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Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden

The family of George II seated beneath trees

The family of George II, William Hogarth ©

Gardens are where man and nature meet. They change by the hour, day to day, and with the seasons. They carry associations about the status, approach to life, and sometimes even the political affiliations of their creators. Gardens may be intended for public enjoyment or private delight; they may be open to the masses or closed to all but a chosen few. They may be places of scientific study, havens for the solitary thinker, spaces for flirtation and for love.

Presented with its many manifestations, artists have looked at the garden in different ways, extracting and emphasising those facets unique to their culture and their age. At the same time individual elements drawn from the garden, whether architectural or botanical, have at certain periods come to the fore and taken their place in the decorative arts of western Europe. This exhibition explores the ways in which the garden inspired artists and craftsmen between 1500 and the early twentieth century.

Explore the exhibition below


The first recorded gardens arose in Persia

The Sacred Garden

Middle Age depictions of gardens were heavy with symbolic meaning

The Renaissance Garden

The fifteenth century saw a growth in formal gardens for monarchs

The Pergola

Pergolas were popular in the garden from Roman times onwards

The Botanic Garden

Western Europe experienced an explosion of new plant material during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries

The Baroque Garden

The formal garden style evolved in Italy and France in the early seventeenth century

The Baroque Garden and the Artist

The formal seventeenth-century garden was full of exciting new features which engaged artists.

The Landscape Garden

The landscape garden was England’s greatest cultural export of the eighteenth century


Guide to resources available at the Gallery

Millar Learning Room

Explore the exhibition in more detail

The Horticultural Garden

The Victorian period was the age of flowers