• Emil Nolde, Großer Mohn (Large Poppies), 1908 © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll
  • Joaquin Sorolla, Geraniums, 1918–19 Photo © Museo Sorolla
  • Claude-Oscar Monet, Nymphéas, 1914–15 Photo © Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
  • Curt Herrmann, Im Garten von Schloss Pretzfeld, 1905 Photo © Kunsthaus Bühler, Stuttgart
“Gardening was something I learned in my youth when I was unhappy,” Claude Monet once said. “I perhaps owe it to flowers that I became a painter.”

The famed French Impressionist wasn’t the only one to find comfort and infinite inspiration from waves and waves of beautiful flora. Vincent van Gogh, in a letter to his sister, noted how he uncovered certain laws of color contrast while studying flowers. Matisse, who had his own series of garden paintings, would often gift flowering plants — that he had grown from seedlings — to visitors. Manet, Sargent, Kandinsky, Renoir, Pissarro, Klimt — they’ve all found a muse in gardens, big and small, wild and landscaped.

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, a new show at London’s Royal Academy of Arts that opens this week, explores this very topic. It’s a breathtaking survey for both horticulturalists and art lovers alike, with one big-ticket work after another from these artist VIPs. Not in London? You can still experience the show with the accompanying catalogue from Abrams and Royal Academy Books. Complete with richly saturated photos of the paintings — as well as historical images and detailed essays on garden culture and its impact on art history — the book makes for a captivating read.

More to explore in Culture