Painting The Modern Garden opens to visitors in London at the Royal Academy on January 30th and boasts a treasure-trove of water lilies and roses from the likes of Monet to Matisse.
The exhibition aims to walk visitors through the gardens of some of our most famous painters from the 1860’s through to the 1920s, “examining the role gardens played in the evolution of art” during that period.
The show’s showpiece is Monet’s hypnotic, and enormous, Agapanthus Triptych (1916–1919) which is owned by three different American museums, and this will be the first time all three pieces are reunited in the UK.
These days, 8 out of 10 houses in England have a garden of sorts, back in the 1880’s, this was the first thing Monet did when he earned some success, made himself a garden. It became a lush, colourful refuge from the War going on around him.
He was not alone in being influenced by the idea of the modern garden, the exhibition includes works from Matisse, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Manet, Klimt and Sorolla among many others in love with the colours all around them. Anne Dumas, curator at the Royal Academy said to the Telegraph “It’s really that time when you see the rise of modern bourgeois, middle class society as we still know it today more or less. So whereas before, gardening had been more of an aristocratic pursuit, or else just kind of functional gardens where people grew food, this kind of modern, modest scale, urban garden is suddenly becoming popular. And with it we see this enthusiasm for plants and catalogues and nurseries, which really started in the period covered by this exhibition.”
Monet is the focal point of this exhibition, with a quarter of the works on show by him; and by using Monet as a chronological boundary, the exhibition encompasses a fascinating time in modern art with the advent of Impressionism and other art movements to the early Avente-Garde. So, the visitor sees flowers interpreted through the ages, with special little insights into the artists immersion in their gardens: letters by Kandinsky are featured, showing his preoccupation with lettuce and sweet peas, while others such as Lieberman, we find, designed their own gardens especially to paint; the exhibition also demonstrates how greenhouses becoming available to the middle classes to grow plants in gave no end to the colours available to them.
As Monet said “I perhaps owe it to flowers that I became a painter.”