press release

The garden has long provided inspiration for artists just as art has long inspired gardeners. To coincide with the Royal Horticultural Society’s Bicentenary and the Year of Gardening, Tate Britain will present the first major exhibition to examine the relationship of the garden and British art. Covering the last two centuries, Art of the Garden will bring together over one hundred works by artists ranging from John Constable and JMW Turner to Lucian Freud, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Gary Hume, and will include new work made especially for the exhibition.

Art of the Garden will take a broad view, analysing the domestic garden, allotments, garden suburbs, the artist’s own backyard and imaginary gardens. It will showcase iconic paintings such as John Singer Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885-6 and The Badminton Game, 1972-3 by David Inshaw. It will also highlight significant artist’s gardens, including Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden, Little Sparta, in Scotland, and Derek Jarman’s garden at Dungeness, and investigate the influence of colour theory on the planting schemes of the great garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.

The opening section, Thresholds and Prospects looks at the garden in relation to the wider landscape, as a space that mediates between town and country, between the built and the natural environment. This section will also be concerned with the garden as an extension of the artist’s studio, the threshold across which the external world is viewed and contemplated. Important works here are paintings by Spencer Gore and Stanley Spencer as well as John Constable’s two extraordinary depictions of his father’s flower and kitchen gardens in Suffolk, painted from a back window, in which the gardens are seen as a foreground to the agricultural land beyond.

The Secret Garden considers the tradition of the garden as an idyllic place apart from the modern, everyday world, and moves on to gardens as retreats into childhood, nostalgia or make-believe. Here are images of paradise and of lost, secret and derelict domains, of spaces invested with erotic and spiritual potential. Works in this section will range from Samuel Palmer’s idyllic visions of the English countryside, and Richard Dadd’s mysterious young man in a bower of 1853, to Sarah Jones’s photographs in which the contemporary suburban garden takes on an almost sinister mystery.

The non-horticultural, intellectual garden is investigated in Fragments and Inscriptions, through the media of painting, printmaking, photography and sculpture. Among others, it foregrounds the work of the photographers Edwin Smith and Martin Parr. A major figure in this section is Ian Hamilton Finlay who, at his Lanarkshire home, has created an astonishing, classically-inspired garden, in which sculptural works carrying poetic inscriptions lurk among trees and shrubs.

Coloured Grounds is concerned with the idea that gardens and paintings are both dedicated to the exploration of colour. This section will include one of Gertrude Jekyll’s copies of paintings by JMW Turner as well as images, in both watercolour and early colour photography, of planting schemes she created for her own garden at munstead Wood. Also here are Patrick Heron’s important series of garden paintings of 1956, evoking the colour and atmosphere of his garden on the Cornish coast. It will also feature a spectacular installation by Anya Gallaccio in which ten thousand roses will literally embody the “coloured ground” of this section’s theme.

That the garden is a constructed milieu, where nature and artifice become more and more indistinct, is increasingly recognised and so the garden’s metaphorical associations grow more ambiguous. The final gallery, Representing and Intervening, is devoted to contemporary work and reveals how a range of artists working today, from Marc Quinn to David Rayson, use the conceptual and visual frame of the garden to highlight our uneasy relationship with nature.

Art of the Garden
Kuratoren: Christoph Becker, Martin Postle

Künstler: John Constable, William Turner, Lucian Freud, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Gary Hume, John Singer Sargent, David Inshaw, Gertrude Jekyll, Spencer Gore, Stanley Spencer, Samuel Palmer, Richard Dadd, Sarah Jones, Edwin Smith, Martin Parr, Patrick Heron, Anya Gallaccio, Marc Quinn, David Rayson ...