Painting the Modern Garden

Monet chrysanthemums-1897I am firmly in the research phase for the French garden, gathering inspiration, and recording ideas.

Inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources, and yesterday we went to the Royal Academy in London to the exhibition Painting the Modern Garden Monet to Matisse. It was crowded, too hot in places, but very inspiring.


Monet cultivated gardens throughout his life, from his early days at Argenteuil in the 1870s until his death at Giverny in 1926. That much we already knew. We also learnt from the exhibition how many of Monet’s contemporaries shared his fascination with gardening as the modern pursuit that we enjoy today. Greater affluence and leisure time, and the growth of the middle classes during the 19th century, were creating new opportunities to garden purely for pleasure, and these artists took full advantage.

Ideas for the French garden abound, and one area may include blocks of herbaceous planting, including irises, chrysanthemums and paeonies (all with limited periods of peak perfection) interspersed with blocks of yew and hornbeam. I realised yesterday that this idea had quite likely developed from sub-conscious influences from Monet’s paintings. The designated area has a number of mature trees (poplars, planes and willow), so somehow it will be combined with a sense of parkland, as in this painting by Liebermann.

Liebermann Park Landscape


I am also planning a hydrangea walk (perhaps like this painting by Santiago Rusinol, Hydrangeas on a Garden Path)


And somewhere there will definitely be nasturtiums, even if only in the first year or two, perhaps slightly randomly to give quick colour, perhaps more controlled (as in Guillaumin’s painting, The Nasturtium Path)

The Nasturtium Path


So, just a few of the paintings from the exhibition for this blog, but many more in the memory for inspiration for this gardener.

You don’t need to be an art aficionado to be inspired by this exhibition; there is every reason for gardeners of all kinds to visit. Do go if you can, and do also treat yourself to the catalogue when you leave. Not only does it include the expected illustrations of the paintings in the exhibition together with extensive background and explanation from art world scholars, but it also includes a charming dialogue between Monty Don and James Priest, Head Gardener at Giverny.

The exhibition is on until the 20th April 2016 at the Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD and you can find more information here. 


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