Inspired by European impressionist paintings of open countryside, private gardens, and urban parks, American artists working between 1887 and 1920 turned their attentions to the landscapes being created in the fast-changing cities and rapidly emerging suburbs of their own country.
Up and down the eastern seaboard, a middle-class idyll was brought to life with the construction of railways, trams, and parkways that connected city centres to commuter suburbs, whose inhabitants increasingly turned to gardening as a leisure – and predominantly female – pursuit. “The two arts of painting and garden design are closely related,” landscape architect Beatrix Farrand wrote in 1907, “except that the landscape gardener paints with actual colour, line, and perspective to make a composition … while the painter has but a flat surface on which to create his illusion.”
The Artist’s Garden tells the intertwined stories of American art and the new American garden movement around the turn of the twentieth century. Anna O. Marley and her contributors showcase over 100 beautifully reproduced artworks by Cecilia Beaux, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, and others alongside the books, journals, and ephemeral artefacts that both shaped and were products of the garden movement. The volume’s lavishly illustrated text considers topics that range from environmentalism to new printing technologies, from the genres of garden writing to the distinctions between public and domestic spaces of American and French impressionism.
The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement by Anna O. Marley, editor, is published by University of Pennsylvania Press, £29.50.