Garden Designer’s Roundtable: Art and the Garden

Take a look at the pair of images below.  What would you say they have in common?

Left: “The Arch of Nero” by Thomas Cole Right: Photo by John Glover.

Now, I’m pretty sure the garden vignette on the right was not modelled directly after Thomas Cole’s painting (on the left), but the two certainly do seem to share some genetic material, don’t they?  The arches, the vines, the muted colors, the effort to capture antiquity — all are present in both painting and garden.  

This pair of pictures comes from a fascinating book called Art and the Gardener, by Gordon Hayward.  My favorite part of the book is a section in which Hayward presents many pairs of images — a painting and a photo of a garden — that share the same aesthetic.  Clearly, Thomas Cole’s painting and the unidentified garden above capture a spirit of Romanticsm in both mood and detail.

I love this next pair:

Left: “Road Near L’Estaque” by Georges Braque Right: Garden by James Rose.

Hayward’s description of this Georges Braque’s Cubist painting (left) defines James Rose’s garden design (right) as well: “Plates of color organized by forceful diagonals on the ground contrast with the freer forms of tree foliage.” 

Plates of color?  Check.  Forceful diagonals?  Check.  Freer forms of foliage?  Bingo!!!

Now check these out:

Left: “Local Events” by Roger Sandes Right: Garden Design by Tom Stuart-Smith

The painting on the left that looks kind of  like a rug is by artist Roger Sandes, who is affiliated with a movement of American art known as Pattern and Decoration.  This movement was a reaction against the cool abstract style that held sway during the mid-20th century.  Here is Hayward describing the artists and devotees of Pattern and Decoration:

“Their works were fresh, new, simply beautiful, and often formed on a grid that gave their work an underlying elegant structure and a one-dimensional appearance.  Their art was…hedonistic, opulent, sensuous, and accessible compared to the cerebral minimalist art of the day.”

Now if that description doesn’t also perfectly capture the gardens designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, like the one shown above on the right, then I must be blind.

Romping back and forth this way between the worlds of art and garden design is a heady experience.  I almost start hyperventilating when I think about the possibilities.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you had a client who just handed you a painting and said, “Design me something that feels like this.  Just remember that I only have a budget of fifty million dollars for this project.”

How would you design a garden inspired by this:

“Colorful, Partial Eclipses” Artist Unknown

or this?

“The Dream” by Henri Rousseau

Or this?

“The Wheatfield” by Raoul Dufy

Or this?

“Cafe Terrace at Night” by Vincent van Gogh

Okay, class, get to work on that.   I’ll be right here reading these posts by my fellow Roundtable Members about Art and Sculpture in the Garden:

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin, TX

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Comments

  1. That first painting: a bed made up of a mix of hardy geranium varieties in blue, pink, and white, plus coreopsis verticillata in the same colors for later in the season, with prairie dropseed or some other low clumping grass scattered throughout.

  2. On second thought, there is no blue coreopsis, maybe a low blue campanula like carpatica.

  3. Hmmm…where does the Gnomescare go?

  4. I think the gnome b gone should be placed smack dab at the center of that archway…it would really set a tone…

  5. Yes! To have a client with a big budget who wants to create the mood/look of a painting — or even better, to do it for oneself on one’s necessarily much more limited budget. Now THAT calls for creativity! Thanks for firing the imagination with your fun comparisons, Mary.

  6. That second painting has Ivette Soler’s name written all OVER it! Lovely post – both of them, actually 🙂

  7. Mary, I’m going to search out that book IMMEDIATELY! Art history + gardens — too fun. Hmmmm, I’m thinking your design challenge would be a perfect topic for the GDRT!

  8. I am not a garden designer and I have no answers to the questions posed, but now I do have an imagination running wild. Excellent blog…though I give full blame to your post that my work day has just gotten far less productive!

  9. All great examples, but how do we use our visual memory and take it beyond extrapolation? Does a Giacometti sculpture become a gnarled and spindly tree in an un-related landscape? Does the engraved decoration on a piece of armor become a pattern for a gate? There are many, many ways to use art as a jumping off point. We are all products of our experiences and memory…it’s how we interpret and use those experiences that makes our creative point of view unique to us.

  10. Very thoughtful way to imagine what a garden can be. I’d take Rousseau’s The Dream as my garden inspiration: voluptuous, lush and dangerous.

  11. I enjoyed this post very much. I prefer the broken path the best.Must be a beautiful book but the last thing I ned is another book. Best, P.

  12. I’d just like to add, for the sake of completeness, that the Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger is also a gardener. Yes, the Oscar-winning designer for Alien. No pictures exist anywhere on the Web, but a retrospective of his work published about ten years ago showed photos of his railroad garden on his property. Yes, it’s just as horrifying as you can imagine, and I want to design one of my own just like it.

  13. the rousseau would be easy…very jungle- like….where I live……the use of orange tree ,mother-in- laws tongue…a freeform pond with a nude sculpture in the middle,elephant ears,giant spider lilies,climbing philodenrons,dancing lady gingers,night blooming jasmine and gardenias…..tons of bromiliads of different colors…and of course the pond planted with pink and blue lotus! and a coquina walkway……I am no garden designer but this is how I would describe it to one that would work with me

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