Review – Painting The Modern Garden: Monet To Matisse

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Monet to Matisse (2016)

When I arrived in Paris as a 19 year old, one of the first things I did was go and visit Claude Monet’s house and garden situated at Giverny, 45 miles west of Paris. It was a hot day in July and despite the crowds it was possible to find a cool quiet corner and sit amongst the swaying blocks of vivid flowers, under a weeping willow listening to the bees while contemplating the lilies on the pond, and the paintings that Monet produced in response to the garden that he created.

James Priest, head gardener at Giverny, speaks of Monet’s garden as one that shakes you up, the colours both contrast and combine to provide the opposite of the tasteful English garden. Monet, influenced by 19th century English garden designers and particularly William Robinson, experimented with exotic flowers and the wildness at Giverny is a sign of this, allowing plants to express themselves in a natural way, in contrast to the formal French style of gardening of the same period. Tom Coward, head gardener at William Robinson’s former home, Gravetye Manor, Sussex, evokes with warmth and enthusiasm the pleasure of a garden, the choice of shape and colour and the vision.  Interestingly, the creation of these beautiful gardens coincided with the availability of new hybrids, dahlias for example, as well as exotic seeds provided by travelling purveyors, which Monet used profusely, much to the consternation of some of his suspicious neighbours. As well as Monet’s garden, Bickerstaff’s film takes us on a tour of the magnificent gardens of other artists.

The exhibition of the same name, which features throughout the film, has managed to gather an astounding collection of paintings from all over the world including work by Pissarro, Tissot, Renoir, Van Gogh, Liebermann, Klimt and Sorolla amongst many others.

David Bickerstaff has created both a beautiful and engaging film with the lush images being the key. They perfectly capture the experience of visiting these gardens. The film is many things: an inspirational lesson in gardening, an introduction to the modernism in 19th century art as well as an excellent companion to the exhibition currently at the Royal Academy of Art.

PAINTING THE MODERN GARDEN: Monet to Matisse opens in cinemas nationally, today.

William Robinson’s house Gravetye Manor, is now a hotel and restaurant, with its magnificent garden restored by Tom Coward:

The Hackney Picturehouse will be hosting a special screening of the film on April 18 at 18h15:

You have until April 20 to see the exhibition at the Royal Academy:

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An Australian who has spent most of her adult life in Paris, Louise is a sometime photographer, documentary-maker, writer, researcher, day-dreamer and interviewer, who prefers to start the day at the local cinema’s 9am session.

  • Avatar
    last.caress 12th April 2016

    Not my movie subject matter at all, this, but that was an excellent review.

  • Louise McLeod Tabouis
    Louise McLeod Tabouis 16th April 2016

    I hadn’t suspected I was going to like it as much as I did. However, people discussing things they are interested in as well as realising what a passionate bunch of gardeners the impressionists were was interesting. I like those type of film surprises, don’t you? Thanks for your comment!


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