The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC celebrates the out-of-doors as a place of leisure, renewal, and inspiration, in the exhibition ‘Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence’, from March 12 to July 29, features some 150 works by more than 70 artists, spanning the late eighteenth through early twentieth century and explores horticultural developments that reshaped the landscape of France and grounded innovative movements—artistic and green—in an era that gave rise to Naturalism, Impressionism, and Art Nouveau. As shiploads of exotic botanical specimens arrived from abroad and local nurserymen pursued hybridization, the availability and variety of plants and flowers grew exponentially, as did the interest in them. The opening up of formerly royal properties and the transformation of Paris during the Second Empire into a city of tree-lined boulevards and parks introduced public green spaces to be enjoyed as open-air salons, while suburbanites and country-house dwellers were prompted to cultivate their own flower gardens. The important role of parks and gardens in French life during this period is richly illustrated by paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, illustrated books, and objects in The Met collection by artists extending from Camille Corot to Henri Matisse, many of whom were gardeners themselves. Anchored by Impressionist scenes of outdoor leisure, the presentation offers a fresh, multisided perspective on best-known and hidden treasures housed in a Museum that took root in a park: namely, New York’s Central Park, which was designed in the spirit of Parisian public parks of the same period.
The exhibition is organized thematically in five galleries: ‘Revolution in the Garden’, ‘Parks for the Public’, ‘The Revival of the Floral Still Life’, and the second half of the exhibition is devoted to gardens and unfolds in two sections: “Private Gardens” and “Portrait in the Garden.” The presentation is enriched by designs for interior and garden décor; documentary materials such as horticultural books, journals, and period ephemera that contextualize the mania for gardening; a selection of 19th-century French watering cans, garden tools and two historical film clips. The central courtyard within the exhibition—a soaring space illuminated by an immense skylight—will be newly replanted to evoke a French conservatory garden of the period and furnished with green iron benches redolent of Parisian park seating. Large palms and pines will be complemented by a mix of smaller plants and vines to strike a balance of patterned broad leaf, upright, and arching plants.