If you ask someone which artist they think of in connection with gardens, the chances are that the name they'd give would be that of Impressionist master, Claude Monet. And, indeed, many of Monet's works do feature gardens. Whatever the artist himself thought of those paintings, though, he is reported as saying that the best work of art created by his hands was not made of paint and canvas, but was his garden at Giverny, in Normandy, the setting for his famous Water lilies.
But Monet wasn't the only Impressionist who found gardens inspirational, a fact reflected in the works of many of his contemporaries, including Manet, Pissarro, Sisley and Renoir. This year, the National Galleries of Scotland, in collaboration with Madrid's Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, have gathered together a range of these works which are now on display in the Royal Scottish Academy Building in Edinburgh until mid October. Not only are the most famous Impressionists represented in the exhibition, but there are also paintings by artists such as Cezanne and Bonnard from the generation who followed them. The huge influence the Impressionist garden had on later artists is apparent, too, from the works by late nineteenth century and twentieth century artists such as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Klimt and Singer Sargent.
In all, around 90 paintings have been brought together from museums and private collections across the world, and the result is a stunning explosion of colour that gives an intoxicating vision of public and private gardens of all sizes with their wide variety of plants, as well as of the people who created and enjoyed them through the changing seasons.
Experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh have also been involved in the arrangement of Impressionist Gardens, and, concurrently with the exhibition, there is a self-guided Impressionist Gardens trail available at the Botanic Gardens. Visitors can follow the trail map to six locations where giant plant labels have been set, each featuring a work from the exhibition.
National Galleries of Scotland
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