|Auguste Renoir, Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil, 1873|
Painting the Modern Garden explores the interstices between nature and ourselves as revealed in the cultivation of gardens, that most delightful and frustrating of occupations, and an almost obsessive subject for many artists. About 150 paintings from the 1860s to the 1920s, gathered together from private and public collections in North America and Europe are on view, amplified by letters, plans, documents, photographs and illustrated books on horticulture.
The exhibition embraces not only artists’ responses to gardens from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, but obliquely the new culture of the cultivated domestic garden that was becoming ever more significant. The show is uneven, and several of the less familiar names are probably deservedly so, but that is because the purpose is twofold: to explore a new interest and preoccupation of both the middle classes and the artists whom they patronised, and the art itself.
What happens to the garden?
As we change the way we live, and as we deal with climate change, sprawl, and poorly planned public areas, how do we maintain a connection to the purpose of surrounding ourselves with green spaces and parks and gardens?
We have already seen a transformation of public and private spaces because of the collapse of golf as a recreational activity. What if gardening is on the way out as well? How will our modern art reflect this change?