“Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse”, a new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, tracks how private gardens served as inspiration for some of the most beloved artists of the 19th to early 20th centuries. The show exhibits gardens in all their guises: as a vision of light for the Impressionists to the brazen, abstract portrayal by Kandinsky.

The 30-odd paintings by Monet, including – for the first time in Europe – his water lily masterpiece “Agapanthus Triptych”, form the centrepiece of the exhibition. But works by other, lesser-known artists, such as Joaquin Sorolla, provide fascinating insight into how the popularisation of the humble back garden helped the rise of modern art during this period.

Gardens and flora have long been a rich source of inspiration for the world of fashion, too. And this season is no exception. At Dior, 400,000 stalks of blue Delphiniums were used to create a man-made flower mountain set, highlighting the romance and lyricism of the spring collection. Sarah Burton’s spring collection for Alexander McQueen featured hand-crocheted dresses and floral jacquards, all inspired by the Huguenot refugees – known for their talent for weaving and love of gardening – who settled in Spitalfields during the late 17th century. The exquisite flower sequins on Delpozo’s voluminous moiré dress from the SS16 collection evoked a fairy tale-like etherealness, while the spring Gucci looks featured floral prints as a part of Alessandro Michele’s eclectic mix of retro-tinged references.

Each artist and designer here was inspired by flowers in different ways. Below, we take a look at the various incarnations of flora through their artistic lens.


Text by Jainnie Cho

"Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse" is at the Royal Academy of Arts from 30th January to 20th April. 

Photos provided by Royal Academy of Arts, Christian Dior, Delpozo, Alexander McQueen, Erdem, Gucci.