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The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920

January 23 - May 9, 2016

"The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920" is on exhibit at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens from January 23, 2016 through May 9, 2016, the only West Coast stop on a five-venue tour. The Huntington will be showcasing a hand-picked selection of 17 paintings from the exhibition that originated at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It will be presented in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery. 

Focusing on paintings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, "The Artist's Garden" explores the connections between the American Impressionist movement and the emergence of gardening as a middle-class leisure pursuit. 

"The Artist's Garden" is an opportunity for visitors -- and scholars -- to explore the relationship between the art of painting and garden design. "This exhibition gets behind the undeniable beauty of impressionistic pictures of gardens and asks questions about the social activity of gardening, the scientific hybridization of plants, and even early environmental conservation," said James Glisson, Bradford and Christine Mishler Assistant Curator of American Art at The Huntington, who is organizing the exhibition's presentation at The Huntington and who contributed an essay to the catalog.

"Painters at the time depicted what was near and familiar to them, which also happened to be really modern at the time," said Glisson. For example, Snow, by John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902), shows the artist's backyard covered in snow. Twachtman, a member of the new suburban class, lived in southern Connecticut close to the railroad so he could commute into New York City whenever he needed. Though not a farmer, he lavished care on his suburban yard. (left: John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902), Snow, ca. 1895-96, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, The Vivian O. and Meyer P. Potamkin Collection, bequest of Vivian O. Potamkin.)

"The Huntington is an ideal venue for this exhibition," said Kevin Salatino, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Collections. "After all, where else can you so deeply explore the connection between landscape design and painting during the American Impressionist period than here, where renowned botanical gardens -- many first planted at the turn of the 20th century-surround the art galleries? We're delighted to be able to present 'The Artist's Garden' to our audiences." 

The historic gardens at The Huntington, originally the estate of collector and philanthropist Henry E. Huntington (1850-1927), include what's known as the North Vista, a grand formal garden lined with 18th century Italian limestone sculptures; a 1,400-variety Rose Garden framed by picturesque arbors and trellises; and an elaborate Japanese Garden-all planted during the timeframe covered by the exhibition. 

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Impressionist artists who had studied en plein air (outdoors, often in the countryside) in France were bringing home lessons to apply in an American context. Paintings in "The Artist's Garden" show domesticated landscapes set in the suburbs, or even in the middle of the city, such as The Hovel and the Skyscraper by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), which shows New York's Central Park. Unlike the notion of Manifest Destiny that pervaded the paintings of American landscape artists such as Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), these are domestic pictures about yards, parks, and gardens, often with urban backdrops-not imposing mountains. 

At this time, industrialization had made its mark on the landscape; it also had made its mark on the garden movement. People had more free time for gardening in new suburban backyards, and railroads allowed for daytrips to the countryside -- giving city dwellers a taste of nature. Scientific innovation was being applied to plants, creating hybrid varieties optimized for color or hardiness. While humans had long grown plants for reasons other than bare sustenance, the late 19th century saw an explosion of garden hobbyists. They in turn were provided with seeds, tools, and fertilizer by horticultural suppliers. These suppliers used new hybridizing techniques to create ever larger and brighter flowers and bigger and more colorful fruits and vegetables. 

The Crimson Rambler by Philip Leslie Hale (1865-1931), shows a simple summer scene with a woman next to a cascade of roses. While completely bucolic and unthreatening, the painting is informed by modern life. It features a recently hybridized rose variety that had been developed using scientific techniques. Wildly popular, the Crimson Rambler was widely advertised in garden supply catalogs. Much like the fashionable dress and hat worn by the woman in the painting, this was an absolutely contemporary and sophisticated rose. (right: Philip Leslie Hale (1865-1931), The Crimson Rambler, ca. 1908, oil on canvas, 25 1/4 x 30 3/16 inches. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Joseph E. Temple Fund.)

The exhibition is organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, with leading support from the Mr. & Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Inc. and the Richard C. von Hess Foundation. The major exhibition sponsors are Bill and Laura Buck, and Christie's. Additional support is provided by Bowman Properties, Ltd.; the Burpee Foundation; Edward and Wendy Harvey; Mr. and Mrs. Washburn S. Oberwager; Pennsylvania Trust; Alan P. Slack; Martin Stogniew, in memory of Judy Stogniew, a lover of art and gardening; the Victory Foundation; Ken Woodcock; and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. 

This exhibition is made possible at The Huntington by the George and Marcia Good Family Foundation in memory of art collector and patron of the arts George C. Good. Additional support was provided by the Hon. and Mrs. R. Carlton Seaver, the Ahmanson Foundation Exhibition and Education Endowment, and the Susan and Stephen Chandler Exhibition Endowment.



Exhibition Catalog

Accompanying the exhibition is a 248-page illustrated catalog with seven essays on topics ranging from environmentalism to the distinctions between private and public spaces, as well as full-color images. The catalog is tiled The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement and is edited by Anna O. Marley. The catalog was published December12, 2014 by University of Pennsylvania Press, in association with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It is available through The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. (right: Charles Courtney Curran (1861-1942), A Breezy Day, 1887, oil on canvas, 11 15/16 x 20 inches. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Henry D. Gilpin Fund.)



Exhibition Tour

"The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920" is touring to five venues: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, February 12 - May 24, 2015; Chrysler Museum of Art, Virginia, June 16 - September 6, 2015; Reynolda House Museum of American Art, North Carolina, October1, 2015 - Jan. 3, 2016; The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, January 23 - May 9, 2016; Florence Griswold Museum, Conn., June 3 - September 18, 2016'



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