Past Events

Art of the Garden: The Role of the Garden in British Visual Culture


  • 18 June 2004
  • 9:00 – 6:00 pm
  • Tate Britain

Gardening is the most popular and widespread leisure activity in contemporary Britain. At the same time it has also occupied a place of prime importance in the poetics and politics of English nationalism. In the eighteenth century, the elevation of landscape gardening to a polite art, which contributions from painting, architecture, sculpture and literature was part of its conversion to a patriotic art. Yet, over the last two hundred years the concept of the garden and its cultural ownership has become an increasingly contested terrain. Moreover, the garden as a signal of aesthetic sensibility and intellectual sophistication has led to fierce style wars which continue today.

This conference examines the impact and relevance of the garden to the development of British visual culture from the nineteenth century to the present day. It is divided into two sessions. The first, entitled 'Nation', explores the representation of the garden as an expression of national culture; the second session focuses on gardens in relation to aesthetic and cultural discourses surrounding ideas about 'Nature'.

Two girls in white with lanterns in garden

John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily Lily, Rose, 1885-6

Digital image courtesy of Tate, N01615