Luther College, Jens Jensen, and the American Landscape

Curated by ART 362: 19th Century Art History Students
March 27 - May 24
, 2015
Preus Library

Luther College, Jens Jensen, and the American Landscape

“Nature and man’s hand must go together. Man has dominion over all life on this earth, but it is not his purpose to destroy that life which God has given him to protect. We are today living in a machine age. What is to follow no one knows, but there is one thing sure: nature will survive. Man in his arrogance and conceit passes away. A bird singing over his grave drops a from what was once conceited man. So nature seed, and out of that seed grows a beautiful tree getting its substance goes on without any vengence.”

-Jens Jensen

Scandinavian  landscape  architect,  Jens  Jensen  worked  in  and  around  the midwest  in  the  late  nineteenth  and  early  twentieth  century.  In  1909,  he  was asked  by the Preus administration to landscape Luther’s evolving campus. This semester, the six students enrolled in Art in the Nineteenth Century were given the task of creating an exhibit focusing on Jens Jensen’s ideals as manifested in Luther College campus and landscapes pulled from the Fine Art Collection. We used  resources  such  as  Jensen’s  own  writings,  Luther’s  Fine  Arts  Collection Archives,  and  the  future  campus  development  plans  in  order  to  illustrate  the holism of the ideals held by this landscape architect and Luther College.

Jensen often wrote about the “loveliness of the forest border where prairie and woodland meet,” a phrase that is echoed in Luther College’s mission statement (Siftings,  50). Jensen  was  ahead  of  his  time  in  thinking  about  the  living  and learning environment, both in physical planning and sustainability. His values are shown  throughout  campus,  especially  in  such  elements  as  the  council  rings scattered about and the curving of the sidewalks that connect campus buildings. As former professors, alumni, and Decorah residents, each of the artists featured in our exhibition knew this landscape intimately. Although none would likely cite Jensen as a direct  source of inspiration for his or her work, each illustrates an important aspect of Jensen’s philosophy that one grows to appreciate intuitively as one walks the Luther College campus.

For additional information on this show, please visit the Luther College Galleries Website.