Enchanted Garden exhibition at Laing Gallery

A new exhibition at Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery – ‘The Enchanted Garden’– will open on 23rd June until 7th October 2018. The exhibition explores the garden as a ‘stage’ for the extraordinary, the magical, the atmospheric and the nostalgic and casts new light on the work of our best-loved artists.

From the Pre-Raphaelites and French Impressionists to the Bloomsbury Group and 20th century abstraction, artists have taken inspiration directly from the gardens around them – whether small or large, manicured or wild. These secret, enveloping and sometimes mysterious spaces are seen through windows, in panoramas and often repeated in different lights and seasons – a less constrained space to set human dramas.

Featuring 90 paintings, works on paper and books, and highlights from the Laing’s own collection, The Enchanted Garden will include work loaned from across the UK, including The National Gallery, Tate, National Museum Northern Ireland, Fitzwilliam Museum and the William Morris Gallery.

Artists featured include Claude Monet, Lucien Pissarro, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, Beatrix Potter and Vanessa Bell.

Artists such as Helen Allingham, have long created a sense of nostalgia and enchantment through the scenes of idyllic cottage gardens, and it is the traditional cottage garden that opens exhibition. Beatrix Potter’s meticulous and playful capturing of animal adventures in the vegetable garden can be seen alongside Cicely Mary Barker’s magical and yet educational Flower Fairies watercolours.

The magical can be seen in works by Edward Burne-Jones, Albert Moore and the Laing’s Thomas Armstrong painting, Woman with Lilies (1876) as well as Charles Robinson’s images for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, The Secret Garden.

The dramatic will be represented by In the Spring Time, by Harold Knight and the spectacular Water-lillies, Setting Sun (c1907) by Monet. (left, Water-lillies)

During the late 19th and 20th century, groups of British artists and designers frequently congregated around particular village houses, where gardens played an important role. William Morris’ gardens at Red House and then Kelmscott Manor supplied endless inspiration. Among others, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Philip Webb were all inspired by these spaces, whereas, members of the Bloomsbury Set captured the gardens at Sissinghurst Castle and Monk’s House.

The Ordinary made Extraordinary features works in which mystical and religious scenes take place in ordinary gardens and landscapes. Paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood informed the work of mid 20th century artists Stanley Spencer, William Roberts and Eric Gill and a highlight of the exhibition is sure to be the Laing’s The Lovers or the Dustman by Stanley Spencer. (seen banner top of page)

In the Abstracting Garden section, visitors will see pieces by Francis Bacon, Frances Hodgkins and Newcastle University Fine Art lecturer Victor Pasmore. Their abstract paintings serve to capture the essence of a garden: from the dark and dangerous feeling of Bacon’s Figures in a Garden (c1936) to the dreamlike, The Hanging Gardens of Hammersmith No. 2 (1944-47) by Pasmore (both on loan from the Tate).

Exhibition curator Amy Barker says: “Exploring the magical qualities of gardens in art has been a wonderful experience as a curator. Visiting gardens that inspire, such as at Charleston and Sissinghurst gives a full sense of the impact these spaces have on our hearts and souls. The human instinct to grow and nurture combined with our endless creativity and the waywardness of nature combine to create masterpieces outside and within.”

The Enchanted Garden is curated by the Laing Art Gallery with generous support from the John Ellerman Foundation. Also supported by the Friends of the Laing Art Gallery, the Finnis Scott Foundation and the Golsoncott Foundation.

During the summer the Laing will celebrate the world of gardens with a full programme of talks and tours, classes and workshops including a two-part Garden Festival of talks on garden design and inspiration, and a lunchtime Garden Lectures series. Speakers from the National Trust, The Alnwick Garden, Sheffield, Northumbria and Newcastle Universities will be involved. Making ceramic bird feeders and herb planters and learning to make beautiful bouquets and pressed flower art add variety to the Gallery’s offer.

The Enchanted Garden will also be touring to The William Morris Gallery, London, where it can be seen from 19th October 2018 to 17th January 2019.

To find out more and booking details, visit www.laingartgallery.org.uk follow us on Instagram and Twitter @LaingArtGallery and ‘Laing Art Gallery’ on Facebook.

Picture credits: All photographs strictly copyright as acknowledged: Banner, top of page – ‘The Dustman or the Lovers’ 1934 ©The Estate of Stanley Spencer, Bridgeman Images: top middle – Design for Trellis wallpaper, William Morris and Philip Webb, 1862, ©William Morris Gallery, top left: ‘Water-Lilies, Setting Sun’, Claude Monet, c1907 ©National Gallery, London, top right: ‘Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene’, Simeon Solomon, 1864 ©Tate, London 2018.