“The richness I achieve comes from nature, the source of my inspiration” – Claude Monet
Nature has long been the inspiration of artists. It’s vibrant colours, varied textures and exuberant characteristics speak a special language to anyone who wishes to listen. The garden is people’s attempt to bring nature closer, our own interpretation of nature’s glory. Artists throughout the ages have been fascinated by gardens and it is no real surprise that the Impressionist’s passion for the garden landscape accompanied the gardening fever that swept through society in the 19th century. It was during this period that there was a great horticultural revolution in which plants shook off the restrictive bonds that had previously bound them to the scientific community. Information about plants and gardens became more easily accessible and the middle class began to take a real interest in plants and soon gardening as a hobby was born.
The current exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London celebrates the painting of the modern garden and illustrates how gardens have ignited the imagination of artists over the years. Central to the exhibition are Monet’s works and his gardens, from his early days at Argenteuil in the 1870 until his death at Giverny in 1926. However the exhibition is not restricted to Monet’s paintings, it explores a wide range of works from many other artists from the late 19th Century and early 20th Century including John Singer Sargent, Karl Nordström, Max Liebermann, Paul Klee, Gustav Klint, Raoul Dufy, Emil Noble and Matisse to name just a few.
The exhibition is quite simply glorious. It is immersive and inspiring, transporting us to a place of great beauty and peace. The big coup of the exhibition is to be found right at the end and oddly enough by the time one reaches the final room most of the crowds have dispersed, leaving the room perfect for reflection and the pure enjoyment of Monet’s enormous Water Lilies panels.
Monet made many paintings of his water lilies and their pond over the years, he donated 12 magnificent canvasses to France after the war, which are still on display at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. However, three of the most beautiful panels from the original scheme, the Agapanthus triptych (1916-1926) were sold off by Monet’s estate around 1950. They were purchased separately by 3 American Museums, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Saint Louise Art Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, who have generously lent these great works to the Royal Academy’s exhibition. It is the first time that these canvasses have been reunited and they make for exceptional viewing. In the same room, on the opposite wall is the Tate’s own Water-Lilies, Nymphéas. To see these panels here, together is nothing less than a chance of a lifetime.
As Claude Monet once said: “I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers”
Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse is on until 20th April 2016 at the Royal Academy of Art in London Click here for more information: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk