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Private & Public: Finding the Modern British Garden

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 will bring 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.


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Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960), Invitation to the Garden, c. 1938, image courtesy of Liss Llewellyn

What is more – and against the backdrop of great Flâneuse novels such as Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (first published in 1925) – the vogue for ‘street haunting’, as Woolf referred to it, could also be said to have found its pictorial form during this period, as works in this exhibition seem to reveal a number of artists’ delight in painting secret courtyards, unexpected green spaces and sprawling, public gardens.

Finally, this exhibition will also examine the blurring of boundaries between private and public spaces, as a number of artists represented here frequented houses and gardens such as Garsington and Sissinghurst; spaces transformed by Ottoline Morrell and Vita Sackville-West between the wars. This can also be seen in the emergence of artist communities, such as the Great Bardfield group.

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. To receive a copy of the price list, or to purchase a work, please email Deputy Director Christina McMahon, christina@gardenmuseum.org.uk

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Charles Mahoney (1903-1968) Autumn, c.1951. Image courtesy of Liss Llewellyn

Top image: Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960), Conservatory at the Cedars, image courtesy of Liss Llewellyn