Monday, March 19, 2018

Public Parks, Private Gardens at the Met: Review By Polly Guerin

/Georges-Pierre Seurat, La Grande Jatte 1884
As we collectively pine for Spring's arrival the exhibit, Public Parks, Private Gardens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is timed perfectly to coincide with our yearnings for Plein Air experiences.
      In this breathtaking exhibition leisurely take the time to saturate yourself in these gorgeous gardens and follow in the footsteps of nineteenth-century artists who celebrated the outdoors 'en plein air' as a place of leisure, renewal and inspiration. This exhibition, which extends to July 29, 2018, explores the horticultural developments that reshaped the landscape of France in an era that gave rise to Naturalism, Impressionism, and Art Nouveau. (Image: Georges-Pierre Seurat, Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte, Paris, 1884 Metropolitan Museum of Art). 
Claude Monet, Garden at Sainte-Adresse, 1867
Contributing to the romance with gardens
was the arrival of shiploads of exotic botanical specimens from abroad and local nurserymen pursued hybridization. In this manner the availability and variety of plants and flowers grew as did the interest in them. Then, too, the opening of formerly royal properties and the elegant transformation of Paris during the Second Empire into a city of tree-lined boulevards and parks introduced the public green spaces to be enjoyed as Open-air Salons where people could engage in leisure activities. At the same time, suburbanites were prompted to cultivate their own flower gardens. Image: Claude Monet, Garden at Sainte-Adresse, 1867, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
     The exhibition is organized thematically in five galleries. REVOLUTION in the GARDEN, for example, traces the decisive shift that transpired in garden design in the years bracketing the French Revolution of 1789. a series of works illuminates the guiding influence of Empress Josephine Bonaparte, first wife of Napoleon 1, who ignited fashion for floriculture at the start of the 19th century. PARKS for the PUBLIC , the selection of works here focuses on parks in and around Paris that captivated artists' attention including the Bois de Boulogne, Versailles, The Luxembourg Gardens as seen through the eyes of Eugene Atget, Childe Hassam, Berthe Morisot, Auguste Renoir, Georges Seurat, and James McNeil Whistler. Image: Lydia Crocheting in the garden at Marly 1880 by Mary Cassatt. The second half of the exhibit is devoted to gardens and unfolds in two sections "Private Gardens" and Portrait in the Garden."  
Lydia Crocheting by Mary Cassatt 1880
Not to be missed is the central courtyard with the exhibition---a soaring space illuminated by an immense skylight---replanted to evoke a French conservatory garden of the period and furnished with green iron benches redolent of Parisian park setting.

     Check the Met's website for special events and programs In a Sunday at the Met program on April 29 from 2 to 3:30 p.m., scholars and designers will discuss the ongoing significance and evolution of public parks from 19th-century Paris to present-day New York.
      Ta Ta Darlings!!!  This is quite a gorgeous exhibit and in many ways will provide a pleasant way to spend time in the park, indoors, of course.  Fan mail welcome: Polly's Blogs can be accessed at, just click in the left-hand column on the column that resonates with your interest. 

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