3:00–4:00pm  Anna Marley, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
“The Garden as Picture: Impressionism, Progressivism and the American Garden Movement”

Author’s abstract: Dr. Marley’s recent exhibition and publication The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, explores the intertwining stories of American artists, Impressionism and the growing popularity of gardening as a leisure pursuit at the turn of the twentieth century. Diverse fine art and material culture illuminate how the horticultural and visual arts in this period were manifestations of an emerging national Progressive era middle-class American identity. Up and down the eastern seaboard, a middle-class idyll was brought to life with the construction of railways, trams, and parkways that connected city centers to commuter suburbs, whose inhabitants increasingly turned to gardening as a leisure—and predominantly female—pursuit. Exploring gardens across the United States, with special emphasis on the importance of the Philadelphia area which served as the originator of the Colonial Revival Garden, Marley’s talk focuses on the intersection of Progressive era movements; including women’s suffrage, nativism, and a burgeoning environmentalism, with American artists’ reworking of French Impressionist principles first introduced in the United States in 1886. By employing the interdisciplinary perspectives of horticultural and art history, Marley reveals the far-reaching effects of the ideas of Impressionism on not just painting, but American culture at large.

My comments:

Dr. Marley’s  exhibition, nominated for a prestigious Global Fine Arts Award, examines American Impressionists and the growing popularity of gardening as a middle-class leisure pursuit at the turn of the 20th century.  It is informed by Jackson Lears’s understanding of Progressivism, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920.

How did the lower classes respond to the revised expectations and norms of the bourgeois? Where do men and women imbibing Marx, organizing unions, and agitating for the vote fit in? Where did Gilded Age businessmen and financiers fit (or not fit) in this social hierarchy?