30 January - 20 April, 2016
Whatever else, you have to see this exhibition for its conclusion. Yes, the show begins with Monet and an early still life of flowers from his aunt’s garden, but it also ends, over sixty years later, with the same artist and his great Agapanthus Triptych – three huge paintings reunited for the first time in Europe since they were painted (each one belongs to a separate American museum). The Triptych, part of Monet’s late cycle of waterlilies and weeping willows, was painted in response to the carnage of the First World War, and they are hugely affecting. You absolutely must see it.
But the whole exhibition is great: yes, it comprises lots and lots of flower paintings, but a) what a joy that is, and b) the show also tells you several stories – not only about how horticulture developed over the seventy years or so that the exhibition covers, beginning in 1864, but also how art changed and progressed and how the seeds of modernism and abstraction were sown by Monet in those final years, obsessively painting his same patch of pond over and over again. If you are interested in gardening, you will love this show of course, but in fact it’s a gem for everyone and includes work by so many seminal artists: Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassat, Kandinsky, Vuillard, Bonnard, Matisse. One could go on and on. And it’s full of surprises. Yes, you know you’ll get flowers. But by who next? Painted how? And why? This show, beautifully and thoughtfully curated (there are photographs, books, letters and documents on display too – all fascinating), has also got blockbuster written all over it – so it’s worth booking tickets, rather than just showing up and then having to queue.
If you want to really make a day of it then we’ve just heard that for the duration of the show Le Caprice will be offering a special lunch deal too – for £38 you can see the Royal Academy show and then have a two course lunch (from 2pm) along with a glass of Perrier-Jouet champagne. There’s even a floral themed gift bag to take home after lunch. Which all sounds like the most delicious way to spend a spring day in Mayfair. Call 020 7629 2239 and quote ‘Modern Mayfair Garden’ to book.