“The American Impressionists in the Garden” Exhibit at Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, Nashville, Tennessee

April 30, 2010

Henri Crenier (1873-1948) Boy and Turtle, 1912 Bronze Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York Amelia B. Lazarus Fund 1913 (13.87)

Henri Crenier (1873-1948) Boy and Turtle, 1912 Bronze Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York Amelia B. Lazarus Fund 1913 (13.87)

Now through September 5, 2010 Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art in Nashville, Tennessee  will present The American Impressionists in the Garden, an exhibition exploring the theme of the garden in American art and society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The exhibition features approximately forty paintings depicting European and American gardens by American Impressionist artists along with four bronze sculptures created by American artists for the garden.

“The American Impressionists in the Garden and its exploration of the relationship between painting and gardening is the perfect subject for Cheekwood,” said Jack Becker, Ph.D, Cheekwood’s President/CEO. “Just as Cheekwood beautifully blends art with the garden, visitors to this exhibition will gain not only a more in-depth understanding of American Impressionist art but will also take away a greater appreciation for the art of gardening.”

The exhibition is broadly divided into three topical groups:  “European Gardens” represents garden images created by Americans abroad, especially in Giverny, France, which captivated so many artists.  Mary MacMonnies, for example, rented an old monastery in Giverny, developed the gardens, and produced several paintings of them. Works by Childe Hassam and Ernest Lawson, on the other hand, depict more urban gardens in and around Paris, providing a contrast to the images of Giverny.  “Gardens in America” explores the many known gardens painted by American Impressionists, including the art colonies of Old Lyme, Connecticut and Cornish, New Hampshire, and various gardens, from Charleston, South Carolina, to California.  “Garden Sculpture,”  third section,

( see photo above and accompanying information below about Henri Crenier)  was an essential element of garden design, and a few select examples of garden statuary will document this important three-dimensional feature within the garden environment.

At the end of the nineteenth century, American artists demonstrated a preference for gardens as artistic motifs as well as a growing appreciation of the art of gardening itself. The range of color and the variation in form and silhouette made the garden a compelling subject for a large number of painters inclined toward the Impressionist style.  Early twentieth century America witnesses a mania for the garden, and the interest in the art of gardening dominated many aspects of domestic life.  Garden clubs, magazines, floral displays and a multitude of other activities associated with flowers and the garden permeated American life.  Publications and articles appeared offering gardening advice for Americans while also asserting that the art of gardening paralleled the art of painting.

Accompanying this exhibition will be a fully illustrated catalogue with a lead essay by May Brawley Hill.  The publication will explore a range of exhibition themes, including the impressionist fascination for gardens, the history of garden design, comparisons between European and American garden paintings, images of women, the art colony movement, the Colonial Revival, and a myriad of other topics.  In addition, there will be a discussion of the specific gardens painted and cultivated by these artists.  It will be produced and distributed by Vanderbilt University Press.

This important exhibition, organized by Cheekwood, will also travel to Tampa Museum of Art (September 24, 2010 – January 3, 2011) and Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati (February 25 – May 15, 2011).

Cheekwood is a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum located on the historic Cheek estate. Cheekwood exists to celebrate and preserve its landscape, buildings, and art and botanical collections, and, through these unique means provide an inspiring place for visitors to explore their connections with art, nature and the environment.  Cheekwood is located at 1200 Forrest Park Drive in Nashville, 8 miles southwest of downtown Nashville, Tennessee.  Open Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.   For further information call 615-356-8000 or visit www.cheekwood.org.

About Henri Crenier –  Henri Crenier was born in France and studied with Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière at the École des Beaux-Arts. He came to the United States with the American sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil to work on a monumental fountain for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Saint Louis. He completed the charming Boy and Turtle the year after he received his U.S. citizenship. Crenier’s older son Pierre posed for the boy. The unstable pose of both the boy and the turtle, the sense of a fleeting moment caught in passing, is not unlike that found in an Impressionist painting. Like similar fountain sculptures, Boy and Turtle had a tube that allowed water to be piped through the turtle’s mouth.


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