Every now and then a book comes along that speaks to me in an unexpected way. Into the Garden by artist Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff is just that kind of book. It’s a collection of paintings by one artist of gardens all over the world. This idea in and of itself is quite fascinating: an artist sits in gardens and paints his version of what he sees (and of course what he feels is there as well).
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a book like this. We have seen flowers and gardens painted by artists, but I’m not aware of an artist who deliberately set out to make a collection of garden paintings. As he explains it in the introduction, Christian came into the notion of painting gardens through his own garden in Hadlyme, Connecticut, and this passion grew from there to include gardens in places as far apart from one another and as diverse as Falls Village, Connecticut; East Hampton, New York; Sonoma, California; Nashville, Tennessee; Rocktail Bay, South Africa; Pic Paradis, St. Martin; and Lunuganga, Sri Lanka.
I was intrigued too by what the artist had to say about how he actually paints gardens (he sits for hours and often faces many obstacles) and what it has meant to him to do this kind of work.
The other thing about this book that caught me off guard a bit is the bold, abstract quality of the images (and that I was so enchanted by them). Van Gogh comes to mind. Most of the paintings are a saturation of vivid color with an abundance of purple in shades from lilac to aubergine. In contrast, some of the paintings are black outlined drawings that are predominately void of color. And there are large-scale flower paintings and drawings as well. (And it’s not exactly a coffee table book either because it is smaller and easier to hold in your hands, which I like a lot.)
Purple is not one of my favorite colors and I’m not always drawn to abstract art (though sometimes I am). Yet this book captured my imagination and I found myself quite absorbed in the journey. It’s completely different from gardens depicted in magazines that show us what they are actually like. It’s something akin to how we feel when we look at interior paintings of rooms: it’s more like dreaming.
A book like this brings forth so many questions about the connection between art and gardening, about creativity and design, about lightness and darkness, about the beauty of nature and the nature of beauty that I think wherever this book takes you, and how ever deep you go into the gardens, you are bound to enjoy wandering through its pages.