= The Crawford Arts Review: Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy

Monday, 21 March 2016

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy

Until Wednesday 20 April

More than 120 works by Monet and Matisse as well as Renoir, Cezanne, Bonnard, Pissarro, Vuillard, Manet, Sargent, Van Gogh, Klimt, Kandinsky, Klee, Dufy and Nolde. You might call it, as the Royal Academy itself does, 'The role of gardens in the evolution of art'.

It's a large exhibition and you might find one of its thematic maps handy. You can download one from page 3 of the following guide. The final rooms present a coup de theatre in that real flowers in a partly constructed conservatory appear
and next door, in the 'Reading Room', you'll find copies of the exhibition guide to browse through and blown up and beautifully restored black and white contemporary photographs of many of the artist-gardeners at work.

However ravishing the results among the painted gardens
– the work of artists themselves ravished by the stream of gorgeous hybrid blooms produced by plantsmen and women (see the seed catalogues shown as part of this exhibition) almost by definition they show us nothing much new todayHere are the magnificent products of truly great garden painters such as Claude Monet. Yet why do so many people make the pilgrimage to Giverny and the rest fortunately still under the management of gardeners skilled in the ways of nature to view the gardens themselves?

Impressed as I was by all these many attempts to capture flora and her life-giving light in paint, it was not until I reached 'Avant Garden' near the end that I saw what the previous more or less faithful reproductions were leading up to. Here are the efforts of Kandinsky, Klee, Dufy and Nolde. They do, it seems to me, describe *more* and certainly more than the eye usually sees: the essence of 'flower'; the essence of 'leaf'.

You'll see this essence in the informed abstraction of the Kandinsky. You'll see the intrinsic geometry of nature in the Dufy, nature the unparalleled designer in Klee, In Nolde's tightly composed large canvas that drops before your eyes an array of French and English marigolds, violets (violas perhaps), and leads you through a planting of white flowers, you'll see the artist reproduce what walking through such a garden feels like. There on the far right you'll find a sturdy clump of marigolds, the rendering of the fleshy leaves and stems of which you can almost smell.

The galleries are open until 10pm over the following weekends: 26–27 March and 16–17 April.

Ticket availability
Ticket prices

Sponsored by BNY Mellon 

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House, Piccadilly
London W1

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