaw (then University of Breslau) in Silesia It is in a beautiful city on the Odra River at the foot of the Sudety Mountains was the ducal capital of Lower Silesia (310 km southwest of Warsaw and 200 km east of Dresden, in Germany). It had long been settled by Germans, who gave it the name Breslau in 1261. After the accession of the Spanish prince Ferdinand I to the Bohemian throne in 1526 it became a Habsburg possession. After the War of Austrian Succession, Frederick the Great took the city 1741 (it reverted to Poland and its Polish name after the Second World War). It was natural for a child of this area to take an interest in history. Its turbulent history could have made her a conservative but in fact made her a liberal.

Marie-Luise studied History and the History of Art in Breslau - and fell in love with Eberhard Gothein, a teacher and ten years her senior. They became engaged when she was 19 and married four years later (in 1885) when he secured job at the University of Karlsruhe.  Karlsruhe's layout was based on a baroque garden plan and it is possible that this was the origin of her interest in garden history. She makes the following comment in the History of Garden Art (published 28 years later, in 1913):

The princely seat of Karlsruhe shows how completely the idea of the garden which dominated the eighteenth century - that century of princes, as one may call it. In 1709 the Margrave Charles William of Baden-Durlach built himself a little shooting-box in the middle of the Hardtwald to serve him as his Trianon. A hunting-tower which was in an isolated position in front of the house, looking towards the wood, was the middle point for thirty-two walks that were cut in the surrounding wood. Even the ground-plan of the castle had to be arranged to suit the prince's whim, and its side wings were set at an obtuse angle in a line with two avenues. The segment of the circle enclosed by these wings and the buildings that adjoined them farther along was laid out as a pleasure-garden the front part was enclosed by groups of buildings for the court nobles, or for servants' use - one group between every two avenues - arranged in precisely the same way as at Nymphenburg. The oddness of the plan at the back was really grotesque; in the little circular bit round the tower there were twenty-four small houses, one at the starting-point of each avenue, varying in ground-plan, but all alike in size; each was provided with its own little garden, used for different purposes, as fountain-house, bath-house, pump-house, etc. The place round the tower was adorned with four fountains, and there were others put about in the thick of the wood where the avenues are cut.

Marie Luise Gothein before the Great War

Marie Luise Gothein before the Great War