I have some snowdrops and hellebores in bloom and I could photograph them, but on this first day of the New Year I prefer to sit by the fire and show you a few of my favourite garden paintings.
Henry James said: ‘Summer afternoon, summer afternoon, to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.‘ I would like to add ‘..in the garden‘ to that. So let’s start with some nostalgic pictures of English country -cottage gardens as late Victorians liked to see them, complete with rosy-cheeked peasants in sun bonnets.
Helen Allingham was at the centre of a group of artists living in Surrey who were heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement. They were reacting to the effects of industrialization and were nostalgic for a rural way of life which they imagined as idyllic. Gertrude Jekyll, was of course a key member of the Arts and Crafts movement and Helen Allingham painted her herbaceous border at Munstead Wood. I love the exuberance of the planting and the fact that there are daisies in the lawn.
Thomas H. Hunn painted similar rustic scenes with picturesque cottages. He also painted some well known established gardens. Like Helen Allingham, he painted Gertrude Jekyll’s garden at Munstead Wood.
A neighbour of Helen Allingham’s was the artist Myles Birket Foster. He had also been her tutor. He painted the same sort of sentimental cottage and garden scenes that were so popular at the time. In fact, from the 1860s on, his paintings appeared on Cadbury’s chocolate boxes.
In fact, I don’t know whether it was a coincidence, but these two artists both painted pictures of cabbage cutting.
These peasants won’t go hungry; they have plenty of nutritious cabbages.
Nothing to do with the Arts and Crafts Movement but I couldn’t resist putting in another Cabbage -cutting picture. This one is painted by one of The Glasgow Boys, Sir James Guthrie.
The Glasgow boys were a radical change from stuffy Victorian narrative paintings such as Landseer’s Stag at Bay. They aimed to introduce the realism of Scottish rural life but without sentimentalizing it. They were influenced by French realists of the Barbizon School such as Corot and Millet. I love this painting by Guthrie with the little girl looking straight out of the painting with a defiant, slightly annoyed expression.
Going on in time a bit I love Stanley Spencer’s garden pictures. If you are only aware of his bizarre religious visions you might get a pleasant surprise when you see the many gardens painted around his beloved Cookham.
All the paintings I have looked at today are British ones, and of course, just a small selection. Maybe another day I will have a look at French garden paintings.
For now though I would like to wish you all a very happy new year and I will finish with Beryl Cook to give us a little foretaste of next summer in the garden.