I promised in my April blog to tell you about one more treat I had, an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Painting the Modern Garden Monet to Matisse is the latest block buster exhibition and a feast to the eye, particularly for those of us who love gardens. It ended on 20th April and I am unsure if it will be shown elsewhere. I studied art history and achieved a Masters Degree in History of Art:Venice and Europe from Warwick University in 2000, when I was 52. A life changing event as my core term was 10 weeks in Venice studying Renaissance art, I left my husband and family to study for a year at university as a postgraduate student – took a lot of nerve and support! My plan was to start on a whole new career but health issues prevented me, despite the setback I am left with a love of art which will not leave me.
The delight of this exhibition was that works by many artists I’ve not heard of were displayed. The rooms featured paintings of Impressionist Gardens, International Gardens, Gardens of Silence, Avant-Gardens, Gardens of Reverie but the main focus was on Monet’s early years at Giverny and his later years at Giverny culminating in a room featuring his Waterlilies. As well as paintings one room had a scaled down model of Monet’s heated greenhouse with seedlings and plants ready to plant. Monet moved to Giverny in 1883 and lived there until his death in 1926. His work covers that period including the years when failing eyesight, a cataract, affected much of the colour palette of his work. I cannot describe much of the work as I am limited in space but suffice to say I was transported. I wish I had bought the catalogue but my house has hundreds of art books and catalogues and little space so I resisted!
The paintings included work by Scandinavian artists, French, American, German, Spanish – some personal others huge displays. Scattered through some of the rooms were notebooks detailing botanic sketches of various plants and huge photographs of some of the artists working in their gardens. Some with their team of gardeners!. The viewer has a glimpse of the world of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Architecture varies which reflects colours and textures of various countries. The warmth of Spain, the cool colours of Northern Countries, each work is a blend of colour and vibrancy. Camille Pissaro’s vegetable garden contrasts with Renoir’s wild gardens, others bring the outside inside through glass windows and reflections but everything stimulates the senses.
I hope I have given a flavour of my wonderful day, a difficult task for me to undertake as I cannot cover the long list of work. I have put a link to the website which has a little about the exhibition as it’s finished but lots of other interesting information so do check it out. The exhibition catalogue will be available on-line if anyone would like to buy it. I haven’t included any images myself as I’m uncertain of rules regarding copyright. The main thing is that gardens offer places for quite contemplation, sharing with other people, eating and drinking, playing – particularly with children – but plants in window boxes can offer a different perspective of gardening. In the UK many waste spaces are being reclaimed by local communities, orchards are being planted in the middle of built up spaces, roundabouts are cultivated and many of these initiatives offer free fruit and vegetables. The schemes don’t seem to get vandalised either, bring communities together and get neighbours talking. All show the power of the garden.