Monday, June 7, 2010

smithsonian gardens & Darwin

orange coneflowers mixed with lark's spur
Ripley gardens next to the Arts & Industry building and Hirshhorn Museum.

It is early June and I took some time Sunday to go visit the NGA for a short history lecture on Charles Darwin's theories on evolution and beauty upon the artists of his day. Last year was the anniversary of Darwin's birth in 1809 celebrated around the world. It was art historian in England now taking note of the impact his work had on leading artists of his day Renoir, Degas and many post impressionists. I was surprised how much even a man like Darwin who claimed he didn't know anything about art had an eye for the beauty in nature. He said it was due to natural selection that beautiful patterns and colors evolved to delight the eyes of creatures hunting for a mate. Other science was also looking at how we see and what the nature of beauty is in our world but Darwin's books were required reading at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris only a couple years after publication. This lecture was scheduled last Feb. but got delayed because of our massive snow storm, then again by Iceland's volcano, so I was very fortunate to stumble in, not knowing much about the subject but trusting the curator to give me some new understanding. It closed with a big round of applause from the crowd.

After this lecture on how science impacted art of the 19th century, I went out and had a walk through the amazing gardens of the Smithsonian Institution's Ripley and Haupt gardens near the Arts and Industries building now under renovation. Repointing of the bricks and repairs to the roof on the exterior under way thanks to the money from last year's stimulus bill. There was lots of beauty. You can see my eye was drawn to the brilliant orange coneflowers and various stalks of lilies that are in bloom in the Ripley garden. I have never seen coneflowers this orange before except in catalogs that I didn't trust to be accurately colored. I also was excited to see them mixed up with purple blue flowers one of my favorite combinations. More photos in my set Smithsonian Gardens.

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