The Landscape Guide

Garden Art in the 21st Century

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A garden can be a work of art, though most gardens are not.

In ancient times, the fine arts were closely associated with religion and we can see the temple gardens of Egypt and Mesopotamia as being the origin of the garden as a work of art.

In the later Roman Empire, the Emperors, starting with Augustus, became Gods and the imperial gardens became a variant on the temple garden. They celebrated the 'august' nature of the garden owner. In Western Europe, this tradition declined and fell with the Roman Empire. Medieval gardens were essentially domestic. It seems that, when all culture was religious, there was no need to make religious gardens.

The tradition of the garden as a work of art was revived during the renaissance, first in Italy and then throughout Europe. During the Baroque period, the garden became a place in which many of the arts were integrated: sculpture, architecture, horticulture, music and theatre. This tradition carried into the romantic period, but lost headway.

In the early twentieth century, gardens came under the influence of Abstract Art. This movement had less influence in the British Isles than other European countries but resulted in a tendency to see gardens as abstract compositions of colour, line, pattern, mass and void. Works of abstract art were placed in gardens, as they had been in baroque gardens.

At the close of the twentieth century, the most widespread term for the current state of the arts was Post-Modern. This implies an acceptance of abstract art combined with a forward progression. Often, this has been a retreat from abstraction. Artists have recovered their interest in meaning, symbolism, politics, religion and context. We have Installations, Public Art, Land Art and Site Related Sculpture. These ideas are bound to affect gardens. Some of the gardens which are designed primarily as works of fine art will be designed under the influence of these ideas.

Instead of the garden being a place of 'beauty' in which to display 'art', the garden itself will be the work of art. This is likely to result in a wholly new category of twenty first century gardens.

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show