As we hurtle into the holiday season, we’re taking a brief time out to spend some tranquil time with art and gardens, before the real crush of festivities gets going. If you’re down with that, let’s visit with three artists who had enviable gardens (and all in places that might be rather lovely vacation destinations, if you wanted to give yourself another break to think about that).
Let’s start with Monet. Considered the Master of Impressionism, Claude Monet lived in his house in Giverny, France, for 43 years, throughout that time transforming his garden into what’s been accurately described as a floral masterpiece. A passionate gardener, Monet made his garden an expression of his art, and his art an expression of his garden. His sublime use of colour, his dreamy impressions of the natural world and his beguiling depictions of flowers and plants were largely inspired by the gardens at his home.
“Beyond painting and gardening, I am good for nothing.” Claude Monet
Frida Kahlo, well known for using complex plant imagery in her paintings, created a natural paradise in the courtyard garden of her home, the Casa Azul, in Mexico City. Full of colour and texture, Kahlo’s garden provided inspiration, setting and sanctuary for her in many of her works. An avid collector of native varieties, Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera filled their lush oasis with (among others) marigolds, organ pipe cactus, yam vine and fuchsia, as well as a number of other native, tropical and temperate climate plants. Many of these plants and flowers appeared in her artwork, as imagery and at times as half-plant, half-human hybrids, representing her regard for the natural world. LIke many gardeners (we felt this as a kinship), Kahlo was always adding to and expanding her garden to make way for new plants, particularly those native to Mexico.
“I paint flowers so they will not die.” Frida Kahlo
Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated thirty books, many of which featured Hill Top Farm, in the Lake District of England. She’s best known for her children’s books (The Tale of Peter Rabbit might be her most well-known) and their charming illustrations featuring animals and the natural world. But, Beatrix Potter was also a natural scientist and conservationist who was well regarded for her study
and watercolours in the field of mycology (fungi).
Many of the vegetative subjects of Potter’s winsome illustrations have been restored to Hill Top
garden (quite often rabbits visit as well, but that’s another story). The property is maintained by the UK’s National Trust, and its head gardener, Pete Tasker, has been working for many years (30!) to return the gardens to how they would have been when Beatrix Potter drew from them for the illustrations in her books. From snowdrops in the spring to roses in the summer and pot marigolds and dahlias into late autumn, the garden is once again alive with the colours and flowers that have enlivened Potter’s books to the delight of generations of young readers.
“There’s nothing like open air for soothing present anxiety and memories of past sadness.” Beatrix
Well now. That was a nice respite from the hurly-burly of the season. We hope this served you as well as it did us. Now, back to it! (Is it really December 1 next week? How did that happen?)