Last Friday I spent an extraordinary day in London at the Royal Academy’s new blockbuster art exhibition: Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse
I am currently painting my dream garden and hoping to design and create my very own one later this year so the timing was perfect! Utterly inspiring in every way!
So expertly and thoughtfully curated the exhibition starts with an unbelievably touching portrait by Renoir of Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil. The perfect start to an incredible collection of such ravishing works dominated by Monet’s masterpieces. Walking through them I felt overwhelmed by beauty.
“I perhaps owe it to flowers that I became a painter” Claude Monet
Renoir too paints his garden: The Garden in the Rue Cortot, Montmartre 1876. The vivid colours in this secluded space bounce off the canvas and yet it has a serene peaceful quality. There are so many exquisite paintings of flowers and gardens with a surprising lack of sweet sugary colours. Joaquín Sorolla’s paintings ‘Garden of the Sorolla House’ are an unexpected highlight with their moody sensuous energy and stormy colours.
Moving through the rooms the atmosphere constantly changes from the soaringly beautiful series of Monet’s earliest paintings at Giverny featuring so many waterlilies that sparkle like little jewels to the still, dream-like Gardens Of Silence devoid of human presence. The first painting in this room was one of my favourites Joaquin Mir y Trinxet’s Garden of Mogoda. Described as “the poet who speaks with colour” I was moved by this painting and drawn to the darker sultry colours. Evocative textures up close, rough and jagged as if you can feel the artist making the marks on the canvas. Then moving away it comes into focus and takes on a filmic quality. Utterly magical.
By now you are completed immersed, bewitched, with every fibre of you tingling with anticipation as the Avant Gardens hits you with an explosion of colour. Gardens that offered Matisse, Klimt, Van Gogh and Kandinsky ideal settings for experimenting with astonishing vivid colour.
Paul Klee’s touching words in a letter to his fiancée, Lily moved me to tears:
“My mind is clearest and freshest, and I often experience the most captivating moods, even moments of great joy, when I am tending plants in my garden, making cuttings, potting, binding, pruning, transplanting, separating, etc., and when I feel like a plant myself.”
The sombre works from Monet’s Later Years at Giverny are as beautiful as they are sad. He felt it was his patriotic duty to continue painting during the First World War and there is a violent, angry quality to some of these works.
“As for me, I’m staying here all the same, and if those savages must kill me, it will be in the middle of my canvases, in front of all of my life’s work”
The exhibition ends with three exceptional canvases reunited for the first time in Europe. Water Lilies (Agapanthus)
‘They confirm the artist’s deeply felt need, following the trauma of the war, to restore the world to harmony and balance, to find beauty to counter ugliness, joy to overcome sorrow, life to overcome death.’
To be in the same room as this stunning triptych with space and time to watch them, admire them and fall in love with them was an overwhelming experience and a sumptuous assault on the senses.
To see this exhibition on a gloomy, wet February day was an utter joy. With the promise of spring it was a completely life affirming experience. I felt such an affinity with Claude Monet as an artist and as a person. We echo each other and are united in our pursuit of capturing beauty, even if our technique and intentions are different. He captures what he sees directly in front of him in that moment and I am trying to capture what I feel and memories of what I have seen. His work is truly luminous and will continue to haunt me.
If you are able to get to London this exhibition is not to be missed! There are more London Art Exhibitions I am hoping to visit this year so watch this space.