Hill, May Brawley 1942–

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Hill, May Brawley 1942–

PERSONAL: Born December 10, 1942, in Salisbury, NC; daughter of Boyden and Peggy Brawley; married Frederick David Hill, July 12, 1967; children: Daisy, Nathaniel. Education: Salem College, B.A. (cum laude), 1963; New York University Institute of Fine Arts, M.A., 1967; postgraduate studies at City University of New York.

ADDRESSES: Home—184 Brick School Rd., Warren, CT 06754-1424.

CAREER: Art historian and writer. Member of board of directors, Horticulture Society of New York, St. Gardens Foundation, and Warren (CT) Land Trust.

MEMBER: Garden Conservancy Fellows, Century Association, Wave Hill, Friends of Horticulture.


Women: An Historical Survey of Women Artists, North Carolina Museum of Art, 1972.

Three American Purists: Mason, Miles, von Wiegand, Museum of Fine Arts (Springfield, MA), 1975.

Dance Image: A Tribute to Sergé Diaghelev, Museum of Art (Jackson, MS), 1979.

Fidelia Bridges, American Pre-Raphaelite: Essay and Catalogue, Museum of American Art (New Britain, CT), 1981.

The Woman Sculptor: Malvina Hoffman and Her Contemporaries, Berry-Hill Galleries (New York, NY), 1984.

Grez Days: Robert Vonnoh in France (exhibition catalogue), Berry-Hill Galleries (New York, NY), 1987.

Joellyn Duesberry, Gerald Peters Gallery (Santa Fe, NM), 1988.

Edward Gobbi: Representative Works 1953–1993, Shea & Haaman, 1994.

Grandmother's Garden: The Old-Fashioned American Garden, 1865–1915, H.N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1995.

Furnishing the Old-Fashioned Garden: Three Centuries of American Summerhouses, Dovecotes, Pergolas, Privies, Fences, and Birdhouses, H.N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1998.

On Foreign Soil: American Gardeners Abroad, H.N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to journals.

SIDELIGHTS: As an art historian, May Brawley Hill has created a number of catalogues and tributes, and as a gardener, she writes about the pleasures of that activity. Hill lives in the oldest house in rural Warren, Connecticut, a home built in the early 1700s. She has traced the history of her farmhouse back to its builder and knows, for example, that typhoid fever killed many of those who lived there in 1810. According to Tovah Martin in an Early American Homes review of Hill's Grandmother's Garden: The Old-Fashioned American Garden, 1865–1915, "although May Hill can and will eagerly tell you long and fascinating stories about her house, its owners, and their occupations, she is not quite so forthcoming about the landscape. 'All I know for certain is where the privy stood and where the well was located,' she admits."

Hill began to raise sheep, which she kept out of her newly planted garden with a fence. She initially planted vegetables, then added flowers. Her garden grew to become a typical American cottage garden, different from the British gardens Hill's research uncovered in that American gardens were not neatly trimmed and often included flowers that are now considered weeds. Their primary purpose was in growing useful plants. Hill continued her research and visited garden restorations across the country. When she revealed her passion to her editor, Paul Gottlieb, at a dinner party, he convinced her to share her information with his readers. Hill's own garden actually predates the period covered in the book. She remembers the garden of her great-grandmother, whose property adjoined that of her parents' plot in North Carolina.

In Furnishing the Old-Fashioned Garden: Three Centuries of American Summerhouses, Dovecotes, Pergolas, Privies, Fences, and Birdhouses Hill writes of additions added to the garden, including bird houses and items that can be used for bird houses. Bonnets and other hats were sometimes tacked to fences to entice nesting birds, and May read in an eighteenth-century memoir that one home had skulls attached to nearly all the fence posts for this purpose. Shelves were also nailed in place under the eaves of homes to provide nesting support.

Hill studies the gardens of Americans living in England, France, and Italy in On Foreign Soil: American Gardeners Abroad. The gardens discussed in the book, including those of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin as well as those of contemporary gardeners, are shown in photographs and art and accompanied by quotes by Henry James and John Singer Sargent, among others. Booklist reviewer Alice Joyce wrote that On Foreign Soil is an "engaging chronicle."



Booklist, July, 2005, Alice Joyce, review of On Foreign Soil: American Gardeners Abroad, p. 1887.

Early American Homes, spring, 1998, Tovah Martin, review of Grandmother's Garden: The Old-Fashioned American Garden, 1865–1915, p. 32.

Horticulture, December, 1995, Thomas Fischer, review of Grandmother's Garden, p. 62.

Hortus, winter, 2005, Katie Campbell, review of On Foreign Soil, p. 123.

Library Journal, June 15, 2005, Daniel Starr, review of On Foreign Soil, p. 89.

Litchfield County Times, January, 2006, Tamara Tragakiss, review of On Foreign Soil, p. 40.

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Hill, May Brawley 1942–

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