From depictions of the Garden of Eden to the propaganda ‘Dig for Victory’ posters of the Second World War; paintings of gardens have conveyed a multitude of messages throughout history. They can represent the beginning of life, symbolise love and passion and they can, perhaps most fundamentally, relay a space of comfort, reliance and hope. Here are 15 significant works of art that show a garden frozen in time, with a story to tell.
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Classical garden artworks
A painting in the Tomb of Minnakht, c 1550-1295 BC
This Ancient Egyptian wall painting shows a luxurious villa in Thebes within a grand garden, planted with trees including a Sycamore. The latter’s wood was used for making coffins for mummies and was often planted near sacred sites. Although not shown in this particular painting, gardens from this period generally stuck to a design of a central pond with colourful fish, rows of trees and a mixture of flowerbeds.
Ancient Greek vase painting depicting Garden of Hesperides, 4th century BC
The scene on this Attic vase depicts a mythical garden; the Garden of the Hesperides, which is widely interpreted as the Ancient Greek version of the Garden of Eden. Notice the serpent-entwined apple tree, which is guarded by Hesperides, the nymphs dedicated to the preservation of it. Although there are mentions of sanctuary gardens and pleasure gardens in literature from the time, and ruins of buildings and temples help to give us an idea of what their gardens might have been, there is little evidence on how a typical Ancient Greek garden would have actually looked.