Musée d'Orsay: Display of architectural drawings and photographs

Display of architectural drawings and photographs

Gardens for all, gardens of one’s own

The human hold on nature in the 19th century

Jean-Camille FormigéButte-Montmartre development project© Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Display of architectural drawings and photographs - Room 41
Until September 2020.

The art of gardens and public parks developed in Paris during the Second Empire under the impetus of Baron Haussmann and his talented collaborators, the engineer Alphand and the gardener Barillet-Deschamps. After the traumatic destruction of the Commune and during the Third Republic, architects began to take a broader view of the urban landscape. Although the capital boasted “green lungs”, it was still heavily polluted in the fin de siècle period and its more affluent citizens decamped to enjoy their country properties, which were often located by the waterside or on the fringes of woodland.

Private gardens, sheltered from prying eyes, were an enclave where people were not bound by conventions. Natural light made them an ideal place for amateur photographers to capture their models and explore the possibilities offered by portable cameras. This simple, easy-to-use equipment led to an unprecedented and radical visual development. New subjects captured spontaneously could be depicted; a child’s acrobatics, a smile exchanged between lovers or a gust of wind created images of a nostalgic Eden. They revealed that almost every garden holds a secret.


Isabelle Morin Loutrel and Marie Robert, chief curators, Musée d'Orsay

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