the garden as art

16ca6756-256e-11e5_1161518hNicola Shulman at The Times Literary Supplement:

Gardens are the least enduring of all art forms. Seldom is much left to tell us what they were – an outline in faint pencil, a bill for plants. Detailed painted records, of the type that appear in this handsome exhibition Painting Paradise: The art of the garden, are rare survivors of the general oblivion. Were there no other consideration, that would make them precious. There are many other considerations, however. “The Art of the Garden” is a very broad subject. It must trace the relationship between garden history and art history, making clear what in each picture is the garden maker’s art and what the painter’s, and where their aims coincide – or not. It must ask why a garden looked like it does, who it was for, what went on there. It must ask what was the purpose of recording it. There are gardens here that are built as emanations of a principle, such as godliness, or liberty, or omnipotence, or scientific curiosity. A painter can magnify those properties or make other decisions, reframing elements of the garden to show it as a museum, as nature’s apothecary, as laboratory, as a souvenir of a changing map of the world. The subject is so potentially unwieldy that it must come as a relief to have to stick to objects in the Royal Collection. Wonderful objects they often are too, organized here into broadly chronological sections such as “renaissance garden” and “baroque garden”, with thematic diversions such as “botanic” or “sacred” garden imagery tucked in where they make most sense in the historical narrative.

more here.