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Picturing a World

Inga Moore’s Secret Garden

An edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett's Secret Garden illustrated by Inga Moore has been my bedtime reading for the last few days of the presidential campaign and should get me through to tomorrow's aftermath. It's lovely. I'm not sure when I last read the novel—maybe as much as thirty years ago when Ruth Sanderson's beautiful edition was published. When I opened this book, I knew I would have adored it as a child and was going to enjoy it now. In my conceit as a garden historian, though, I thought its illustrations of the Misselthwaite grounds were a bit over the top—much too complicated and big to be maintained by the one gardener I remembered from the story. Well, I was wrong.

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Trees, ramparts, maps

A terrific post, Mapping the 16th century garden, at The Gardens Trust's blog, pointed out the trees on the 1588 map of Luca in Braun and Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum. Trees planted along the ramparts of a walled city—like a boulevard! Characters could stroll in peacetime. Could soldiers take cover during hand-to-hand fighting if the wall were overtopped by an invading army? For historical fiction, further investigation is called for; for fantasy, imagination. Meanwhile, a little moment of research rapture.

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Potted plant saucer

Howzzibout an angel on Sunday while we ignore all the ghastly news? With those gorgeous wings and the sumptuous brocade cope, I can't resist including him/her (them?) in my detail of a bas-de-page illumination in the Spinola Hours. And I like the illustration of typical rectangular ornamental beds and recognizable flowers, not to mention the fence and its built-in table. But it's the potted plants that interest me at the moment: Last night with a freeze predicted, I brought in potted plants and their saucers from the porch. I keep an eye out for potted plants in medieval and Renaissance paintings. This is the first one I can remember that shows a saucer. Such a useful bit of crockery! If you ask me, its history needs investigating.

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Kitchen garden

Uh-oh, a couple of weeks ago, I dreamed I was inside a crossword puzzle. The dream is hard to remember clearly, much less describe (more surreal that an Alice-in-Wonderland card game); but the upshot was that the next morning I quit doing puzzles, cold. Now, as I finish my breakfast cup of tea, I'm reading Helen Gammack's Kitchen Garden Estate (2012) instead. It's perfect. Paper that's a delight to feel, many illustrations, and short, information-packed discussions of a wide array of gardening practices for raising edible and medicinal plants.

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Girl at a garden gate

I think we can all agree that one of the saddest things about the current pandemic is the way it has forced children into isolation. Worse things than being cheated of graduation exercises can happen to teenagers; but for younger children to be cheated of grandparents and playmates? That's worrisome for their psychological future. Strange how we bring our preoccupations to looking at images. I think I would always have loved the way this little girl, held in by the fence, looks out at us. At another time, I might have related it to feminist concerns or formalist art-history observations on Morisot's technique. Now it seems somehow emblematic of summer 2020, even for the privileged few. Beautiful, potent, rueful.

Image via Art and Artists.

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Japanese garden

In these troubled times, gardens offer comfort and inspiration. Exploring the Museum Computer Network portal, I got to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento where where I found this painting by Theodore Wores. Wores, a San Franciscan who was influenced by James McNeill Whistler, went to Japan, learned the language, and brought Impressionist techniques to painting landscapes there. (Another example is his Street in Ikao.)

 

The Iris Flowers of Horikiri called to mind two things: First, the Asian-influenced garden, Innisfree, in Millbrook New York, where irises border a stream. Second, Natasha Pulley's Lost Future of Pepperharrow, most of which takes place in Japan in the 1890's and includes a Japanese estate with many gardens.

 

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Marie Bracquemond and touch

As I said in my previous post, Marie Bracquemond’s husband, Félix, hurt as well as helped her artistically. Although they both exhibited at one or more of the eight Impressionist shows, she was, in fact, more receptive to the new esthetic than he was; and his criticisms could be choleric. He also  Read More 

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Venetian flower pots

The geraniums in this watercolor by Francis Hopkinson Smith caught my eye, as images of flowers in pots always do. It seems both obvious and also somehow wonderful that people have been growing flowers in clay pots ever since antiquity. In a place like Venice,  Read More 
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Breakfast tables

Here in New England, mornings are getting too cool to eat breakfast on the porch; but before summer fades entirely, I was pleased to run across this painting at the always interesting Lines and Colors blog. It is an example of blogger Charley Parker’s feature, “Eye Candy for Today,” which demonstrates the value of looking at an art work bit by bit instead of always as an integrated whole. My interest in garden history has led me to peek into backgrounds of portraits and biblical paintings to catch glimpses of gardens in the past. For writers, realistic details spring out, e.g., the single blossom in a wine glass on the table in this picture. Read More 

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Van Gogh’s hospital

While I was working on Where the Light Falls, my husband and I visited this mental hospital in Arles. The courtyard has been restored to look much as it did when van Gogh was a patient. The  Read More 
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