Monday, March 18, 2013

André Le Nôtre- The King’s Gardner

Andre le Notre

This year marks the 400 anniversary of the birth of– André le Nôtre- the landscape designer of a number of prestigious French gardens and notably Versailles, Vaux le Vicomte, Chantilly, Fontainebleau and the Tuileries just to name a few.  In the 17th century he revolutionized the art of landscaped gardens and was the master of the French formal garden style ‘Jardin a la Francaise”. His legacy endures today. 

Born March 12, 1613, Andre Le Notre comes from a family of gardeners—both his father and grand-father were in charge of the royal gardens at the Tuileries Palace.  As a young man, he studied architecture and enrolled in the workshop of painter Simon Vouet where he learned classical art and perspective. There he met his friend and future collaborator painter/decorator Charles Le Brun and architect Francois Mansart.

In 1637, Le Notre took over the position of his father as head gardener at the Tuileries which he redesigned and where he created the expansive vista that became later the avenue des Champs Elysees. 

Vaux le Vicomte- Photo Parc et Jardin
Le Notre’s fortune and glory became solidly established when he was hired by Louis XIV's finance minister, Nicholas Fouquet to design the garden of his brand new castle at Vaux le Vicomte just southeast of Paris, near Melun. He designed symmetrical borders framed in low boxwoods and yews, neat gravel pathways lined with statues, expansive vistas, large basins with fountain works and grottoes  The result was so magisterial, that King Louis XIV upon his visit to Vaux le Vicomte got so envious that he arrested Fouquet. 

Subsequently, Louis XIV undertook the renovation and expansion of his modest hutting lodge at Versailles.  For that he hired the architect Le Vau, the decorator le Brun and the landscape designer Le Notre –all three had worked together at Vaux le Vicomte. 

Versailles- Photo Paris City Vision
At Versailles Le Notre refined further his gardening concepts:  symmetrical walks and side alleys that lead to groves, parterres of greenery, large perspectives, clipped edges, artful topiaries, canals and fountains, classical statues, fanciful grottoes, labyrinths and even fireworks.  It took 40 years for the work to be completed.

Domaine de Chantilly- Oise Tourisme
In 1663, Andre Le Notre worked on the garden of another grand Chateau at Chantilly commissioned by its owner the Grand Conde.  Here, water reigns supreme.  A large expanse of water is bordered by symmetrical parterres. Of all the gardens designed by le Notre, Chantilly was his favorite. 

This year a program of celebrations of Le Notre's works will take place at Versailles, Vaux le Vicomte, Chantilly and the Louvre. 

Versailles Le Notre en Perspective – 22 october to February 24, 2014 .
This exhibit will paint for  visitors an image of the multitalented man- designer, architect, planner, painter, visionary… 

In addtion, Versailles will feature the restoration of the Latone Fountain and throughout the summer there will be fireworks celebrations in honor of Le Notre. 

At Vaux le Vicomte, an exhibit on Le Notre will start April 12.  There will be an  audio visual display explaining the different stages of the construction of the garden and directed walks through the gardens will explain the optical illusions and surprising perspectives of the garden.  Also architect Louis Benech will design  a new flower garden this spring taking his inspiration from Le Notre. 

At Chantilly- Exhibit: "Le Notre and the Gardens at Chantilly in the 17th and 18th Century" - at Salle du Jeu de Paume, April 12-July 7.

In the Tuileries  from  May 25-September 30,  there will be exhibition walks in the garden organized by the Louvre explaining the main elements of Le Notre's design.  

 Tag: Andre le Notre, Versailles, Vaux le Vicomte, Chantilly

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