Real Gardens that Inspired Art
The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme. This month we are discussing Spring! Take a look at all the great stories at the bottom of the page.
While Washington D.C. has been stubbornly cold this March, I’m just starting to see the first bulbs pop up. And nothing announces Spring like flowers! Gardens and their exquisite flora have always been a popular subject in Art, but not all of the places in these paintings are made up locations. Let’s take a look at a few of the “real” gardens behind some famous paintings.
The Muse of Impressionism
Mid-career Monet and his young family moved from Paris to the countryside of Normandy and the small town of Giverny. Here he constructed a large garden that would become the inspiration for much of his later works. Here Monet continued to abstract his surroundings focusing on the fleeting shimmers of color and light across the flowering hedges, trees, and pond. You can almost see the breezes subtly sway the drooping willows in the paintings.
To study the paintings beside their actual subjects, you have to visit Claude Monet’s Garden at Giverny. Maintained by a non-profit museum, you can see the artist’s studio, the flower gardens, the Japanese Bridge, and most importantly, the water lilies.
The Aristocratic Playground
Time in a garden is for relaxing, quiet and idleness. But no one can turn a frivolous day among flowers and fountains into a naughty tryst like Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Perhaps the most famous painter of the Rococo Period, known for its over the top ornamental decorations and superficialism, Fragonard was the go to painter for portraits of mistresses and subtly erotic images. Some of his most popular scenes include the secret meeting of lovers, coy games, and flirtatious interactions all set in fertile gardens.
To ponder the garden affairs of 18th century aristocrats, you have to visit the Gardens of Versailles, just outside Paris. At over 800 hectares, that makes for a lot of hidden benches and well isolated groves. This elegant and well maintained green space is an exemplary example of the period and to a lesser extent was repeated in all the luxurious châteaux of the time. These green spaces provided the perfect playground for the wealthy and indiscreet.
The Indoor Country Estate
The villas of wealthy ancient Romans were typically arranged around an interior garden, but the residents weren’t always trying to tame nature with this domestic green space. Inside the House of the Golden Bracelet (Casa del Bracciale d’oro) in Pompeii we find a massive fresco of a wild, bird-filled garden. The “Garden Room” is painted along three walls that opened into the actual garden. It must have acted like a visual extension of the existing courtyard garden.
This must have been one of the most luxurious and relaxing rooms in the villa. Wildflowers seem to grow haphazardly beneath an awning of lush ferns and shrubs. Several species of birds are perched in the greenery or fly above. You can almost hear their songs, or at least the buzz of bees hopping from one flower to the next.
It’s not hard to find the inspiration for this organic garden today in Italy. Wander into the countryside of Tuscany, Campania, or Emilia-Romagna and you’ll find an assortment of wildflowers mixed in with the grasses and shrubs. Here you can enjoy the domestic aspiration of the urban ancient Roman – a quiet, rural estate away from it all!
What other inspirational gardens have you discovered?
- Lizzie of WanderArti – Spring Art Fairs in Europe
- Alexandra of ArtTrav – Art Parks in Tuscany
- Pal & Lydian of Art Weekenders – The World’s Best Open Air Museums
- Jenna of This is My Happiness – Primavera…And so what?