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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Artists with Green Thumbs

Jessie Willcox Smith and Elizabeth Shippen Green
with Prince the dog in the garden at Cogslea, 1909
It is no secret that artists take inspiration from nature. Think of Van Gogh's sunflowers, Monet's waterlilies, O'Keeffe's poppies (and irises...and calla lilies...and morning glories, etc.). So it should be no surprise that in the Archives of American Art there are many examples of artists enjoying their own gardens and back yards. Muralist and stained glass designer Violet Oakley shared a home, studio, and garden in Philadelphia with three other artists, Henrietta Cozens, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Jessie Willcox Smith. They named their residence Cogslea, a compound of their four names (Cozens, Oakley, Green and Smith). This photograph from the Violet Oakley papers shows that the garden they tended at Cogslea boasted a lovely pergola and fountain.

Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon,
and Villon's dog Pipe in the garden of Villon's studio, Puteaux, France,
circa 1913
Speaking of fountains, here we have Marcel Duchamp with his brothers Jacques and Raymond in Jacques' garden (Marcel is at the far left). Although it might be hard to see the influence of nature on Duchamp's art, he clearly enjoyed a good sit-down in the garden. It is reassuring to see that lawn chair design has not changed much in the past 100 years.

View of Fred Smith's Concrete Garden, 1977 Aug.
For self-taught artist Fred Smith, the garden was not a place to relax and grill hamburgers, but rather a museum to house his myriad sculptures. His "Concrete Garden" in Phillips, Wisconsin is a series of sculptures of animals and common folk; lumberjacks and immigrant farmers. The concrete sculptures are embellished mosaic-style with glass, mirrors, and other found objects. Lest you tire of pergolas, wicker chairs, and other traditional garden features in your own backyard and are looking for some inspiration, the Concrete Garden is open to visitors. But if you can't make it out to the Dairy State, you can always peruse more photos from our collections here

Bettina Smith, Digital Projects Librarian
Archives of American Art

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