The Artist’s Garden

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Hobbies (Gardening), Writing (Journal)

Social Studies – Late 19th and Early 20th Century European and U.S. History, People Around the World (France)

Science – Plants (Flowers)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – French and American Impressionists

Journaling, Art Careers (Magazine Illustrators)


I’d been mulling over what my next post should be about, when I received a text and the above picture from my daughter. She had just visited “The Artist’s Garden” exhibit at the Chrysler Art Museum in Norfolk, VA. At first, I was just very jealous, as Norfolk is a four hour drive from where I live.  I didn’t see how I was going to be able to see the show before it closes on September 6th. So, I did the next best thing! I went for a virtual tour on my computer. The more I read, the more I realized that the garden exhibit  was a perfect subject for a late August blog post.  And, why not get it in before all our beautiful blossoms begin to fade all around us.

This exhibit is mainly about American Impressionists and their paintings of American gardens, but the story begins with French Impressionism in the late 19th century and European gardens. American artists went to Europe to hone their skills. Some became enchanted by the modern painters of the time, the Impressionists, who painted “en plein air” (outdoors) with newly invented tubes of paint. Some Americans painted in an artist’s colony near Monet’s gardens in Giverny. You can find a short and sweet explanation about Monet and his gardens here:


You could read or sumarize and show pictures from the delightful children’s book, Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjorkand ( It’s kind of long, thus the summary. The illustrations and photos are beautiful.) You can find a short summary video about Linnea here:

One of Monet’s other gardens is highlighted in the following video appropriate for primary aged students. They can even learn a bit of French. Go to Monet’s The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil here:

A Giverny garden art lesson plan can be found here:

You can learn more about American Impressionists in France by reading the picture book, Charlotte in Giverny by Joan MacPhail Knight. This lovely little picture book is a fictional account written from the point of view of an American Impressionist’s daughter in the form of a journal. She plants a garden and also learns a bit of French.

The American Impressionist returned to a homeland with cities that looked like this:


“The Hovel and the Skyscraper” by Frederick Childe Hassam

As a result, two things occured at the turn of the century. One, many upper middle class families began to move a short train ride away from these cities to what we now call the suburbs. Second, people (mainly women) influenced by magazines of the time began the hobby of gardening. This came to be known as the Garden Movement. The American Impressionists, used to the gardens of Europe, went out into the suburbs and countryside in search of flowers to paint. Some painters and/or their wives grew gardens of their own to paint. For two more decades, they painted these gardens. See examples of their work and more about the exhibit here:


Childe Hassam’s “Celia Thaxter in Her Garden”

One of the best known of the American Impressionists is Childe Hassam. I talked about him in my Grand Ole Flag post which can be found here:

It just so happens that he is also famous for his garden paintings. Read about his paintings of Celia Thaxter’s garden here:

Check out Thaxter’s gardens at this interactive site:

So, I see two classroom uses for this post. First, it might be a great ice breaker lesson for the beginning of the school year. Talk about gardening as an American hobby in the beginning of the twentieth century and then have students share their hobbies. Students can illustrate their hobby. Or If you’ve read Charlotte in Giverny, discuss journaling characteristics and ask students to create an entry/entries about their favorite hobby/hobbies. Second, use this post in a plant unit. If you intend to plant a flower to coincide with a science unit, introduce the garden paintings along with that unit. If you can think of other uses please share them with me. I’d love to hear them.  If you click on the title of this post and scroll down to the bottom, there is a comment section there. Hope you’ll visit again soon!


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