Wednesday 10th February 2016
Royal Academy, London

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse
PEDAS' daytrip to the RA
reviewed by Anne Hartman

I love going on trips... and London always feels exciting! So it was with gleeful joy, (despite it being rather early for those of us who have retired) that I clambered aboard the coach at Whitecliff to go on one of Carole's wonderful, cultural jaunts. We watched the ferry sail slowly out to sea as we set off on our own adventure to see Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy.

After a quick, bracing coffee at Fleet, we were once more on our way. The coach driver negotiated the busy streets of London and we arrived in the majestic road leading to the Royal Academy. Once inside, my friend and I hastened to the café as we could not go into the exhibition until 1.30 (There are more ways to feed the soul than through art alone).

We glanced around the shop whilst waiting to go in and suddenly, we were allowed to walk on through. The exhibition was a feast for gardeners and art lovers alike. Colour leapt from the canvases; a profusion of tangled flowers, trees lit up with glorious Autumn hues, precise botanical studies, formal parks with pink paving, ornate gold frames surrounding lush views of poppies, chrysanthemums, roses, shrubs and delicately curling leaves – a real feast for the senses; you could almost smell the sweet scents of Spring or Summer or the richer, more fruit cake aromas of Autumn.

What came across of course, was that many of the painters were themselves keen gardeners, swapping seeds, plant anecdotes and seedlings. Renoir and Monet were friends and he painted Monet by a wooden fence with his easel out, obviously putting his own interpretation down; a wild mixture of yellows, ambers and reds amid a haze of soft greens. There were botanical notebooks out and quotations from the artists about their love of gardens.

It seems that the Impressionists were reacting against the increased dark and ugly industrialisation around them, by escaping to the countryside where they developed beautiful gardens, in which they could paint to their heart's delight. There was a faint, flickering film of Monet (somewhat aged) painting at Giverny and lots of information to read about the emergence of greenhouses and use of more tropical plants, (most of which I couldn't see as I tried to peer over people's heads and shoulders.)

My own favourite paintings were a scratchy picture, 'Palm Leaf, Tangier' by Henry Matisse, Emile Nolde's riotous 'Large Poppies' with its fiery colours and bold shapes, Bonnard's relaxed and sunny scene, 'Resting in the Garden' where his wife Marthe lies in dappled golden light, whilst a ginger cat soaks up the sun with half-closed eyes and finally, Kandinsky's 'Murnau Garden', with its stained - glass, glowing colours; sunflowers looking squashed and windblown against vibrant blues and splashes of reds and pinks! LOVELY!

It was amazing to see how what looked at close quarters, to be merely splashes of random brushstrokes, suddenly became formed and wonderful shapes of flowers and gardens. Experiencing the real picture was as heady an experience as smelling flowers! Monet's huge panels depicting the lily ponds were awash with pinks, lilacs, dreamy blues and blurred jade greens. An unexpected burst of flame-like apricot pink on one of the water lilies delighted and bemused both me and the person standing next to me...How do artists do it?

Then off to Fortnum and Mason for the most extortionately expensive cup of tea and scones the size of a ten pence piece. (I wept a miserly tear into the classy china cup). Thank you, Carole for a great day out.
Poole & East Dorset Art Society
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Painting the Modern Garden from Monet to Matisse
Exhibition review (The Telegraph)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet painting in his Garden at Argenteuil, 1873
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