Painting the Modern Garden

I’m so glad I made it to Painting the Modern Garden at the Royal Academy before it closes later this month. I’d been so caught up with schoolwork that I kept forgetting to book tickets. This was the perfect way to get out of the library for a few hours and do something fun to take a break from all of the essay-writing I’ve been doing for the past week and a half.

As Cameron and I were waiting in line to enter I heard a member of staff say that general admission for the show has sold out completely for the rest of the run. Luckily last month I decided to become a friend of the RA so this was not a problem. They have a pretty reasonable student range, and a bit of math involving the shows I want to see this year, and adding the price of two tickets for each, and it was sort of a no-brainer. The fact that tickets are sold out is definitely no surprise– not only is it a large show about a fairly popular subject, it’s gotten really positive reviews.

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After waiting for quite a while to enter the very crowded exhibition I can definitely say that braving the very packed galleries was worth it. You are instantly met with a riot of colours that pulls your from painting to painting, and room to room from some early garden scenes of Monet and Renoir, through the avant-garde interpretations, and finishing with a fairly immersive triptych of Monet’s Waterlilies from late in his career. Patience was definitely key, but moving slowly was certainly worth it. Chatting on the way home, we both agreed that it is a really well presented show, and had some amazing and interesting pieces. As well as paintings from the well-known Impressionists, there were some Japanese prints, and some beautifully illustrated manuals on gardening, using Monet as the lynchpin (he was an accomplished and avid gardener) to tie the two together. It was interesting to consider the rise of the impressionists alongside of the boom in gardening and types of flower and plants available at the time, as well as how gardens themselves changed through the early twentieth century.

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Because it was so crowded, and because the show was so dense  (comprised of paintings, photographs, and more) I picked up an exhibition catalogue, which I rarely do, but am really pleased I did. As well as some good reproductions of all of the works from this showing, there are pieces that are set to appear in Cleveland when it opens there in the fall. Another bonus, at least for me, are some great essays surrounding the works which I’d looking forward to reading. If you can’t make it to this show, or to Cleveland in the fall, I definitely think the catalogue is worth it. Sure, there’s nothing like seeing the real thing, but there are some exhibitions that shouldn’t be missed, even if that means seeing them through print.

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