American Impressionists at NYBG

How could you possibly improve upon pairing up American Impressionist art with flowers from New York's finest botanical garden?

With a corresponding poetry tour, for starters.

That's the way that professionals at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) are thinking as they continue their exploration of relationships not just between flowers and gardens, but also art and culture.

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John Singer Sargent, Terrace, Vizcaya

In May, they'll be bringing in paintings by William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam and John Singer Sargent, among others, for display in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library's Art Gallery. A total of 23 sculptures and paintings were selected for the garden-themed exhibition by Linda S. Ferber, senior art historian and museum director emerita of The New York Historical Society.

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John H. Twachtman, Wildflowers

"The paintings feel like they're revealing a moment in history, but also gardens in history," says Todd Forrest, NYBG's vice president for horticulture and living collections. "They're the perfect subject matter for Impressionists capturing light - or domestic or familiar themes about the comfortable, human side of beauty."

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Edmund William Graecen, In Miss Florence's Garden

Inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, visitors also will peruse an American Impressionist garden inspired by the artists' subject matter. The horticultural exhibition is designed by Francisca Coelho, NYBG's vice president for glasshouses and exhibitions. She's already re-imagined previous gardens for NYBG exhibitions, including Emily Dickinson's Victorian garden in Amherst, Mass., Claude Monet's flower and water gardens in Giverny, France, and Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul garden in Coyoacán, Mexico.

"We have the resources to bring art to life, with a climate-controlled gallery space, and the in-house expertise to bring the plants to the exhibition and force them to flower," he says.

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Childe Hassam, Celia Thaxter's Garden

But the finishing touch will be presented through words, not visuals. The poems of Hassam's muse,19th-century poet Celia Thaxter, as well as Robert Frost and Amy Lowell, will be displayed adjacent to the conservatory, co-presented with the Poetry Society of America.

So what more could an art, flower and literature lover of the Impressionist period want, you might ask?

Cue the Eric Satie piano, please.

For more on American Gardens on Canvas, go here.

J. Michael Welton writes about architecture, art and design for national and international publications, and edits a digital design magazine at Architects + Artisans, where portions of this post first appeared. He is architecture critic at The News & Observer in Raleigh, and is the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015).