Art and The Gardener: Fine Painting as Inspiration for Garden Design
An illustrated presentation and book signing with Gordon Hayward
March 25, 2010
Horticultural Society of New York
A tall man carrying two small “suitcases” walks into the Horticultural Society. Each case contains a slide projector and carousel. A young with dreadlocks is asked to assist the tall, lanky stranger. The young man looks at the equipment and is totally perplexed. He asks the man, “Can you help me, help you?” To a certain generation, a slide projector is a foreign object.
So began the preparation for Gordon Hayward’s slide lecture, Art and The Gardener, the title of his new book. Author of ten books and endless articles in defunct and current gardening magazines, Gordon has developed a theory about the relationship between art and garden design. As he begins to speak, I become immediately skeptical. I have an pathological distrust of people, who try to fit things, especially artistic endeavors, into neat little categories. So I waited for Hayward’s theory to unfold.
The first slide was a landscape by Thomas Cole paired with a stone ruin created by the environmental artist, Dan Snow in conjunction with a garden Gordon designed. A romantic, pastoral, landscape painting of Italian ruins by Cole is compared to a garden design by Hayward. The same peace and respose found in the painting is juxtaposed with the feeling of timelessness created by the plant palette, pruning of crabapples and the stone ruin in this garden. I could see the relationshp. I just wasn’t sure whether this construction was just a case of the chicken and the egg.
55 minutes later, having looked at Monet, Renior, Van Gogh, Degas, Derain, Heade, etc. and countless photographs of gardens with similiar compositions, color palettes, textures, organization: I still wasn’t convinced that Hayward’s theory of “conscious seeing” was a tool to used in garden design. Or even a valid way of analyzing garden designs.
I have spent a good part of my life in museums and galleries. And I am sure that consciously or unconsciously every painting, print, or sculpture has in some way influenced my garden designs, but not in the pedantic way Hayward suggested. For me his theory is a gimmick. In the beginning of the lecture, Hayward told us that the average time a person spends in front of a painting is 6 seconds. I agree with Gordon on one point: 6 seconds is not enough time.