Take a look at the pair of images below. What would you say they have in common? Now, I’m pretty sure the garden vignette on the right was not modelled directly after Thomas Cole’s painting (on the left), but the two certainly do seem to share some genetic material, don’t they? The arches, the vines, the muted colors, the effort to capture antiquity — all are present in both painting and garden.
This pair of pictures comes from a fascinating book called Art and the Gardener, by Gordon Hayward. My favorite part of the book is a section in which Hayward presents many pairs of images – a painting and a photo of a garden — that share the same aesthetic. Clearly, Thomas Cole’s painting and the unidentified garden above capture a spirit of Romanticsm in both mood and detail.
I love this next pair:
Hayward’s description of this Georges Braque’s Cubist painting (left) defines James Rose’s garden design (right) as well:
“Plates of color organized by forceful diagonals on the ground contrast with the freer forms of tree foliage.”
Plates of color? Check. Forceful diagonals? Check. Freer forms of foliage? Bingo!!!
Now check these out:
The painting on the left that looks kind of like a rug is by artist Roger Sandes, who is affiliated with a movement of American art known as Pattern and Decoration. This movement was a reaction against the cool abstract style that held sway during the mid-20th century. Here is Hayward describing the artists and devotees of Pattern and Decoration:
“Their works were fresh, new, simply beautiful, and often formed on a grid that gave their work an underlying elegant structure and a one-dimensional appearance. Their art was…hedonistic, opulent, sensuous, and accessible compared to the cerebral minimalist art of the day.”
Now if that description doesn’t also perfectly capture the gardens designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, like the one shown above on the right, then I must be blind.
Romping back and forth this way between the worlds of art and garden design is a heady experience. I almost start hyperventilating when I think about the possibilities.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if you had a client who just handed you a painting and said, “Design me something that feels like this. Just remember that I only have a budget of fifty million dollars for this project.”
How would you design a garden inspired by this:
Okay, class, get to work on that.