What a wonderful way to celebrate Spring and Summer in New York, telling the story about the important role parks and gardens have played in the evolution of modern life. A new exhibition Public Parks: Private Gardens: Paris to Provence at The Met Fifth Avenue, starting on March 12 – July 29, 2018 will be sure to dazzle with the diversity of works drawn from seven curatorial departments.
The show will celebrate those artists inspired to record how parks and gardens reshaped the landscape of France. 150 works from The Met collection will help viewers gain a fresh perspective on how and why New York’s Central Park was designed in the spirit of Parisian public parks of the same period.
From bouquets to still life, it will be possible to look at the Bois de Boulogne, the gardens and parks at Versailles, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Ile de la Grande Jatte through the eyes of the brilliant photographer Eugène Atget, or by well-known painters such as Auguste Renoir, Georges Seurat, and James McNeill Whistler.
Public Parks: Private Gardens: Paris to Provence will be organized thematically in five galleries, with paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, illustrated books, and objects in The Met collection by well known French artists such as Camille Corot, Claude Monet and Henri Matisse.
Parks for the Public, The Revival of Floral Still Life, Private Gardens and Portrait in a Garden are just some subjects to be discussed, as you gaze at the attitude of sunflowers by Monet and Vincent van Gogh; lilacs by Mary Cassatt and Henri Matisse; as well as the botanically inspired glorious works of glass sculptor Emile Gallé.
The central courtyard, a soaring space illuminated by an immense skylight, will be newly replanted to evoke a French conservatory garden of the period. It will be decked out with green iron benches redolent of Parisian park seating as well as large palms and pines complemented by a mix of smaller plants and vines, in order to strike a balance of patterned broad leaf, upright, and arching plants.
The selection, design, and realization of this concept was overseen by the exhibition’s curators in consultation with The Met’s Design and Horticulture staff and an independent landscape design firm.
Works by Painter Claude Monet, a gardener himself, who left a lasting impression, through his pleasing and emotionally satisfying imagery promoting the beauty and romance of a garden and French landscape, will reveal how his life and soul was inextricably bound up in the Gardener Claude Monet.
He will be prominently represented by canvases that span nearly a half-century of his career, culminating with works painted at Giverny, the garden attached to his home that he called his “greatest masterpiece”.
Still today visitors to Monet’s garden are provided with stunning first impressions of a region full of magic light and charm that seduced and held the artist captive for the rest of his natural life.
‘Humankind comes there to gather. The vortex of centuries expands there. History is layered over history. The past deepens there, gloomy. This is Paris. And we meditate. How was this masterful-place formed?’ asked Victor Hugo, French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement.
During the nineteenth century in France as it slowly recovered from the rigors and uncertainties of the late eighteenth century revolutionary period, the city of Paris would be gradually transformed. Parisians made haste slowly, finally resuming their former custom of afternoon strolls, meetings and personal diversions, especially in the Tuileries.
The capital came out to play when French civil servant and town planner Georges-Eugéne Haussmann (1809-1891) came up with a scheme to modernise the city commencing in 1853.
Although forced to resign for extravagance, and despite his loss, Haussmann’s vision for what a city should be still dominates the centre of Paris today. His grand vision also had a huge influence on the development of other cities around the globe.
Paris became the walker’s paradise we know and love as its parks became open-air salons. Those dwelling in its environs, were prompted to cultivate and enjoy flower gardens. It had been during the seventeenth century when parades and promenades in public places had become part of European and English life, transposing to the antipodes and America.
The eighteenth century would become an era of triumph for the contrived and well-laid out park. Parallels between freeing men and freeing plants from respective tyrannies have frequently been drawn.
As the fashion progressed, gardens shed formal or unnatural forms, while walls were pulled down to allow walled gardens to merge with the park beyond, which was landscaped to create perfect harmony.
In England, the landscape was born anew when the grass of the park met the walls of the house, so that deer, or any other forms of wild life, would be able to graze on the grass in full view of the occupants within.
By 1860, French journalist Eugène Chapus would write: “One of the pronounced characteristics of our Parisian society is that . . . everyone in the middle class wants to have his little house with trees, roses, and dahlias, his big or little garden, his rural piece of the good life.”
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018
March 12 – July 29, 2018
The Met Fifth Avenue
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028
There are a plethora of events attached to this exhibition. Read More
The exhibition is made possible by the Sam and Janet Salz Trust, the Janice H. Levin Fund, and The Florence Gould Foundation.
The catalogue is made possible by the Janice H. Levin Fund and the Doris Duke Fund for Publications.