Barbara Israel

Barbara Israel
Barbara Israel grew up in Far Hills, New Jersey, not far from the Blairsden, a splendid turn-of-the-century estate with cascading Italianate gardens. Her early interest in gardens, design and ornament was fostered not only by her childhood expeditions to Blairsden, but also by countless days spent playing in her grandmothers' welcoming gardens. It was clear from the start—Barbara's enthusiasm for gardens would be a defining aspect of life.

In the early 1980s, Barbara and her husband, Tom, purchased an 1860s farmhouse in Katonah, New York where she had the opportunity to cultivate a garden of her own. Her challenge was to restore, maintain and expand the planted areas of the property, including a formal garden that was reputedly designed by the Olmsted Brothers in the early 20th century. Barbara's penchant for hands-on gardening and her love of research spurred a quest to find historically appropriate ornament to complement her outdoor space. In 1985, while under the mentorship of William Doyle, founder of Doyle Galleries in New York City, she traveled to an estate where she purchased one statue that gave spirit and focus to her Katonah property and thirty-nine others that would launch her career.

As a dealer, Barbara collects the finest examples of garden ornament, guided by her appreciation for classical forms and her love of unusual, once-in-a-lifetime finds. Her collection pays homage both to historic European models and to American creativity and invention. Barbara Israel is the sole antique garden ornament dealer at the highly prestigious Winter Antiques Show. The company also exhibits at The New York Botanical Garden Antique Garden Furniture Show, the most selective and longest-running garden antiques show in the country. In 2006, Barbara started Garden Traditions, her line of high-end reproductions that is now sold at select retailers across the country.

Barbara's book, Antique Garden Ornament: Two Centuries of American Taste, was published by Harry N. Abrams in 1999 and is still considered the most complete reference of its kind. Illustrated with more than 100 color photographs of ornament in historic gardens and an exhaustive catalogue of patterns organized by type, it chronicles the history of American garden ornament from 1740 to 1940.

Barbara has served as a consultant to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on their collection of nineteenth-century cast iron, and has sold pieces to the Winterthur Museum, the Smithsonian Institution and the Baltimore Museum of Art, as well as to many important private clients. As an active board member of Historic Hudson Valley, Barbara is helping to preserve landmark properties and their antique garden ornaments. She has appeared on television programs and webcasts including Good Morning America, Sunday Morning Today, Antiques Roadshow FYI and, most recently, on MSN's Collect This!. Barbara has also been featured in The New York Times, Elle Décor, House & Garden, Garden Design and The Baltimore Sun. She continues to lecture extensively on all aspects of garden ornament.

"What would entice a person to pursue a career in garden ornament? In my case it was one magnificent estate: Blairsden, in Peapack, N.J. A few times as a child, I secretly circumnavigated the locked entrance gates and scaled the clifflike hills surrounding the house to peek through the trees at Blairsden's formal garden."
— Barbara Israel, Antique Garden Ornament: Two Centuries of American Taste

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