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New Exhibition Traces 400 Years of European and American Garden Views
On View at UMMA March 13 through May 23

The University of Michigan Museum of Art presents The Changing Garden: Four Centuries of European and American Art, an exhibition that explores the changing taste, aesthetics, and uses of gardens from the late 16th to 20th centuries. Organized by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, the exhibition features more than 150 works—prints, drawings, photographs, illustrated books, and some paintings—by nearly 100 artists. Some objects will be borrowed from UMMA. The exhibition, which is accompanied by a comprehensive and well-illustrated catalogue, will be on view at UMMA from March 13 through May 23, 2004.

This exhibition was organized by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. The exhibition and catalogue have been made possible by the late Dr. A. Jess Shenson, an anonymous donor, and the Ducommun and Gross Family Foundation. The Ann Arbor presentation of this exhibition is made possible by National City Bank. Additional support has been provided by the Office of the President of the University of Michigan, the R.B. Stearns Fund, the Katherine Tuck Enrichment Fund, the Michigan Council for Art and Cultural Affairs, Michigan Radio, the Center for European Studies, and the Friends of the Museum of Art.

The exhibition traces European and American garden spaces from the Italian villas of the powerful Medici family and the royal showcase of Louis XIV at Versailles to New York City’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Crissy Field and includes works by many well-known names from art history, such as Eugène Atget, George Bellows, Pierre Bonnard, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Honoré Daumier, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Camille Pissarro, Maurice Prendergast, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler. Works by Claes Oldenburg, Bruce Davidson, and Michael Kenna bring the exhibition up to date.

Gardens provide one of the most pleasing examples of the intersection of nature and art and artists have depicted gardens in many ways. Stefano della Bella (1610–1664) and Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) created prints of gardens and garden features, as well as the festivities that took place in those settings by their proud owners. Not all artists, however, were concerned with views of mansion and garden. Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) focused on the behavior of garden visitors in his satire of an animated gathering in London’s Vauxhall Gardens.

By the late 19th century, Charles Marville (1816–c. 1878) and Eugène Atget (1857–1927) captured Parisian gardens and parks using relatively new photographic techniques. During this period, Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) painted the garden of the Tuileries, while Maurice Prendergast (1858–1924), and James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) portrayed scenes of social interaction in the Luxembourg Gardens.

At the dawn of the 20th century, women emerged as independent and influential figures in garden design. Sketches and plans by Gertrude Jekyll (1843–1932) and Beatrix Farrand (1872–1959) are included in the show. American realists such as George Bellows (1882–1925), William Glackens (1870–1938), and John Sloan (1871–1951) captured the increasing importance of parks as democratic spaces by showing everyday people enjoying themselves in New York City’s public parks. Contemporary photographer Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) presents images of a diverse population—including homeless people, children, and seniors—inhabiting Central Park.

Exhibition Catalogue

The accompanying exhibition catalogue includes more than 200 illustrations, many in color, and the following six essays: Cantor Arts Center Curator of Prints and Drawings Betsy G. Fryberger, organizer of the exhibition, writes about the representation of gardens in European and American art; Claudia Lazzaro describes Italian 17th-century garden views; Elizabeth S. Eustis discusses the role of prints as propaganda under Louis XIV; Diana Ketcham explores late-18th-century French gardens; Carol M. Osborne portrays gardens as social settings for late 19th- and early 20th-century American artists; and Paula Dietz relates how George Hargreaves recently converted urban spaces into public parks in the Bay Area. The catalogue is co-published by the Cantor Arts Center and the University of California Press.

Special Lecture

On Sunday, March 21 at 3pm Betsy G. Fryberger, curator of The Changing Garden exhibition, will present “A Changing Garden: Artists and Versailles,” a look at the work of several artists who have represented the site, in this year’s Doris Sloan Memorial Lecture. Fryberger became interested in the relationship between gardens and artist’s depictions of gardens nearly fifteen years ago. Over the intervening years, she traveled to most of the sites represented in the exhibition in prints, drawings, photographs, and paintings. Ms. Fryberger is the Burton and Deedee McMurtry Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. She is author of Picasso: Graphic Magician, Prints from the Norton Simon Collection (1999) and co-author of a book on the drawings collections of Stanford University.

The Sloan Memorial Lecture honors one of the Museum’s most ardent friends and supporters. Established through the generosity of Dr. Herbert Sloan, the annual lecture is a tribute to Dr. and Mrs. Sloan’s shared passion for collecting art and fostering its appreciation.

Family Day

Save the date! On Sunday, April 4 from 1 to 5 pm families can explore the galleries with a new family guide and learn about a new garden on the UM campus. Staff and volunteers from the U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens will be on hand to guide children in designing and creating their own “garden” in a hands-on terrarium activity. The Ann Arbor Youth Chorale will perform in two brief concerts at 1:30 and 3:30 pm. (Seating is limited.) All activities for this family event are free of charge, thanks to generous support of Target Stores and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

Curator’s Talks

On Thursday, March 18 at 7 pm and Sunday, April 25 at 3 pm, Assistant Director for Collections and Exhibitions Carole McNamara will chronicle the changing tastes reflected in European and American gardens from the late sixteenth through twentieth centuries. An expert on prints and drawings—and a gardener herself—Ms. McNamara will explore how artists have represented the various social and aesthetic dimensions of gardens.


Celebrate spring on Thursday, April 8 at 7 pm with a scintillating combination of words and music on a garden theme. David Michener, Assistant Curator at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, will talk about the history of gardens accompanied by music performed by faculty members of the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts, especially selected to complement the themes represented in the exhibition.


Museum docents will guide visitors through the prints, photographs, and paintings documenting the changing taste of gardens in Europe and America on Sunday, April 18 at 2 pm and Thursday evenings, April 1 and 29 at 7 pm.


In April, art videos celebrate the exhibition The Changing Garden. All videos take place at 12:15 pm in the Museum’s media room. On April 7, In the Gardens of Delight will feature the intricately designed gardens of Kashmir. On April 14, Ming Garden documents the installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of a Ming-style garden courtyard in 1980. On April 21, tour the breathtaking gardens that inspired Rodin, Renoir, and Rubens in Artists Gardens of Europe. On April 28, the Museum presents Gardens of the Netherlands.

Related Off-Site Events

Tuesday, March 2, 7 pm
“Nichols Arboretum: Past, Present, and Future”
Vandenburg Room, Michigan League

U-M Arboretum Director Bob Grese will provide a public overview of the history of Nichols Arboretum.

Saturday, March 20, 2 pm
“Three Heroines of the Garden: Gertrude Jekyll, Beatrix Jones Farrand, and Vita Sackville-West”
Ann Arbor District Library, 343 South Fifth Avenue

Betsy G. Fryberger, curator of The Changing Garden, will present an illustrated lecture on these three great garden designers, each of whom influenced contemporary garden practices and design.

General Information

The University of Michigan Museum of Art is located on the University’s central campus at the corner of South State Street and South University in Ann Arbor.

Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm; Thursday 10 am to 9 pm; Sunday noon to 5 pm. Closed Mondays and major holidays.

Contact: Stephanie Rieke