Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review – Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy from 30th January to 20th April 2016

Exhibition Review – Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy from 30th January to 20th April 2016



Centred around the work of Claude Monet , this exhibition examines the relationship between gardens and art from the early 1860s through to the 1920s. Monet is considered one of the most important painters of gardens in the history of art, however other artists fascinated with the horticultural world are featured in the exhibition including Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Manet, Sargent, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Matisse, Klimt and Klee.


Gardens in art before this period were generally used as a backdrop to figures or related to the huge gardens developed for royalty and the wealthy. The exhibition explores the emergence of the modern garden which begins to become a subject matter for artists during a period of great social change and new movements in the arts.

The first gallery entitled Impressionist Gardens illustrates that in a period of rapid industrialisation, the garden represented a way of connecting with nature even within the largest city. Monet , Pissarro and Renoir all had a different taste in gardens and that transmitted into their work with the gardens becoming outdoor studios.


This interest was not just confined to France, in the International Gardens gallery, other artists in Europe and the United States were making the connection between art and gardens. Works by John Singer Sargent are shown with a number of Scandinavian artists including Laurits Tuxen. German Impressionist Max Liebermann, Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla and American painter Childe Hassam all illustrate that the ‘garden movement’ was widespread.


For all the international interest in the ‘garden movement’, it was Monet who was to develop his own particular style especially when he moved to Giverny. In 1890, Monet developed the gardens at Giverny and inspired by a water-lily garden he had seen at the Paris Universal Exhibition and Japanese Woodcuts began to produce a series of paintings of water lilies and a Japanese Bridge.


Whist Monet was occupied by his gardens, other artists began to explore other aspects of gardens including when they are places of silence or reverie. Works by Santiago Rusinol and Joaquin Trinxet suggest gardens as otherworldly, places full of mystery.


The tragedy of the First World War affected Monet deeply and in the exhibition is a group of paintings of the weeping willow (Water Lilies with Weeping Willows, 1916–19) which was his response to the carnage. At the end of the First World War, Monet wrote to the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, proposing to give some of his works to the nation “to honour the victory and peace”. Many of the works were given to the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, Three of the panels from the original scheme, the so-called Agapanthus triptych, including Water Lilies (1916-26), did not, however, appear in the Orangerie display and were eventually sold separately to three American museums – the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. These institutions have allowed these great works to be reunited at the Academy as the grand finale of Painting the Modern Garden.


This intriguing and comprehensive exhibition offers an opportunity to explore how art and gardens became intertwined at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. The remarkable work of Claude Monet is put into its historical and geographical context with many other contributions by other well-known and some less known artists.

This is likely to be one of the most popular exhibitions of the year and it may be well worth booking in advance to avoid disappointment.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information, visit the Royal Academy website here

Exhibition runs 30th January to 20th April 2016

Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm

Friday 10am – 10pm

Main Galleries, Burlington House

£17.60 (without donation £16). Concessions available.

Friends of the RA, and under 16s when with a fee-paying adult, go free

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