Composed, like a huge bouquet of about a hundred paintings, drawings, prints and photographs by Impressionist and Nabi artists, the show is a refreshing, inspiring evocation rather than a discourse on the construction of gardens.
Maurice Denis (1870-1943), Le Bain en plein air (The Outdoor Bath), 1904, private collection, courtesy of the Berès Gallery, Paris.
© Galerie Berès
The thematic and chronological exhibition focuses on what gardens meant to artists from Renoir to Monet, Édouard Vuillard to Pierre Bonnard, their complementary or contrasting visions and their influences. The works, mostly from French museums and private collections, respond to each other around poetic themes like “indecisive spaces”, “absences”, “musings” and “games and squares”.
Bonnard plays a leading role with masterpieces such as La Partie de croquet (The Croquet Game, 1892), but the surprises come from Alfred Sisley, better known for his seascapes, and Pissarro, more famous for his peasant scenes. His 1892 Jardin et poulailler chez Octave Mirbeau (Octave Mirbeau's Garden and Chicken Coop) is an ode to lush vegetation and boisterous nature. Vuillard’s Fillette au cerceau (Girl with a Hoop) and Banc rose (Pink Bench, 1890) are enchanting, while Caillebotte’s 1893 Parterre de marguerites (Bed of Daisies) is spellbinding.
The Nabis are known for their religious or literary themes. In this exhibition, Maurice Denis’ 1892 Matin de Pâques (Easter Morning) depicts the gospel story of Mary Magdalene visiting Christ’s tomb. A section entirely focusing on photography features period prints of Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny. Imagined by the curators during the first lockdown as a way to lift people’s spirits, this tribute to nature and its benefits is a success.