Exhibition | Painting the Modern Garden

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Painting the Modern Garden at the Royal Academy of Arts is a fantastic example of the importance of a good curator when organising an exhibition on this scale.

With art collected from all over the world, including Madrid, Paris and Düren, a large number of Monet’s paintings are available to view.

The first room of the exhibit consists of only the work of the impressionists, focusing on Monet but not forgetting several of the other prominent figures such as Pissarro, Renoir and the often side-lined Berthe Morisot.

Instead of continuing in a chronological, but rather mundane, fashion as is often the case, the exhibition continued to jump back and forth between Monet himself and his influence.

Paintings from the likes of Emil Nolde, Joaquin Sorolla, and others showed the prominence of the garden scene in painting following the Impressionist movement.

Moving away from simply showing paintings, the exhibition also provided space for a more holistic view of Monet’s obsession with his gardens, highlighting not only books on horticulture, notes, and instructions given to Monet’s gardener to show the extent to which the garden scene influenced Monet, but also showing pictures or several artists and a video of the artists painting during the time.

There was even a small garden in the middle of one room – plastic, mind you – to give the viewer an idea as to how Monet constructed his own garden.

Unfortunately, though this exhibition provided an excellent number of paintings by Monet, it felt like there was a lack of paintings by the other man in the title: Matisse.

Though there were several fantastic paintings by Matisse on display and a number of paintings, including several sizable paintings, by other artists, it seemed that there was an unfair focus of Monet and if you find the impressionists not too much to your liking then perhaps this exhibition falls slightly short.

Given that the complete title to this exhibition is Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse the exhibition visitor could be forgiven for assuming a wider variety of artists with a stronger focus on the garden than on Monet.

Having said that, the overall exhibition was incredibly well constructed and the focus on Monet is understandable given his incredible influence in the painting of the modern garden.

The exhibition starts off with a look at the world-famous Impressionist garden, looks more closely at Monet’s work, follows through to many other artists painting gardens in numerous different styles, gives the viewer a behind-the-scenes look at the painting and gardening process, and ends, rather triumphantly, with Grandes Decorations, a set three six-foot high paintings being connected together and spanning, if my maths is correct, about forty feet.





If you’re a fan of Monet, garden paintings, or just art in general, it is definitely worth the trip. Adults get in for £17.50 and students get in for £10. The exhibition is open until April 20th. 

Featured image by Joshua Potter.

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