‘Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse’

The Royal Academy of Arts, in London, was first founded by George the III, on 10 December 1768. Its first president was Joshua Reynolds, a painter of that time. Its aim was to encourage others to do art as well as display art, and a school of arts was established in it. The people who run it are always artists.

I went there to see the exhibition ‘Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse’.

I had been in the National Gallery all day, and as we went to see the exhibition in the evening, my eyes were tired and I was beginning to feel as though I was in a dream and not really there. So when we saw the many paintings all depicting different worlds, dreamlike and sunny, I began to feel I was in them – on an endless journey through a golden realm of dreams. They brought back memories for me – moments and feelings hanging in time, and made me feel strange. One of my favourite paintings in the exhibition was Woman in Garden by Monet. There is something about the crisp, white attire of the lady that contrasts wonderfully with the warmer colours of the flowers. It is remarkable how that one figure enhanced the whole painting. The contrast of light and shade, and the fluffy look of the trees also ads airy feeling to the painting, and the green has a beautifully cleansing, fresh affect on the eyes. I have copied in the painting below, but it does not capture the feeling as seeing it in real life does.


We saw a painting of nasturtiums by Gustave Caillebotte, and it was interestingly patternlike.


Another remarkable painting included in the exhibition is Glorieta de cipreses, Jardines de Aranjuez, by Satinge Rusinõl. Like Woman in a Garden, far more so than that painting in fact, it is extremely hard to capture the feeling of the painting in a photograph. So you will have to trust what I say about the remarkableness of the painting, even if it does not seem like that with you.


It was an odd shock to the eyes when I saw it – so much so that I could not at first tell what it was of. That is the special quality of the painting – somehow the colour hits your eyes before the details hit your mind – and you are dazzled as though you looked at the sun. That room of the exhibition was called ‘Silent Gardens’ and I remember thinking that that painting was not silent at all – it seemed to be shouting at you. The foreground could be called silent – it captured well the stillness of evening – but behind it that powerful burst of colour is calling loudly, breaking the silence. It is that, perhaps, that creates the startling affect. The painting reminds me, in some vague way, of a sacred altar, but I don’t know why. It harks back, like the nasturtiums, to our old theme of patterns and art – there is a lot of symmetry; gardens are art because they have, like flowers in vases, been arranged, and also, that line of arches with creepers growing round them reminds me of the border to a cloth, or the frame of a picture.


I found this painting very heart-warming – it reminded me of when I was younger, and Mummy taught me the names of all the plants. It also captures well the washed out, hazy affect of a mid-summer meadow.

And so, I think I had a very satisfactory trip to The Royal Academy of Arts.


3 thoughts on “‘Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse’

  1. Wonderful. I do like your description of your experience of the art. I feel overwhelmed in museums and sometimes its hard to take things in. I would like to spend maybe 60 minutes many times in a row over a few weeks.

  2. Thank you! Yes, it is often difficult to know the right time to put into each thing – especially in London, and when you’re only there for a day and a morning as I was. In that situation you really have to cram things in – but I honestly think not having perfectly fresh eyes was a good thing for ‘Painting the modern garden’ for it made me feel so wonderful in a different place.

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