Exhibition: ‘Monet’s Garden’ in New York City

The 'grand allée' in Monet's Giverny garden
The ‘grand allée’ is one of the most well known views of Monet’s house from the bottom of his garden, July 2009.

Claude Monet’s Giverny garden is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France outside of Paris. Anyone visiting northern France has the slightest interest in French impressionism or Monet’s paintings come to see the grand allée, the water lilies on the ponds he created, the Japanese footbridge, the beautiful flowers, as well as his typical Norman house, with its wonderful collection of Japanese art. I can not believe anyone leaves Giverny disappointed. If you can not get to Giverny during this summer, but will be in New York between 19 May and 21 October 2012, you are in for a treat. Monet’s garden may not be in the Bronx, but ‘Monet’s Garden’ at the New York Botanical Garden is certainly the next best thing.

Working with the award winning scenic designer Scott Pask (who has worked on such productions as ‘The Pillowman’, ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ and ‘The Book of Mormon’), and ‘gardener’ and photographer Elizabeth Murray, the New York Botanical Gardens have produced a magnificent tribute to the artist, the gardens he began at the end of the nineteenth century, and the paintings inspired by that much loved creation.

The centre-piece of the show is the transformation of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Opened in 1902, this Victorian-style glasshouse manages to recreate a number of different vegetation habitats from around the World, including a tropical rain forest and a cactus-filled desert. Just the location within which to recreate Monet’s garden, or certainly parts of it. A number of the more iconic elements of the Giverny garden have been rebuilt in the glasshouse, including the façade of the painter’s house and the instantly recognisable grand allée leading up to the front door. And of course there is the Japanese footbridge, and numerous water-lilies are specially featured in the pools of the Conservatory. And over the coming months leading up to the exhibition’s closing in late October, the reconstructed garden will change just as the Giverny garden changes, so the summer irises and foxgloves will give way to chrysanthemums and salvias in the fall.

In addition to the ‘exhibits’ in the Conservatory, the Rondina Gallery in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library has two paintings by Monet of his garden that have never been seen on public display in the USA. One is a painting made circa 1900 and now in Yale University’s Art collection, and the other painted a bit later in 1915 titled ‘Irises’, owned by a private collector in Switzerland. There are also other artifacts and items from the Monet archives at the Musée Marmottan (Paris), such as bills of sale for his plants, letters and historic photographs. But perhaps the most evocative, is the artist’s palette, set in a display case in front of a well known black and white photograph of Monet standing in the grand allée with chrysthanthenums and nasturtiums all about him.

The perfect compliment to the wonderful glasshouse creation by Scott Pask is a photographic exhibition in the Ross Gallery, entitled ‘Seasons of Giverny’. These are photographs taken of Monet’s garden today by Elizabeth Murray, author of what must surely be the best book on the gardens – Monet’s Passion, reviewed here shortly after the anniversary edition was published.

An interesting and varied programme of events accompanies this special tribute exhibition. For more details about these and the exhibition, visit the New York Botanical Garden’s website.

Monet's palette in the New York Botanical Garden exhibit
Claude Monet’s palette on display in ‘Monet’s Garden at the New York Botanical Garden. Compare the ‘grand allée’ in the historic photograph here with the photograph of the ‘grand allée’ today above. © New York Botanical Garden.

Recommended External Links:

  1. Giverny Blooms in the Bronx, review in the New York Times
  2. Setting the Stage for a Floral Tribute, article about Scott Pask and the exhibition in the Wall Street Journal
  3. ‘Monet’s Garden’ Review in the Huffington Post
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