Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts exhibition “The Artist’s Garden”

The full title of this exhibition was “The Artist’s Garden – American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920”. I was taken to this amazing show as a Mother’s Day treat! What a wonderful gift! I love flowers and gardens. I adore Impressionist paintings. What could be better!?

Where shall I begin? I’ve long admired Childe Hassam, and I was thrilled to see his painting Celia Thaxter in Her Garden. It was created on Appledore Island in the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of Maine in 1892. I have visited Appledore and seen the modern reconstruction of Thaxter’s garden! Other works by Hassam were also included in the exhibit.

One section of the exhibit was dedicated to “The Lady in the Garden”. Women and flowers were considered “ideals”, lofty and edifying. Some of the women shown are stylish and passive. Others are active, raking leaves, dining, writing, visiting…

Most of the works were oil paintings, but there was also a room devoted to color photographs created through the autochrome process, the earliest form of color photography. They are very vivid.

Most of the artwork was exuberantly colorful! I love the brightness of the Impressionists. A few wintry scenes provided contrast. At one point, I suddenly had music in my head (vocal music in two parts, if you want detail). This never happened to me in a museum before. One type of joy triggers another? Wow! Was this synesthesia? I’ve heard of this type of sensory mixup. In my case, I doubt it could be triggered intentionally. Just a random gift from the universe!

A significant number of the artists featured had some association with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as students, teachers or prior exhibitors. The Academy was founded in 1805. It is a cultural treasure.

The only downside here is that this particular exhibition ends on May 24, so if you want to see it, you must make haste! However, the extensive permanent collection would also make for a delightful visit, and new exhibits are offered regularly.


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