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In the Gardens of Impressionism

Clare A. P. Willsdon

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A visual exploration of the Impressionists’ love affair with the new thinking about garden design that swept 19th-century France

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From Manet's earliest depictions of the Tuileries Gardens in Paris to Monet's late waterlilies painted at Giverny, the Impressionists' love affair with gardens has left an exhilarating legacy. As places of rest, relaxtion, beauty and leisure, indeed, they were the Impressionist subject par excellence, offering all the evanescent beauty of colour and light that these artists loved. But what meanings might lie underneath the surface of their works?

This book explores the Impressionist's fascination with gardens, parks and flowers in the context of the 'great horticultural movement' and of the changing political and cultural landscape in France. Drawing on sources such as gardening journals, well-known novels by Zola and Flaubert, poetry by Baudelaire, and the artists' personal letters, it describes how gardens were central to the Impressionists' discovery of their distinctive plein-air (out-of-doors) style, and how they influenced the artists as spaces which were at the same time both 'modern' and imbued with nostalgia. It also brings to life the enchanting tradition of floral symbolism in 19th-century France, and explores - for the first time ever - how this infiltrated the work of key Impressionists such as Monet. A final chapter covers the spread of Impressionist garden painting outside France, exploring the exciting developments in Britain, Germany, North America and Japan.

With its new discoveries about familiar works by Manet, Renoir, Degas, Monet and Pissarro, thorough coverage of less familiar Impressionists such as Bazille, Caillebotte and Guillaumin, and spectacular illustrations, including period photographs, engravings from journals and cartoons, as well as paintings and drawings, this book will appeal equally to the scholar, student, art lover or gardening enthusiast.

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'A luscious landscape of a book, showing how these artists adopted the plein air style'
Financial Times

'Takes the reader on an exhilarating stroll past light-dappled lily ponds and through Parisian parks '
The Times


'Lots of lovely pictures, but the text is serious and informative'
Sunday Times

'A millefeuille tapestry of observation, comparison and literary and philosophical analogy'

'Hugely enriches our understanding of the sensual culture in which Impressionist garden painting flourished'
Art Quarterly

'A book that pleases both the mind and eye with intelligent new analysis of a beloved Impressionist subject'
Royal Academy Magazine

'Anyone interested in the Impressionists must obviously have this book, but it is a significant addition to the garden shelf as well'
The Art Newspaper

'Elegantly and lucidly written, and blessedly free from jargon'
Gardens Illustrated

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 31.0 x 24.0 cm

Extent: 288 pp

Illustrations: 261

Publication date: 25 January 2016

ISBN: 9780500292228

Contents List

1. Flowers of Tradition • 2. Horticulture and Pleinairisme • 3. Private Gardens in Early Impressionism • 4. Painting the Parisian ‘Bouquet’ • 5. Sunshine, Shadows and Sanctuary • 6. The Social Garden • 7. The Working Garden • 8. Cultivating Inspiration 9. The Impressionist Garden Beyond France

About the Author

Dr Clare Willsdon is Reader in History of Art at the University of Glasgow and a world expert on Impressionism. She is the author of two other books, Country Gardens: John Singer Sargent RA, Alfred Parsons RA and their Contemporaries and Impressionist Gardens.