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Online Exhibition | Private & Public: Finding the Modern British Garden

Explore art online from our current exhibition Private & Public: Finding the Modern British Garden, and learn more about the stories and artists behind the works.

This exhibition is presented in partnership with Liss Llewellyn, and the works are available for purchase in aid of the Museum’s educational and community programmes. 

Presented in partnership with Liss Llewellyn

The interwar period in Britain saw a flowering of artists who retreated to planting and painting in their gardens – their own private havens. Conversely, this time also saw a number of artists engaging with public green spaces amidst a growing interest for recreation. From fireworks and fairgrounds to picnics and parties, these paintings captured a new, modern experience of spending leisure time in nature.

This exhibition brings together intimate depictions of gardens and greenhouses, public parks and favoured plant specimens by artists of this era including Charles Mahoney, Evelyn Dunbar, Eric Ravilious and Ithell Colquhoun.

Catalogue Extract

‘Public and private worlds are inseparably connected’ - Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas, 1938

By George Richards, Liss Llewellyn Gallery Manager

This exhibition examines the ways in which Modern British artists of the interwar period engaged with private and public spaces. The show begins by exploring the private realms of artists, as many retreated to planting and painting their own gardens in the wake of the First World War. But while some withdrew, other artists sought pleasure and escapism, and amidst the rise of new technologies and popular entertainment, public gardens became arenas for a modern experience which they strove to capture.

Moreover, this exhibition explores the blurring of boundaries between private and public spaces, as the car and other modes of transport opened up areas of the countryside beyond the orbit of the railways. And then there were the houses and gardens of estates such as Garsington Manor – brought into the public eye by artists who attended the gatherings of the great chatelaine and salonnière, Lady Ottoline Morrell. So perhaps these worlds of private and public were not mutually exclusive, after all.

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To enquire about a work, please email Deputy Director Christina McMahon, christina@gardenmuseum.org.uk.

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Images: Gilbert Spencer (1892-1979), Trees at Garsington, c. 1925, image courtesy of Liss Llewellyn; Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960), Conservatory at the Cedars, image courtesy of Liss Llewellyn; Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960), Invitation to the Garden, c. 1938, image courtesy of Liss Llewellyn