Exhibit Looks at History, Influence of French Parks, Gardens

Manila Bulletin, April 11, 2018 | Go to article overview

Exhibit Looks at History, Influence of French Parks, Gardens


By (AP)

New York -- Just in time for spring, a section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been transformed into a sort of 19th century palm garden encircled by colorful galleries featuring still lifes, landscapes and other works -- complete with Parisian-style signage and park benches -- that trace the history of French parks and gardens.

The exhibit makes a case that France's parks and gardens, particularly their dramatic transformation under Napoleon III, had a huge impact on art, horticulture and the concept of outdoor leisure.

"Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence," on view through July 29, consists of 175 paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, illustrated books, and even period watering cans and gardening tools. It reveals what happened after the French Revolution, when the nation's many royal gardens and hunting grounds were opened to the public. Suddenly, Paris was transformed from a warren of alleyways to a city of tree-lined boulevards, parks and public green spaces. These became open-air salons for city dwellers and inspired suburbanites to cultivate their own flower gardens.

"The amount of public green space in Paris was rapidly expanded 100-fold, from about 45 acres to 4,500 acres. The result was transformational in many ways, and sparked a real mania for gardening and for the outdoors," says curator Susan Alyson Stein, who organized the show with curator Colta Ives.

The transformation is richly illustrated by the Met's collection of works from artists ranging from Camille Corot to Henri Matisse, many of whom were gardeners. The works are supplemented by a selection of private-collection loans.

The show begins with a section called "Revolution in the Garden," which traces a shift in garden design in the years surrounding the French Revolution of 1789. The very formal style perfected under King Louis XIV at Versailles and the Tuileries gave way to a more naturalistic and meandering aesthetic in the manner of English parks.

The "Parks for the Public" section explores the opening of royal enclaves after the revolution and later the transformation of Paris under Napoleon III into a city of leafy boulevards, parks and squares. Royal hunting grounds like those at Fontainebleau were turned into a network of public hiking trails, inspiring the establishment of the first National Parks in the United States.

"One of the pronounced characteristics of our Parisian society is that . …

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