It is the time of year when we find great joy and inspiration in our gardens. We love to watch our flower gardens slowly unfold through the spring and seemingly explode with the summer sun into a riot of colors, shapes and textures all demanding our attention. However, there is a unique challenge in painting the garden en plein air. The chaos of blooms and foliage can be daunting to compose and resolve into a painting. The camera is not a very helpful tool here, because photographs capture too much detail to be very useful as a painting reference. If we become too conscious of rendering each flower we can easily lose sight of the greater impression. We must paint the way we see. Painting from life can help us to retain that gestural style that gardens seem to demand and provide a perfect excuse to spend more hours outdoors in the garden. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?
|Monet Painting in his Garden at Argenteuil by Renoir, oil painting.|
|Iris Bed in Monet’s Garden by Monet, oil painting.|
|Garden with Path by Vincent van Gogh, oil painting.|
As a result of our combined interests in gardens, flowers and painting, we have amassed a library of wonderful books about painting, about gardens, about paintings of gardens, and about the gardens of well-known artists. A few of them are listed here. The History of Gardens in Painting by Nils Büttner is an interesting compilation of paintings and murals created of gardens from as early as 20 B.C. to 2000 A.D. Büttner writes “As works of art, gardens were both fragile and evanescent, thanks to the eternal natural cycle of growth and decay. Painted representations of ancient gardens provide a better idea of their one-time splendor than the various descriptions by classical writers. Pictures of gardens also document developments in art history, both in garden design and in painting.”
Perhaps more than any other group of painters did before, the Impressionists explored, developed and popularized the garden as a subject for art. Many of them had gardens of their own which they painted repeatedly. We are the beneficiaries of their interest in the subject. But it was Monet who understood that he could design and build a garden for the express purpose of painting. As a result, he created the ne plus ultra example of an artist’s garden at his home in Giverny, a project that occupied him for the last 40 years of his life and gave birth to his greatest works. What a perfect feedback loop of intention, action, inspiration and ultimately financial support he created. It is a model many contemporary artists are working to emulate today.
–John & Ann