A remarkable exhibition of iconic, influential works at The National Galleries
This article is from 2010.
The National Galleries of Scotland’s ambitious exhibition brings together around 100 paintings focusing on the garden as subject for impressionist painters: remarkably the first show of its kind to have been held anywhere in the world.
It’s hard to imagine a more fitting line-up for a summer exhibition, with a dizzying collection of works by painters such as Monet, Manet and Pissarro that demonstrate not only these artists’ passion for the subject matter but also the dialogue they opened up between artist and nature by taking their practice out of the studio and working directly outside.
But the exhibition covers ground that goes far beyond what might be expected in a show about the movement. Instead, starting with the origins of impressionism, it provides a social, as well as artistic, narrative, exploring the garden not only as subject matter but also as a social and historical phenomenon. Supported by botanical illustrations and other book extracts, the show conveys the cultural significance of the garden at the time, as well as the growing enthusiasm for horticulture and how this was influencing the way people lived and interacted with one another.
There is plenty to please the crowds that this show will inevitably attract, but the real pleasure here is in finding and exploring the unexpected. The change of pace in the final two of the six rooms reveals developments that followed impressionism in Europe and the US as well as a nod towards abstraction, while a work by Klimt hanging alongside two van Goghs and four of Monet’s ‘Water Lily’ paintings demonstrates just how influential these painters of gardens really were.
National Galleries Complex, 624 6200, until 17 Oct, £10 (£7).