December 11, 2018

Caroline’s Garden Diaries 27.4.16: The Art of Gardening

Last month, I went to the exhibition “Painting the Modern Garden” at the Royal Academy in London. It’s had rave reviews, with good reason, and it was a marvellous opportunity to see Monet’s triptych of water lilies displayed as such when normally the three pieces are on their own in separate galleries. And of course, great to see so many beautiful paintings of things I love the best, flowers and plants in gardens. What could be better?

Well, after looking at a few paintings, I began to want to be in a real garden, in the open air, with sweet smells, birdsong, looking at real plants, not in a stuffy room, heaving with people listening to their audio guides. I found myself returning to look at one of Monet’s paintings of a woman in a sunlit garden because it had exactly the right feel, and then I saw the famous painting of Gertrude Jekyll’s boots. Aha! Now, there’s someone who was both an artist and a gardener, just like Monet, but for her, art lay in making her garden – painting was gardening. As she says in her book “Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden”, plants are “paints set out upon a palette”, and in gardening, we “use the plants to make beautiful pictures”.

But now I’m back home in the garden with my camera (for the Photography Competition), I’m on Monet’s side again. At the exhibition, seeing painting after painting of water-lilies, I did rather wonder what he was trying to do and why was he so obsessed, but now I understand. Flowers led Monet to painting; they’ve led me to photography – the more I focus on a flower, the more I’m entranced and the more I keep trying to capture its beauty perfectly.


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