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The Painter's Garden - Design, Inspiration, Delight
Claude Monet, Monet's Garden at Giverny, 1896, Oil on canvas, Courtesy: Stiftung Sammlung E. G. Buhrle, Zurich.

FRANKFURT, GERMANY.-The Städel Museum presents The Painter’s Garden - Design, Inspiration, Delight, on view through March 11, 2007. Gardens offer people protection, relaxation and inspiration. They are a place of retreat from the turmoil of everyday life, mirrors of the soul, a budding source of inspiration, and an inexhaustible store of ideas for new images. Over the course of the centuries, they have inspired artists to produce many masterpieces. This exhibition is devoted to the motif of the garden in fine art – spanning all epochs and genres – and presents its diverse portrayal with more than 200 exemplary works from internationally significant museums and collections.

The painted garden is as varied as its interpretations: the mediaeval garden of Paradise represents a magical sphere from which all evil remains excluded; Peter Paul Rubens gathers society groups at play in grandiose palace gardens; Jean-Antoine Watteau and Jean-Honoré Fragonard abduct the viewer into splendid gardens of love. The psychological interpretation of the garden began with the Enlightenment. Caspar David Friedrich sees himself as a mediator between man and nature, while Carl Spitzweg gives us an insight into small, bourgeois gardens. Finally, the studio windows of Adolf Menzel, Carl Blechen and Lovis Corinth no longer look out on small green refuges, but on narrow, neglected backyards - the first consequences of industrialisation.

Impressionists such as Claude Monet laid out lushly planted, imaginative gardens in order to depict them in colourful images submerged in bright light. In the paintings of Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Eduard Manet, man and nature enter into a symbiotic relationship. But this close relationship may also be expressed in a different form, and Vincent van Gogh used the garden as a field of projection for his personal melancholy.

Foreign countries have always attracted artists and scientists to the same extent. Humboldt’s expeditions brought a wealth of plants to Europe, and subsequently these added a new opulence to palm houses, botanical gardens and private gardens. Paul Klee was also drawn to unknown lands. He permitted himself to be inspired by their vegetation’s variety of colours and forms and so arrived at new modes of artistic expression. The concentrated view of individual plants in studies by Georg Flegel and herbaria by Goethe or Paul Klee demonstrates not only an artistic interest, but also considerable botanical knowledge.

As a delightful sphere of experience, a place of peace and a source of inspiration, the garden has always been a productive topic in fine art, and visitors to the exhibition will become aware of its splendour and innumerable facets.

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