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Pierre Bonnaure: The Élysée's Gardener at the Helm of La Chartreuse de Douai

Published on , by Carole Blumenfeld

The Director of the Douai museum—who was previously head gardener at the Louvre and then head of the French presidential parks and gardens—looks back on an atypical career and takes stock of the development and restoration of the permanent collections.

Pierre Bonnaure, in front of Monet’s Rue Montorgueil, Paris. Fête du 30 juin 1878... Pierre Bonnaure: The Élysée's Gardener at the Helm of La Chartreuse de Douai

Pierre Bonnaure, in front of Monet’s Rue Montorgueil, Paris. Fête du 30 juin 1878 (Rue Montorgueil, Paris. National Holiday, June 30, 1878), on loan from the Musée d'Orsay for the "Monet-Duhem: Impressionism in Douai" exhibition. City of Douai

How did you get into gardening? After two years at the École du Louvre and six months at an architecture school, I attended a general meeting of the Friends of Versailles, of which I was a member. Afterwards, I spoke with Joël Cottin, the Palace's head gardener, who offered me some short-term work. This turned into an apprenticeship after a few months. One thing led to another, and I decided to do a postgraduate diploma in the "History of Gardens, Heritage and Landscape" at Paris I-Panthéon-Sorbonne university. Would you describe yourself more as a researcher or a hands-on person? I started a doctoral thesis on "Ink and sap. The art of André Le Nôtre's gardens". I dropped it when I was appointed head gardener of the Tuileries and Palais-Royal at 29, after passing the competitive examination. But I never lost that connection to Le Nôtre. What was the most important lesson you learned from Le Nôtre at Versailles and during your ten years at the Louvre? Perhaps the most poetic aspect was the way he constructed perspective, just as a museographer would use it as a way to direct visitors today. It provides an instinctive guideline for people walking around. In Le Nôtre's time, Versailles had a magnificent line of chestnut trees—considered…
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