Tuileries Garden: New TMA exhibit brings Paris’ most famous garden to ToledoWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledoans weary of winter, hankering for a glimpse of green and a walk through a garden, might find the perfect fix at the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA).
TMA’s newest exhibition, “The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden” (pronounced TWILL-ah-ree), which opened Feb. 13, was designed to evoke the look, feel and even sounds of Paris’ most famous garden.
“It has a very, very rich association with the history of Paris, the history of France and certainly with art,” said co-curator Dick Putney, a University of Toledo art history professor. “It’s a great center of culture and also public life today.”
TMA Director Brian Kennedy said visitors will be transported to Paris — and to warmer weather.
“In this very cold and harsh winter of Toledo, we welcome all of our visitors to come and experience a breath of fresh air, an opportunity to imagine the gardens of spring and to get excited and revel in the idea that we’re going to be outside a lot very soon,” Kennedy said.
“You walk in and you’re captivated and you’re inspired and I guarantee people will be transported and feeling warm,” he added.
During the course of its nearly 500-year history, the Tuileries Garden has evolved from private grounds for French royalty to the site of numerous skirmishes and uprisings to a leisure park drawing millions of residents and visitors each year. The garden has also served as a muse for each new generation of sculptors, painters, photographers and other artists.
The show features more than 100 works of art related to the garden, including some never before shown outside of Paris. Four large marble sculptures on display in the entranceway to the exhibit were personally commissioned by Louis XIV, Putney said.
Also on display are Impressionist paintings, photographs, prints and a tapestry. The pieces were loaned to TMA from collections at the Museé du Louvre, the Musée Carnavalet and the Palace of Versailles as well as other museums and private lenders. There is also an architectural model of the gardens and the Louvre.
“I think people will find the installation very dramatic,” Putney said. “The art is beautiful and the sense of time is dynamic. It will give people a sense of being there. What I like about the space is it’s wonderful in itself, but it’s also like being in a dramatic place that has a great history. It’s inhabited by ghosts in a way. All the things that have happened there are made very clear to the art. It’s been very exciting to work with these really extraordinary objects.”
The garden, along with a new palace, was commissioned in 1564 by French queen Catherine de Medici, whose husband King Henry II had recently been killed in a jousting tournament. The gardens were redesigned in the mid-1600s for King Louis XIV by famous landscape artist André Le Nôtre, who also designed the Gardens of Versailles. Marie Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte are among those who have walked through the gardens. The palace was damaged by fire during a violent uprising in 1871 and demolished in 1882, but the gardens remained. Louis XIV moved out of Paris to Versailles and gradually the Tuileries became public gardens, especially after the French Revolution.
“Increasingly, artists came who were inspired by the garden to photograph it, make paintings of it, make sculptures for it. So it’s a great, great venue certainly for art,” Putney said. “Today it functions mainly as a park, like Central Park in New York City. It’s also kind of an outdoor museum for sculptures, including very old ones, as well as contemporary art.”
Le Nôtre grew up in the Tuileries Garden, Kennedy said.
“His father and grandfather were head gardeners and, in fact, their family held the position for another two generations. He went on to become one of the greatest landscape designers in history, certainly in Europe. The reason why, in my view, was he was trained in a painter’s studio. There’s a very painterly feel to the way the garden is laid out and the selection of coloration, because he’s not an architect; he’s a landscape artist. He’s shaping nature,” Kennedy said. “As you walk in [to the exhibit], the wonderful symmetry and geometry of the formal garden that Le Nôtre made so famous has been replicated in a small part.”
Today, the garden, which is about 2,000 feet long and encompasses 64 acres, is part of the Louvre. Many of the original works are now housed in the Louvre to protect them and were replaced by replicas.
Putney said he thinks visitors will enjoy the variety.
“It’s a really dramatic display of sculpture, but there are also a lot of wonderful paintings from the era of Impressionism,” Putney said. “It’s also a wonderful photography show, featuring almost an entire history of photography.”
One portion of the gallery contains images of the garden from the 18th century, as it began to open to the public more and more.
“Some of the works are extremely amusing. If you look closely, you’ll probably really enjoy them,” Putney said.
The photographs on display range from an 1830s daguerreotype to a photo from 1985.
“Photography was born in Paris in the 1820s and ’30s and right from the get-go photographers were coming to the Tuileries and photographing the palace while it still existed, but especially the garden,” Putney said.
The oldest pieces in the exhibit are remnants of the destroyed Tuileries Palace dating from 1564.
The show was organized jointly by TMA, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, with the collaboration of the Louvre. It was in Atlanta before coming to Toledo and will go to Portland in June.
The collaboration offers a rare chance to bring “the magic of the Tuileries” to Toledo, including a four-minute video commissioned for the exhibition that shows daily life in the gardens, Kennedy said.
“For me, Paris is the most beautiful city in the world. I think many people feel it’s an extraordinarily beautiful city,” Kennedy said. “We hope that people will [watch the video] and get a sense of a day in Paris and the Tuileries and fall in love with it as much as we have and so many others over the centuries.”
The exhibit will run through May 11. Cost is $8.50 for adults, $5.50 for students and seniors 65 and older and free for museum members.
The museum is located at 2445 Monroe St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and closed Monday and major holidays. For more information, call (419) 255-8000 or visit toledomuseum.org.
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