Gardens and art walk hand in hand. Gardens inspire art; art inspires gardens. No wonder, really, for both draw their reason for being from instincts for beauty, form and the ability to change the way the person who looks at them views everything that follows.
I’m a bit biased, of course, and I know I’ll scandalise ‘proper’ arty folk, but I’ve always secretly thought gardens the superior art form. Gardens are, after all, four dimensional, to painting’s two and sculpture’s three. Gardens are not only there to be looked at: they are there to be smelled, and touched, and felt. And they exist in fourth dimension, too: that of time. It takes some artist to create a vision that transports the visual and every other sense too, and then keeps it beautiful while it constantly changes with the turning of the seasons.
But anyway, before I start getting too pretentious, the reason I’m going on about this is that anyone who’s a gardener and also likes art (so that’s all of us, then) is positively spoilt at the moment.
I was blown away earlier this year by the Painting Paradise exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, at the side of Buckingham Palace: breathtaking art, garden history and heaven for plant-lovers all in one deliriously happy visit.
And now it’s the turn of more recent paintings to feature gardens: the Royal Academy of Arts is exploring the way gardens led artists from the literal to the impressionistic in ‘Painting the Modern Garden’. Not ‘just’ Monet and Manet, but also Klimt, Matisse, Kandinsky, Van Gogh and – a personal favourite of mine – Mary Cassatt. It opens on 30 January and I will be first in the queue.
And there’s more: Bloom at the Horniman Museum is an exhibition of exquisite and other-worldly plant silhouettes created by Edward Chell, inspired by cyanotypes – the same photographic process which produces blueprints – made by 19th century naturalist Anna Atkins (this one closes on 6 December, so get there quick).
At the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (it’s not all London, you know) Rosa Nguyen – last seen making ceramic trees in a London park during the 2013 Chelsea Fringe – is one of the artists featured in The Arts and Crafts House: Then and Now.
Leading light of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris, was of course largely responsible for bringing the house into the garden and the garden into the house: his influence spread far beyond wallpaper, and I suspect we owe him much more than we’ll ever realise.
Then there are the exquisitely detailed paintings of fruits by Shirley Sherwood at Kew Gardens; intricate watercolours of orchids by naturalists The Bauer Brothers at the Natural History Museum; and if your tastes are more hard-core modernist and allegorical there’s always Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds (at the Royal Academy again). What a feast.