The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement

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9780812246650: The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement
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Inspired by European impressionist paintings of open countryside, private gardens, and urban parks, American artists working in the years between 1887 and 1920 turned their attentions to the new landscapes being created in the fast-changing cities and rapidly emerging suburbs of their own country. Up and down the eastern seaboard, a middle-class idyll was brought to life with the construction of railways, trams, and parkways that connected city centers to commuter suburbs, whose inhabitants increasingly turned to gardening as a leisure—and predominantly female—pursuit. "The two arts of painting and garden design are closely related," landscape architect Beatrix Farrand wrote in 1907, "except that the landscape gardener paints with actual color, line, and perspective to make a composition . . . while the painter has but a flat surface on which to create his illusion."

The Artist's Garden tells the intertwined stories of American art and the new American garden movement in the years on either side of the turn of the twentieth century. Anna O. Marley and her contributors showcase more than one hundred beautifully reproduced artworks by Cecilia Beaux, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, and others alongside the books, journals, and ephemeral artifacts that both shaped and were products of the garden movement. The volume's lavishly illustrated text considers topics that range from environmentalism to new printing technologies, from the genres of garden writing to the distinctions between public and domestic spaces or American and French impressionism.

Employing the interdisciplinary perspectives of horticultural and art history, The Artist's Garden places special emphasis on the mid-Atlantic region as the epicenter of a national garden movement and offers a new look into the impact of impressionism not on American painting alone, but on the nation's culture at large.

Contributors: Alan C. Braddock, James Glisson, John Dixon Hunt, Erin Leary, Anna O. Marley, Katie A. Pfohl, Judith B. Tankard, Virginia Grace Tuttle.

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About the Author:

Anna O. Marley is Curator of Historical American Art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and editor of Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

A Note from the Director

Claude Monet's garden in Giverny holds a mythic place in the consciousness of art lovers; it is the vividly imagined Eden from which came the most cinematic paintings of that most popular of art movements, impressionism. While the influence of the paintings that sprang from those gardens is clearly acknowledged, what about the garden itself? Impressionist paintings resonate so strongly because they are the veiled and gauzy icons of the creation of the middle class in both Europe and the United States. The middle-class idyll was brought to life by the layout and construction of railways, trams, and parkways connecting the hustle and bustle of the city, and its economic engines, with a newly defined, synthetic creation—the suburb. The suburb was packaged in images heavily dependent upon gardening. Just as the increased urbanization of America led to the birth of our national parks, and the creation of vast tracts of desirable wilderness being preserved by families such as the Rockefellers, so, on a more modest and domesticated scale, did the new suburbanites take delight and find solace in gardening.

The exhibition to which this book is a companion brings to life, with beauty, insight, and a sharp scholarly focus, the intertwining stories of American artists, impressionism, and the growing popularity of gardening as a middle-class pursuit in the period from 1887 until shortly after the end of the first world war.

Dr. Anna Marley has done an exemplary job of situating breathtakingly beautiful paintings in a framework that explicates the turn-of-the-century interest in nature and gardening, as well as the fascinating narrative of the role of female artists in a time when the domestic arts—and gardening in particular—were beginning to reflect the changing role of women in American society. On behalf of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) I thank her for taking the seed of an idea and growing it into a rich and complex project. Her vision of including garden texts, ornamental sculpture, and living plants has truly brought the project to life. She has engaged and supported a distinguished roster of contributing authors, creating a richly dynamic book that will grace art libraries and spark scholarly discourse.

My thanks also to Dr. David Brigham, President and CEO of PAFA, whose participation in many conversations was critical to the initial development of the ideas underlying this project.

We are delighted that the exhibition to which this book is a companion will travel to Chrysler Museum of Art, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Our sincere thanks to our able colleagues: at the Chrysler, Director William Hennessey and Deputy Director Susan Leidy; at Reynolda House, Executive Director Allison Perkins and Elizabeth Chew, Betsy Main Babcock Director of the Curatorial and Education Division; at The Huntington, President Steve Koblik and Kevin Salatino, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Collections.

Harry Philbrick
Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

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