Public Parks, Private Gardens at The Met

The impressionist era artists produced a dizzying amount of work the explored and celebrated the outdoors, and in what could be termed The Met garden show, you can see an impressive exploration of this work. The artists displayed include many of the painters that are the biggest names from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth: Monet, Rousseau, Van Gogh, Seurat, and Renoir.

The exhibit is organized around four main sections: Public Parks, Flowers, Private Gardens, and Portraits in Gardens. Each of these sections includes great works, but here are my favorites from each.

Public Parks

The Edge of the Woods at Monts-Girard, Fontainebleau Forest – Théodore Rousseau

Rousseau's pre-impressionist work shows woods not far from Paris and includes a mixture of young and old trees. As this was the type of painting that many of the other artists on display were likely exposed to as at a young age, it helps set the stage for what will be seen in the rest of the show.


I've seen both of these paintings before, but seeing them next to each other allows for the opportunity to compare them in a completely different way. Van Gogh's frail emotion vs. Monet's cheery impression. Van Gogh painted many more sunflowers than this one, but it's frail expression of emotion contrasts with Monet's exploration of color. This room contains still lifes using a number of different mediums and some early photograph prints.  

Private Gardens

Figures under a Tree – Auguste Renoir

One of the things that impressed me the most about this exhibit was the quantity of watercolor and pastel paintings. As easier to use when outside of a studio, it makes sense to see them so highly represented. This Renoir seems like something he may have produced as a sketch rather than a dramatic large painting. This section contains many Monet paintings from the more realist Garden at Sainte-Adresse to the larger than life The Path through the Irises.


The Monet Family in Their Garden at Argenteuil – Édouard Manet

Camille Monet's eyes grabbed me the moment I saw this painting. Manet sets a scene that almost looks like the bokeh portrait photographers aim for. This section also includes work by Mary Cassatt, one of the few women and few Americans in this exhibition

The Met has an incredible collection of Monet, and it is on display throughout this show, but it is the opportunity to see multiple artists working on the same or similar subjects is the true highlight of this show.

Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence is at The Met until July 29th in Gallaries 964-965 which is on the ground floor below The Robert Lehman Collection. I can't wait for it to warm up a bit so that I can explore it again and then sit in Central Park with these masterpieces fresh in my mind. If you aren't able to make it to New York to see this exhibit, you can view many of the pieces on The Met's site for this exhibit.

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