Impressionist Gardens (4 stars)

A remarkable exhibition of iconic, influential works at The National Galleries


This article is from 2010.

Impressionist Gardens

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).

Impressionist Gardens

  • 4 stars

This major international exhibition of around 90 works incorporates paintings by Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Manet and Sisley. In addition, the exhibition examines the continued significance of the Impressionist garden to the generation of artists working immediately after the period, such as Cézanne and Pierre Bonnard. A…

Impressionist Gardens: Opening Lecture

  • 4 stars

Anna Pavord chooses some of her favourite items from the upcoming 'Impressionist Gardens' exhibition, which features around 90 works and is the first exhibition devoted to the subject.

Sun and Shade: The Impressionist Garden

  • 4 stars

Dr Clare Willson, co-curator of the 'Impressionist Garden' exhibition, delves into the idyllic gardens of Monet, Manet, Sargent and others to explore the motivation for, and the meaning of, the picturesque imagery.

Impressionist Garden Tours at RBGE

  • 4 stars

An art historian from the National Galleries leads a tour around the Royal Botanic Garden, exploring the flowers, plants and gardens that inspired Impressionist artists. Booking essential.

Impressionist Gardens

  • 4 stars

Impressionist Gardens is a major international exhibition of around 90 works including loans from collections around the world, and the first ever to be devoted to this subject. The famous names of Impressionism will be well represented, with fine examples by Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Manet and Sisley. The exhibition will…


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