The Historical Garden

Built on the hill of Taormina, the Historic Garden of Casa Cuseni was created by Robert Hawthorn Kitson (1873-1947) at the beginning of the 20th century. Sir Frank Brangwyn, Sir Alfred East, Cecil Arthur Hunt, the Futurists Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Depero, each played a part in designing this garden using the landscape as the protagonist of the scene, making the mighty volcano Etna and the Gulf of Naxos a harmonious whole with nature. This monument should viewed by acknowledging the influence of William Blake’s romanticism, John Ruskin’s utopian socialism and the mysticism and transcendentalism of the early 20th century, which also brought about a change in art; spiritualism contributed to the birth of abstractionism and the abandonment of conventional art forms. The creators of the garden at Casa Cuseni concentrated on representing the spiritual rather than the physical world; symbols and geometry – languages of esotericism – and the symbolic use of colours as presented in theosophy became the distinctive signature, shifting traditional artistic representation in the direction of spirituality, where there was still hope of giving meaning to life. For them, the artist has the task of awakening in humanity the memory of its own ‘divine’ condition, lost after the expulsion from Eden. The aim of art is the reconquest of Paradise, understood not as a ‘physical’ otherworld but as an interior space that man can regain through imagination. The construction, in this garden, of a great Menorah, three Mikvehs and a Temple for purification confirms the existence, in Taormina, of a major international theosophical project, where art, with its colours, shapes and lines, represents a way of making visible events that belong to the astral world.