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The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920
June 3 - September 18, 2016
The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920, culminates its national tour at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut, the only New England venue for the exhibition. The Artist's Garden was previously displayed at four other 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. The exhibition is on view June 3 through September 18, 2016. The Artist's Garden was organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. (right: Philip Leslie Hale (1865-1931), The Crimson Rambler, c. 1908. Oil on canvas, 25 1/4 x 30 3/16 inches. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Joseph E. Temple Fund, 1909.12)
The Artist's Garden tells the story of American Impressionists and the growing popularity of gardening as a leisure pursuit at the turn of the 20th century. Paintings and stained glass from the Pennsylvania Academy are blended with paintings, sculpture, prints, books, and photographs from the Florence Griswold Museum's permanent collection, as well as selected private loans. Drawing on new scholarship, The Artist's Garden considers the role of artists and designers in defining a cultivated landscape in an era of new attitudes toward leisure, labor, and a burgeoning environmentalism.
The Artist's Garden is the first exhibition to situate discussions of the growth of the Garden Movement within the politics of the Progressive era, with which it overlapped at the turn of the twentieth century. The Progressive era was marked by intense political and social change. Along with the surge of nationalism and patriotic optimism came growing concerns over mass immigration, women's suffrage, and urbanization. The Garden Movement proposed that the creation of public parks and the hobby of gardening could provide beauty and balance within this fast-changing world. The American Impressionist works in this exhibition demonstrate the profound impact of the Garden Movement on the American culture.
"Not only is the Florence Griswold Museum an ideal venue for this exhibition because of its history as a boardinghouse for artists and its restored gardens, but also because Connecticut women like Old Lyme's Katharine Ludington played an important part in Progressive-era causes such as women's suffrage while also tending a much loved garden," said Curator Amy Kurtz Lansing.
Many American artists developed their interest in gardens from their travels overseas. The outdoors became a major subject for Impressionists as they embraced painting outside, or en plein air. Not only does Daniel Garber's Saint James's Park, London, 1905 (on loan from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts - PAFA) demonstrate the Impressionists' careful study of light and quick, loose brushwork, but an attempt to capture the tension within urban life between the realities of development and the desire for pastoral tranquility. Public parks like St. James's were praised by critics as peaceful oases amid the hectic frenzy of city life.
The Progressive era was a time of important change for women. They became leaders of the Garden Movement who combined their creative interests in art and gardening with a passion for Progressive causes, such as women's suffrage. By blending art, writing, and gardening in their careers, women like Anna Lea Merritt were at the vanguard of professionalizing women's work. They used their public platform to engage social issues like environmental conservation and immigration through the metaphor and example of the garden. Professional artists such as Cecilia Beaux, Violet Oakley, and Jane Peterson participated in these changes by coupling their interest in modern art with a love of the garden. Peterson wrote that she loved painting flowers for their "prismatic hues of the rainbow." In Spring Bouquet, ca. 1912 (on loan from PAFA) the steeply tilted perspective and sense of patterning in the composition are variations on the stylistic principles of Post-Impressionism. Locally, practitioners like artist, gardener, and suffragist Katherine Ludington exemplified this trend. The exhibition will include selections from Florence Griswold Museum's Ludington Family Collection that acknowledge the expression of the Garden Movement in Connecticut, as well as around the family's other home base in Philadelphia, the epicenter of the Garden Movement. (left: Jane Peterson (1876-1965), Spring Bouquet, c. 1912. Oil on canvas, 40 1/16 x 30 inches. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Gift of Martin Horwitz, 1976.22)
Even as women were making inroads towards more equal status and finding personal and professional expression through the venue of the garden, images that presented a sentimental and idealized vision of women posed decoratively in nature were still very popular. Philip Leslie Hale's The Crimson Rambler, ca. 1908 (on loan from PAFA) embodies this simultaneous tendency to equate women with the beauty of flowers. He pairs a flowering vine with a women by adding touches of rose red to the lady's hat and sash, and by draping each across the porch or trellis. Hale's blooms are considerably larger than the flowers actually grow, suggesting that he idealized the fashionable plant as much as the woman beside it.
Hale's painting also demonstrates his knowledge of gardening. Many artists combined their devotion to painting flowers with the practice of planting and tending gardens. "An artist's interest in gardening is to produce pictures without brushes," Anna Lea Merritt observed in her 1908 book An Artist's Garden Tended, Painted, Described. Artists' gardens were personal laboratories for Impressionist studies of light and color. They were outdoor classrooms where painters could teach their students about form and composition. Special emphasis will be given in the exhibition to the many ways Miss Florence's garden served as a space for creative expression, both for her as a gardener and for the artists who painted and taught there. Paint was not the only medium used to translate nature's vibrancy. Peony Window Panel, 1908-1912 (on loan from a private collection) by Louis Comfort Tiffany shows his appreciation for color and pattern. As a glass designer, his distinctive floral aesthetic defined the era and was perhaps cultivated in his own Long Island garden where he enjoyed painting.
The grounds of the Florence Griswold Museum provide the perfect accompaniment to The Artist's Garden. After walking through the restored 1910 garden on the Museum's campus, visitors will see first-hand in the galleries how artists captured nature's fleeting beauty on canvas. "Miss Florence's" lovingly tended garden was a favorite subject for many of the artists of the Lyme Art Colony who stayed at her boardinghouse. One of the paintings on view in the exhibition, William Chadwick's On the Piazza, ca. 1908 (collection of the Florence Griswold Museum) shows a female model posing on the side porch of the boardinghouse. Chadwick first visited Old Lyme in 1902 and soon became a central figure in this artist colony, along with Childe Hassam, Robert Vonnoh, and other painters who sought the colonial-era architecture and gardens of Old Lyme and their nostalgic suggestions of a simpler, earlier time, far removed from hectic, modern city life. A walk to the Lieutenant River, on the grounds of the Museum, provides further examples of vistas painted by the nature-loving artists.
Visitors can tour the historic boardinghouse -- the 1817 Florence Griswold House -- where the artists of the Lyme Art Colony lived, played, and worked. Paintings in the home continue the story of the artists' love of the landscape. A new Guide to the Historic Landscape encourages visitors to walk where the artists created some of their most enduring paintings.The Artist's Garden's presentation at the Florence Griswold Museum is supported by a grant from Connecticut Humanities.
The Museum's Annual GardenFest takes place the first ten days of the exhibition, June 3 through June 12, and kicks off the garden season with a series of programs that take place in and around the Museum's historic gardens. This annual event features special events, lectures, and family activities for all ages and interest levels. Most events are free with Museum admission. A highlight of the festival is Blooms with a View, June 10 through June 12. Visitors enjoy stunning flower arrangements interpreting works of art in the exhibition, The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement. Playing off colors, lines, shapes, and subject matter, each display reflects its inspiration in masterful ways. Visit FlorenceGriswoldMuseum.org for a complete list of events.
Wall text panels and extended object labels for the exhibition
Please click on each section panel title to read its text and the extended labels for artworks associated with the section:
For definitions of extended object labels and wall text panels, please see Definitions in Museums Explained.
(above: 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, 1899.1)
(above: Childe Hassam (1859-1935), The Hovel and the
Skyscraper, 1904. Oil on canvas, 34 3/4 x 31 inches. Pennsylvania Academy
of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, The Vivian O. and Meyer P. Potamkin Collection,
Bequest of Vivian O. Potamkin, 2003.1.5 )
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