The Serendipity of The Artist’s Garden at Reynolda

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The Serendipity of The Artist’s Garden at Reynolda

By Elizabeth Chew, Betsy Main Babcock Director of the Curatorial and Education Division | @CurateReynolda

We are excited to host The Artist’s Garden at Reynolda House. The works in the exhibition are stunningly beautiful and were painted by major American artists, some of whom are represented in Reynolda’s collection and some of whom are not. In addition, the subject of show—the American Garden Movement—dovetails perfectly with and provides context for the era of the creation of the Reynolda Estate and its occupation by the first generation of the Reynolds family.

Elizabeth Chew flips through The Artist's Garden catalog.

Elizabeth Chew, browsing through the exhibition catalog.

The exhibition is organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), a distinguished institution in Philadelphia.  PAFA was founded in 1805 by the artist, scientist, and museum impresario Charles Willson Peale and other civic leaders as a place to "promote the cultivation of the Fine Arts, in the United States of America, by [...] exciting the efforts of artists, gradually to unfold, enlighten, and invigorate the talents of our Countrymen."  For 210 years, PAFA has functioned as both an art school and an art museum, with an important collection of works by prominent American artists, many of whom have been faculty and alumni of the academy.

How did Reynolda House come to be one of only five venues for the exhibition nationwide, along with PAFA itself, the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia, the Huntington in Los Angeles, and the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut? It happened as many things do, completely by chance; and in this case, I would call it serendipity.

In February 2013, only a couple of weeks after I started my job as Betsy Main Babcock Director of the Curatorial and Education Division at Reynolda House, I attended a conference in Savannah, Georgia, where I was presenting a paper related to my former job at Monticello.  In Savannah, I reconnected with a friend and colleague named Anna Marley who is Curator of Historical American Art at PAFA. While we were sharing updates on our respective projects at Reynolda and PAFA, she told me about a fascinating new exhibition she was working on called The Artist’s Garden. After learning about the iconic works of American Impressionism that would be in the exhibition all around the theme of gardening and the American Garden Movement, I realized immediately what a perfect fit this show was for Reynolda! Anna, curator of The Artist’s Garden, was still working out the tour itinerary in 2013, so the timing was ideal. Reynolda House secured the exhibition shortly thereafter, and began the process of bringing it to North Carolina.

I know you will be equally inspired by these beautiful paintings and the chance to see them at Reynolda starting Saturday, October 3. A serendipitous experience! Follow along as we prepare for the opening by searching #RHArtistsGarden on Twitter and Instagram.

Elizabeth Chew and the serendipity of The Artist's Garden.


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