Published  10/06/2004

Earth to earth

The Chelsea flower show once again grabbed all the headlines in the colour sections at the end of May. Tate Britain attempt to hijack the thematic approach, with their exhibition 'Art and the Garden', running to 30 August 2004. What emerges is the chain of influence - Gertrude Jekyll's debt to Turner, for instance. The garden itself is more or less a living adjunct to the urban house - brilliantly illustrated by James McIntosh Patrick's 1940's poetic distillation of winter light and shadow. Many versions of the garden are expressed, but never more vitally than here in Dundee, by the square space defined by clotheslines, amid winter-bare trees. In the first winter of war, a sense of foreboding is already present. From earth to pigment, is it such a leap back to earth again? And yet, many of the paintings on show seem to reveal in the artist a distinct lack of hands dirty with soil rather than smudged pigment. The National Gallery's current vignette of an exhibition, 'The Virgin and the Garden' (closing 20 June 2004), which pays homage to Dürer's meticulous studies of planting, includes in Susan Foister's excellent small catalogue, Dürer's own statement, 'The more exactly one equals nature, the better the picture looks'. It is worth seeking out Dürer here first, before going along to Tate Britain.

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