Presented at the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Jardins, a multidisciplinary assembly of painting, sculptures, photographs, drawings, films and installations by major artists such as Dürer, David, Monet, Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, more is neither a comprehensive history of garden art, nor a catalogue with any aspirations to being exhaustive, offers a view of garden art in France and in Europe from the Renaissance to the present.
The subject has been examined using its essential definition: an enclosure, a delimited area within a territory, an orchestrated area that is a window to the world. The thematic visit, where the histories of art and science intermingle, is built as a journey where the “real” garden – neither literary, symbolic nor philosophical – is understood as both a botanical collection and an artistic construction.
Jardins is focused on experiments carried out in Europe – and more specifically in France – from the Renaissance to the current day. Although the medieval garden is often the point of departure for major retrospectives on the theme, the history of art, and indeed the history of botany, invite us to focus on another beginning. During the Renaissance, thinkers and artists motivated by a new critical process were re-examining ancient texts – illustrated by the first presentation, at the heart of the exhibition, of a fresco from the House of the Gold Bracelet in Pompeii – in the context of their detailed observations of plants. These reinterpretations, along with the genuine artistic revolutions seen in the extraordinary works of Albrecht Dürer, led to the creation of the first botanic garden in Padua in 1545.