14.11.13 - Exhibition celebrating the work of André Le Nôtre, co-curated by Georges Farhat, opens at the Palace of Versailles

The exhibition André Le Nôtre en Perspectives, 1613-2013 opened its doors to visitors on October 22, 2013. Curated by University of Toronto Professor Georges Farhat, with Béatrix Saule (Director of the National Museum of the Palaces of Versailles and Trianon) and Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin (historian and research associate), this keynote event commemorates the 4th centennial of André Le Nôtre (1613-1700), one of the founders of the practice of landscape architecture.

Le Nôtre designed the gardens of Versailles, Chantilly, the Tuileries and future Champs Elysées, and many other places in and around Paris, and elsewhere in France and abroad (including gardens in England’s Greenwich Park, Italy’s Racconigi Park, and Het Loo Palace in the Netherlands). The exhibition is the largest showcase dedicated to an early-modern garden designer.

Drawing on Professor Farhat’s studies of 17th century manorial economy, optics, and topography — and his research on the evolution and global circulation of the French formal garden pattern in the 20th and 21st centuries — the exhibit sheds new light on the work of André Le Nôtre and his legacy. 

The exhibition displays close to 400 items — including paintings, drawings, sculptures, models, survey instruments, and ancient and modern books — over an area exceeding 3000-square-feet, split into eight thematic sections. Together, they generate a stimulating, dynamic account which starts with Le Notre’s training, career, art collections, and social life, and culminates in insight into his intellectual output: its significance and complexity. This legacy is addressed from several perspectives: territorial organization, technology, and optical and topographical manipulations. The exhibit concludes with modern and contemporary appropriations of Le Notre’s work in Europe, North America, and Russia. These include designs and related art works (from Maurice Denis to Donald Judd) demonstrating Le Nôtre's imprint in the work of Paul & André Vera, Le Corbusier, Peter Walker, XDGA, Latitude Nord, and Dani Karavan.

André Le Nôtre en perspectives is an outcome of an externally funded and collaborative research program initiated by Professor Farhat in 2011, which consisted, among other things, of intensive archival research and fieldwork in different locations including Washington D.C., New York City, Paris, Stockholm, London, and Moscow.

Professor Farhat’s research on Le Nôtre helped shape a research seminar he delivers at the Daniels Faculty on the 20th and 21st century legacy of the French formal garden in art, urban design, and landscape. A team of research assistants, including students and alumni, also worked on different aspects of the project. Greg Bunker and Dustin Valen, contributed to research on the Washington Mall and the Rockefeller Center in New York City. Adem O'Byrne, worked on the visualization of territorial patterns, while Utako Tanebe and Namrita Bimbra collaborated on the optical analysis of the Grand Canal of Versailles, which is represented in a spectacular 300-foot-long all-glass, internally lit model now on display in the Galerie de Pierre of the Chateau of Versailles. This model is part of an installation featuring a video on the optical devices shaping the Grand Canal’s axial composition at Versailles.

Georges Farhat and Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin edited a companion book to the exhibition, also titled André Le Nôtre in Perspective. It includes 35 refereed essays and was released in both French and in English earlier this Fall. It will soon be available in the Daniels Faculty’s library.

© Images above by D. Saulnier (with the exception of the Grand Canal of Versailles — this photo was taken by Georges Farhat)