Impressionist Gardens is an exceptionally wide-ranging and comprehensive survey of the subject of the garden in painting, from the mid-19th century to the early years of the 20th century. The exhibition is organised by the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and Fundación Caja Madrid in collaboration with the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. It is curated by Clare Willsdon, Reader in the History of Art at the University of Glasgow, Michael Clarke, Director of the National Gallery of Scotland, and Guillermo Solana, Chief Curator of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.
In the mid-19th century the introduction and hybridization of hundreds of plants and species of exotic flowers from Asia, Africa and South America, in addition to the opening to the public of the royal parks, resulted in a wave of horticultural enthusiasm in France and other European countries. Designing and cultivating gardens became a passion to which the Impressionist painters, including Monet and Caillebotte, were not immune.
The exhibition opens in the galleries of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza with a section devoted to the forerunners of the Impressionist garden. Examples of Romantic-era flower painting (represented by Delacroix) are juxtaposed with depictions of flowers by Bazille and Renoir. In contrast to these “interior gardens”, the painters of the Barbizon turned to the outdoors and explored the garden as landscape. Artists such as Millet, Corot and Daubigny were the immediate predecessors of French Impressionist painting.